Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) is making its Prime membership program more affordable to customers on government assistance programs by cutting the monthly cost from $10.99 to $5.99. When paid up front, the Prime membership is $99 a year. Greg Greeley, vice president of Amazon Prime, said in a statement that Amazon created this option to make its “selection and savings more accessible.” The move was announced on Tuesday.
The program will be available to any U.S. customer with a valid Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. The EBT card is commonly used to disburse funds for a number of government assistance programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and the Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program (WIC). Amazon may consider expanding the program to others on government assistance in the future, but no additional plans have been announced.
The discounted membership will have the same perks as the full price version. Some of the perks include free streaming video and music, free photo storage, access to the Kindle lending library, access to Prime Now, and the ability to shop from Amazon’s Essentials. A Prime membership also includes a 20 percent discount on diapers and wipes subscriptions, a great perk for families with babies.
Discounting the membership fee will make Amazon Prime more accessible to lower-income families. Last year, 44.2 million people per month participated in SNAP.Combined spending for all of the USDA’s food and nutrition programs totaled $101.9 billion in 2016, with SNAP accounting for $70.8 billion of the amount. Customers can learn more about the program and sign up for a 30-day free trial at amazon.com/qualify.
Lower-income families still need to shop for everyday items. Amazon Prime may be offering a better price than competitors like Walmart and Target, making the cost of the $6 per month membership. Shopping online could also save them money on gas or public transportation, as the ordered items are delivered directly to their home.
Amazon is currently working with the government to develop a program that allows consumers to use their SNAP benefits via e-commerce websites. Walmart, Thrive Market, FreshDirect, and other grocers are also helping with the program. A pilot of that program is currently scheduled for early 2018.