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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Premium Pros and Cons

Over and over again, we get people in the Second Life Answers forum who've just gone Premium asking "where's my money!?"  You can read all about how Premium membership works by checking out this link: Premium Membership

But lots of people don't read that, it seems, or they read it but don't understand it.  So today's post is a very brief discussion of Second Life Premium Membership.

A Premium membership costs $9.95 per month.  Because you are paying LL money each month, you also need to have an accepted payment method on file.  There are two forms of payment LL will accept:  a major credit card, or a verified PayPal account.  Debit and prepaid cards are not accepted.  See this link for cards that ARE accepted:  Accepted Credit Cards

For PayPal, "verified" means that you have to back up your PayPal account with a Real Life bank account or a major credit card.  If you choose the bank account method, you must ALWAYS keep enough money in the PayPal account to pay your Second Life bills.  Linden Lab will not wait several days for money to make its slow way from your bank to PayPal to LL.

You will NOT get a notice that your Premium payment is due.  LL will simply charge you automatically at the start of each new billing period.  They will take the money first from your $USD account balance.  If there is not enough there to cover the charges, they will charge your payment method for the difference.  It's up to YOU to keep track of when your payment is due!

Note that having a payment method on file is NOT the same as having a Premium membership.  You can register a payment method with LL WITHOUT having to sign up for Premium.  You might want to do this if, for example, you are setting up a store in the Marketplace to sell things you've created, or even if you just want to buy some $L occasionally.

You can save some money by choosing the Quarterly or Annual Premium plans.  The Quarterly plan costs $22.50 every three months.  The Annual plan costs $72.00 per year.  Here's the comparison on a monthly basis:
  • Monthly Plan    $9.95/mo
  • Quarterly Plan  $7.50/mo
  • Annual Plan      $6.00/mo
The annual plan is the best deal, but there's a catch:  if you decide to cancel and downgrade back to a Basic membership, you will NOT get a refund on unused time.  In fact, your membership benefits will continue until your last paid-for period ends.  At that time, you'll drop back to a Basic level.

Linden Lab occasionally offers a half-off introductory rate on a Quarterly Premium membership.  The rate goes back to the normal $22.50 level in the second quarter.  The Annual plan is actually the better buy, even with the introductory offer.

What do you get for your $6 - $10 per month?  There are several Premium benefits.
  • Mainland ownership.  This is probably the biggest Premium benefit.  You can't own land on the Mainland unless you are Premium.  However, lots of people prefer living on a Private Estate.  Estates make up about 75% of the land in Second Life, and you don't need to be Premium to live on one.  You can also rent land on the Mainland from another resident. 
  • A Free Home.  You can get a Linden Home on a 512 square meter land parcel.
  • If you don't want the restrictions of a pre-built Linden Home, you can buy land anywhere else on the Mainland, and you will not be charged a monthly land fee on the first 512 sq. meters.
  • A weekly "stipend" payment of $L300.  This is paid on Tuesdays.  If you signed up for Premium on a Wednesday, you'll have to wait almost a week for your first payment.
  • A one-time $L1,000 retention bonus.  This is paid only after you have been a Premium member for 45 consecutive days.  It is not, repeat NOT paid as soon as you sign up!  You will not get a second bonus if you downgrade to Basic and then upgrade to Premium again later.
  • Access to better technical support.  You can file support cases for things like inventory loss that you can't do as a Basic member.
  • Access to Live Chat.  This can be a lot more responsive to problems than filing a Support Case.  However, Live Chat will NOT help you deal with griefers, only with technical issues.
  • Access to certain Premium-only areas.  These include Premium-only sandboxes which are generally a lot less infested with griefers than the fully public sandbox areas, as well as the Linden Wilderness area.
  • Premium gifts.  These are offered at irregular intervals, and are usually not all that great in terms of build quality.  Still, it's something that Basic peons don't get!
There is a potential drawback to a Premium membership.  Some people leave SL for a long period.  As long as your payment method remains valid, LL will continue to charge you automatically at the start of each new billing period.   When your credit card expires and LL can't collect its fees, they will delete your account.  This means you'll lose your land, all your $L, and all your inventory.  This does not happen to Basic members, whose accounts are retained indefinitely.  If you are leaving SL for an extended time, be sure to get your account in order!

Is Premium worth it?  You'll find a lot of arguments on this, both pro and con.  It's a personal decision.   For me, the answer is "yes," for the mainland ownership, the weekly stipend, and the access to tech support and Live Chat.

Oh, a last word here...there is also a membership level called "Concierge."  You become a Concierge level member if you pay LL $100 or more in monthly land fees.  That applies whether the land fees are paid for Mainland, or are paid because you own one or more Private Regions.  Concierge level members have access to Live Chat and better tech support whether or not they are also Premium members.

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