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Amazon cuts Prime rate for shoppers on assistance

New program could broaden demographic, slow free rivals

Amazon on Tuesday said it was now offering a discounted rate on its Prime loyalty benefits for shoppers who participate in government assistance programs.

Currently, customers who have a valid Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card qualify for the discounted membership of $5.99 per month. Prime members are eligible for a range of benefits including free shipping for online orders as well as video and music streaming, online photo storage and savings on select items and subscriptions.

Prime’s typical monthly rate is $10.99, or $99 per year. The annual membership works out to about $8.25 per month, so the discounted rate represents a 27.4% lower price for those services, or a 46.3% discount on a month’s membership. The offer appears available only on a month-to-month basis.

A spokeswoman for Amazon said there would be no associated discount for AmazonFresh, the Seattle e-tailer’s grocery ordering and delivery service. Prime shoppers pay an additional $14.99 monthly rate for unlimited fresh grocery ordering and delivery in areas where AmazonFresh is available.

Amazon’s Prime membership is seen as an enviable demographic among retailers, but the move Tuesday could help extend Prime to additional shoppers, some of which may be participating in e-commerce with rivals like Wal-Mart Stores which offer some of the same shipping benefits at no additional cost. Walmart officials said last month that such offers were contributing to a sudden surge of sales through Walmart.com, which saw revenues rise by 63% in its fiscal first quarter.

“We know when people try Prime they love it, because they save time and money with low prices on millions of items, unlimited access to premium videos and music, and fast, convenient delivery,” Greg Greeley, VP of Amazon Prime, said in a statement. “We designed this membership option for customers receiving government assistance to make our everyday selection and savings more accessible, including the many conveniences and entertainment benefits of Prime.”

At launch, customers will need to qualify with a valid EBT card. An EBT card is commonly used to disburse funds for several government assistance programs including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program (WIC). EBT cannot be used to pay for membership. Customers can qualify every 12 months up to four times, Amazon said. Amazon will add other ways to qualify in the future for customers participating in government assistance programs that do not utilize EBT. There is no annual commitment and members can cancel anytime.

Customers can learn more or sign up for a 30-day free trial at amazon.com/qualify.

 

 

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