SEATTLE – Amazon.com is adding a new service that allows cash to be uploaded to an Amazon account at various brick-and-mortar retailers, which would make it easier for those outside of the banking system to shop online.
The service, dubbed Amazon Cash, was unveiled Monday. Customers would show a personalized Amazon Cash bar code to a cashier at a CVS Pharmacy, Speedway or other participating store. Then they would give the cashier the money they want added to their account, which shows up as an Amazon Gift Card in their balance. There are no fees, Amazon says.
Minimum transactions are $15 and the maximum is $500. But it’s not a bank account, because the cash can’t be pulled out, only used to buy goods or services from Amazon.
A significant segment of the U.S. population has little or no access to financial services. A 2015 national survey by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation determined that 7 percent of U.S. households, some 9 million, did not have bank accounts at an insured banking institution. Given the tight links between e-commerce and banking information, this population has been on the sidelines of the e-commerce revolution.
An additional 20 percent of households (nearly 25 million) had checking or savings accounts but also got financial services from players outside of the traditional banking system, a category that the FDIC calls “underbanked.”
Amazon says that the move is not only geared to those outside of the financial system but also to customers who want to add cash to their account as a way to budget their purchases.
Besides CVS and Speedway, other retailers include Sheetz, Kum & Go, D&W Fresh Market, Family Fare and VG’s Grocery.
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