In a bid to reach unbanked consumers as well as those who prefer cash, Amazon has debuted a new service that enables consumers to load cash to Amazon accounts at U.S. brick-and-mortar merchant locations and then use those funds to make online purchases through Amazon.
The new Amazon Cash service is the e-commerce giant’s latest attempt to blur the lines between physical and e-commerce, following other initiatives including last year’s debut of multiple services enabling consumers to pay for goods at brick-and-mortar retailers using their Amazon accounts.
To use Amazon Cash, a consumer downloads a barcode from Amazon. He or she then brings the barcode into a participating retailer—including CVS Pharmacy, Speedway, Sheetz, Kum & Go and more—has the code scanned at the POS, and gives to the cashier the desired cash amount to load to the account. Funds are available for use instantly, and consumers can add anywhere from $15 to $500 in cash per transaction. Retailers may set daily limits on load amounts, Amazon said. Notably, consumers don’t need a smartphone to use the service. Although barcodes can be scanned from a mobile device, they also can be printed out.
The service, which is free to consumers, opens Amazon’s e-commerce channel to a significant number of potential new customers, including younger consumers who get paid in cash, those who don’t qualify for a bank account or credit card—or those who simply prefer to use cash for online purchases.
Twenty-seven percent of U.S. households were either unbanked or underbanked as of June 2015, according to the FDIC’s most recent survey. To help reach this segment, other e-commerce providers have rolled out similar services to enable cash purchases. For instance, PayPal offers cash account loads through the Pay Award-winning Green Dot @ the Register, as well as My Cash Card, which enables loads via prepaid cards in partnership with InComm. Meanwhile, specialized providers such as paysafecard have built their businesses on vouchers that can be purchased for cash and subsequently used to make online purchases.
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