Amazon has long cultivated a perception that it’s for demanding shoppers -- people who crave endless selection and delivered-right-now convenience. Now it’s pushing a value “we save you money” message aimed at lower-income people currently struggling with inflation.
The e-tailer is rebranding its offer for Prime’s discounted membership program, introducing Amazon Access. The company says the one-stop-shop will make it easier for those qualifying for government assistance to use their SNAP EBT and Amazon Layaway.
Eligible customers will pay $6.99 a month, more than 50% less than the cost of a full-priced membership.
In 2017, Amazon began offering membership to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) customers, expanding it to nine other government-assistance programs. From 2019 to 2021, membership in this group increased by 300%.
Food insecurity rises with inflation. While the government has been increasing SNAP benefits, it’s hard to keep up with inflation. One recent analysis shows grocery prices rose 12.2% for the 12 months ending June 2022, the biggest 12-month rise since 1979.
Maximum SNAP benefits for a household of four in June 2022 were $835. That’s about $100 less than the cost of the foods in the Thrifty Food Plan, which is how food costs are determined, reports the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Pew reports that in fiscal 2022, 21.6 million households got SNAP benefits, with an average monthly payment per household of $448.
“By launching a new name, we’re excited to bring customers more visibility on how they can access Prime’s valuable benefits, exclusive perks, and savings,” Amazon said in the announcement.
With the expansion of Amazon Access, lower-income customers can get more deals when inflation is decimating family grocery budgets. Most customers with SNAP EBT can use those funds to order groceries online from Amazon, Whole Foods Market, and Amazon Fresh.
And with the layaway plan, they can put down 20%, lock in the price and pay over time, with no credit check, interest or fees.
They can also find discounts on household essentials, discover coupons, and get savings via Amazon’s Subscribe & Save service, which can knock 15% off eligible items.
Prime Access members also get the two perks that make traditional Prime so popular: Free shipping and streaming of movies, TV, music, podcasts and gaming.
Amazon says Prime membership saves people an average of $1,600 per year.
Amazon Prime’s regular membership costs $139 per year, or $14.99 a month. Walmart Plus, introduced in 2020, costs $98. Walmart recently begun enriching it with video perks, including a free subscription to Paramount +.