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Yes, the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card is technically free to own, but you have to be an Amazon Prime subscriber to qualify. Since Amazon recently announced it’s boosting the price of Prime membership from $99 a year to $119 (effective now), I thought I’d take a look to see if this card is still worth the cost.

The answer is…probably.

It’s hard (and actually kind of foolhardy) to make an assessment on the value of the Prime membership based solely on the return you might get using the online retailer’s credit card — because membership includes so many other tangible benefits — but for argument’s sake I’m going to try.

First, let’s look at the card’s features. The Prime Rewards card pays:

  • 5% cash back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market
  • 2% back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores
  • 1% back on all other purchases

There’s no cap on the amount of rewards you can earn, and you can redeem your rewards to pay for all or part of your Amazon purchases. You can also redeem for cash back, gift cards or travel. New cardmembers receive a $70 Amazon.com gift card instantly upon approval.

What You Should Use the Card For

At best, the Prime Rewards card should be a secondary option in your wallet. This should not be your card for everyday spending, as you’ll find many other rewards credit cards offer better returns on both bonus and non-bonus category spending. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve gets you 3 points per dollar spent on travel and dining at restaurants, while the Costco Anywhere Visa Card by Citi earns 4% cash back on eligible gas for the first $7,000 per year and then 1% thereafter. You even can beat the 5% cash back at Whole Foods by using the Blue Cash Preferred Card from American Express, which offers 6% cash back at US supermarkets (on up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%).

But you’ll find no card can top the Prime Rewards bonus on spending at Amazon.com. So let’s look at how much you’d have to spend annually at Amazon to justify the higher subscription price.

Earning Your Membership Fee Back

The value of $70 gift card you’ll receive upon signing up goes a long way toward paying off the first-year cost of the card. You’d have to spend about $1,000 at Amazon during your first year to earn enough cash back to pay of the remainder of your Prime subscription cost. Here’s the breakdown:

$119 – $70 / $0.05 = $980.

During subsequent years, you’d have to spend about $2,400 on Amazon merchandise to earn enough cash back to pay for your Prime subscription. Here’s the breakdown:

$119 / $0.05 = $2,380

A 2017 Consumer Intelligence Research Partners analysis found the typical Amazon Prime member spends about $1,300 a year with the retailer. That’s not enough spending to justify getting a Prime membership for the express purpose of getting the credit card.

I spend even less than average, it turns out. In 2017, I spent $615.62 on Amazon, buying both physical items and digital content. Had I used the Prime Rewards card, I would have earned $30.78 in cash back or Amazon credit, well short of either the new or old Prime membership fee.

I may have been better off with the other credit card in Amazon’s lineup, the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card. You can get this card without subscribing to Prime. The Amazon Rewards card pays:

  • 3% back at Amazon.com and Whole Foods Market
  • 2% back at restaurants, gas stations and drugstores
  • 1% back on all other purchases

New cardmembers receive a $50 Amazon.com gift card instantly upon approval.

I could get a slightly better return, but I’d have to use the Chase Freedom Unlimited, which earns 1.5% on all purchases, and transfer those points to my Chase Sapphire Reserve account, where each point is worth 2.1 cents on average when you redeem them with travel partners, according to TPG’s latest valuations. That would put the total return on Amazon spending at 3.15%.

Bottom Line

As I mentioned earlier, this exercise in determining whether it’s worth paying the Prime membership fee to get the Prime Rewards card is kind of silly. I’m an Amazon Prime member — and I don’t even buy that much from Amazon. But for people who do enjoy perks like free two-day shipping, this benefit alone could justify the cost of a membership.

I find value in the membership because of the Prime Video and Amazon Music streaming services. This alone is worth the $119 a year to me. An extra $20 hit probably shouldn’t factor in your decision whether to subscribe — especially if you take advantage of all the benefits a membership offers.

Throwing in a rewards credit card on top of that couldn’t hurt, either.

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More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn up to 100,000 Membership Rewards® Points.
  • Earn 50,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $10,000 & an extra 50,000 points after you spend an additional $15,000 all on qualifying purchases within your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer ends 8/8/18.†
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com.
  • Get 50% more Membership Rewards® points. That's 1.5 points per dollar, on each eligible purchase of $5,000 or more. You can get up to 1 million additional points per year.
  • 35% Airline Bonus: Use Membership Rewards® Pay with Points for all or part of a flight with your selected qualifying airline, and you can get 35% of the points back, up to 500,000 bonus points per calendar year.
  • You can also receive 35% points back on all First and Business class flights, with all airlines available through American Express Travel.
  • You can enjoy access to The American Express Global Lounge Collection℠ offering access to the most lounges across the globe, when compared with other U.S. credit card offerings. As of 11/2017
  • Terms Apply
  • See Rates & Fees
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
N/A
Annual Fee
$450
Balance Transfer Fee
See Terms
Recommended Credit
Excellent Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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