Amazon Hikes Prime Membership to $99 a Year, Up From $79

For the first time in nine years, Amazon is hiking prices for its Prime memberships.

Amazon Prime, which offers free two-day shipping on certain retail products, will now cost customers $99 per year instead of $79. Discounted Prime memberships for students now costs $49 annually, a $10 jump.

Prime customers received emails about the impending price hike early Thursday, and Amazon also posted an announcement on its site.

Amazon spokeswoman Julie Law told NBC News the higher prices will kick in March 20 for new Prime members. Existing members whose annual renewal date is after April 17 will pay the higher price upon renewal.

File photo shows stacks of Amazon boxes with merchandise for shipment, at a fulfillment center in Fernley, Nev. BEN MARGOT / AP file

The price hike isn't a surprise to customers and industry watchers who follow Amazon closely. During Amazon's last quarterly financial report at the end of January, the company warned that it was considering a $20 to $40 jump in Prime rates because of increased shipping costs that have hurt its bottom line.

Amazon again cited fuel and transportation costs in its email to customers on Friday. The company also pointed out that customers get more out of their Prime memberships now.

The number of Amazon items available for Prime two-day shipping has jumped to 20 million from one million in 2005. Prime memberships also now include access to Amazon's Instant Video catalog of 40,000 movies and TV episodes, and to 500,000 books in the Kindle Lending Library.

Amazon's Prime Fresh program, which includes grocery delivery and is currently available only in San Francisco and Los Angeles, will remain unchanged at $299 per year.