Amazon this morning announced the launch of Amazon Cash, a new service that allows consumers to add cash to their Amazon.com balance by showing a barcode at a participating retailer, then having the cash applied immediately to their online Amazon account. The service will support adding any amount between $15 and $500 in a single transaction, Amazon says.
Amazon Cash will be available at brick-and-mortar retailers across the U.S., including CVS Pharmacy, Speedway, Sheetz, Kum & Go, D&W Fresh Market, Family Fare Supermarkets, and VG’s Grocery. Other stores will be added in the future.
The service is not all that different from a similar effort by PayPal, whose PayPal My Cash Card lets you add funds to your online PayPal account, using cash from your wallet.
Like PayPal, Amazon Cash is also meant to appeal to the same general demographic who may not yet be shopping online – those who get paid in cash, don’t have a bank account or debit card, and who don’t use credit cards. This “cash customer” (the unbanked or “underbanked) accounts for around 27 percent of consumers, said a 2015 report from the FDIC.
While they may have money to spend online at times, there isn’t an easy way to do so. Until today, they would have to buy an Amazon Gift Card in a designated amount or add cash to prepaid payment cards, to be used at checkout.
More broadly, the service could appeal to anyone who just wants to deposit some cash in their Amazon.com account, without hassle.
The advantage to Amazon Cash is that, as soon as you checkout at the register, the funds are available in the customer’s Amazon account. There are also no fees – something that can’t be said of all the prepaid cards on the market.
However, unlike PayPal, Amazon isn’t selling “Amazon Cash”-branded Gift Cards at stores – instead, customers visit Amazon.com/cash from web or mobile, or search for “amazon cash” in the Amazon mobile app to access their Amazon Cash barcode. They can also navigate to “Manage Gift Card” balance to find the Amazon Cash barcode, as it’s effectively connected Amazon’s gift card functionality.
That same barcode can be reused any time the customer wants to add more cash to their Amazon account. It can also be added to your Wallet app on iOS or as a homescreen shortcut on Android.
To use the service, customers show their barcode to the cashier, and tell them how much cash they want to apply to their account. The cashier then scans the barcode and the customer pays with their cash. (If the customer doesn’t have a smartphone, they can print out the barcode at home and bring that paper to the store instead. This is also suggested for those who have cracked screens on their phones.)
The funds are available instantly and can be used anywhere on Amazon’s site. Customers are alerted to this via a notification sent to their email or registered phone number with Amazon – or, if the mobile app is installed, it will be sent as a push notification.
Amazon Cash is launching now in the U.S.