The web giant’s new Amazon Cash feature lets shoppers who don’t have debit or credit cards add cash to their Amazon account at store-based retailers. Inc. has a new payment feature called Amazon Cash that allows consumers who don’t have credit or debit cards to make purchases from the web giant.

The new feature allows consumers to add cash to their Amazon balance at thousands of participating convenience and grocery stores, such as CVS Caremark Corp., No. 106 in the soon-to-be-released Internet Retailer 2017 Top 500, Speedway LLC and Kum & Go L.C. The free feature works much like a gift card, and there is no difference between a shopper’s Amazon balance and a gift card balance, according to Amazon (No. 1).

The un- and underbanked population is a reasonably good-sized demographic, and Amazon just opened its doors to them
Thad Peterson
Aite Group

Here’s how it works: A consumer requests an Amazon Cash bar code from The retailer will send a text message to the consumer’s phone with a link to the bar code that is connected to the shopper’s Amazon account, or the shopper can print the bar code. An iPhone user can add the bar code to her Apple Wallet, and an Android user can create a shortcut on her smartphone home screen in order to easily access the bar code.

After receiving the bar code, the shopper can go into any participating retail store, such as CVS, and add $15 to $500 to her Amazon balance. She gives the cashier her smartphone or printed bar code to scan so the cash is attributed to her Amazon account. The consumer then receives a push notification or email confirming the money has been added to her Amazon balance, and she can then use these funds when she checks out on Amazon.

The new feature is a smart move by Amazon as it allows the retailer to reach new markets, says Thad Peterson, a senior analyst with market research and consulting firm Aite Group LLC.


“Amazon is in the business of selling goods and services, and anything that it can do to open up its marketplace to new customers reaps real value for the company,” Peterson says. “It’s a brilliant move. It reduces friction, adds a new demographic to the mix and it will create value for Amazon [from] day one.”

Because Amazon Cash is an alternative to using a credit or debit card, the feature appeals to what often is referred to as the “underbanked” population—consumers who often struggle to receive approval for credit cards. In the U.S., 12% of  internet users are not online shoppers, according to 2015 data from research firm Pew Research Center.

“The un- and underbanked population is a reasonably good-sized demographic, and Amazon just opened its doors to them,” Peterson says. “I would also expect that this capability would work will in other markets where [credit and debit] cards have less penetration.”