Casey’s General Stores, the convenience store chain with more than 2,000 locations in the Midwest, formed a partnership with fintech company Blackhawk Network to let shoppers pay with Amazon Cash, per a statement. Consumers who prefer not to use debit or credit cards for purchases can load between $15 and $500 on Amazon Cash, which acts like a gift certificate. The service was rolled out to Casey's locations on Jan. 1.
Consumers can load cash onto an Amazon Balance by getting a barcode from Amazon, either on a mobile device or printed, and presenting it to a cashier at a participating retailer along with their money. Amazon Cash is also accepted at chains such as 7-Eleven, CVS Pharmacy, Gamestop and Kum&Go.
Amazon.com also accepts payments with Amazon Cash, which the e-commerce giant accepts as a kind of gift card. Amazon doesn’t charge a fee for using Amazon Cash. Blackhawk Network this month reached a deal to be acquired by two private equity firms for $3.5 billion.
The e-commerce giant is hedging its bets as it tries to gain a foothold in digital payments — an important category to have a presence in as the company's role grows across physical retail and digital marketing — by targeting both unbanked and higher-income consumers. Amazon is trying to reach low-income consumers even as it courts controversy with the recent opening of its cashier-free grocery store, Amazon Go, in Seattle. The store doesn’t accept food stamps, and shoppers have to use a smartphone for checkout. Amazon in June began offering Prime membership, its $10.99-a-month subscription service that provides free shipping and Amazon TV shows, for $5.99 a month to consumers who are on government assistance programs.
Brank branches and ATMs are almost everywhere in the U.S., but that doesn’t mean that everyone has a bank account. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. estimated in 2015 that 27% of consumers are considered unbanked or under-banked for one reason or another. The most common reason for avoiding banks was not having enough money to keep in an account, ahead of worries about privacy and fees. Retailers like Walmart have long recognized that their budget-conscious customers are underbanked, leading the company to start offering low-cost checking accounts in 2014.
Convenience stores that sell quick snacks, personal care items and gasoline need to be mindful of those 33.5 million U.S. households that rely on cash to make payments. A service like Amazon Cash lets people load their money into an account that can be kept secure on a smartphone instead carrying around bundles of bills.