Amazon is offering nearly a 50 percent discount for Amazon Prime to Americans on government assistance. The service includes free two-day shipping for most products. Photo courtesy of Amazon
June 6 (UPI) -- Customers on government assistance can receive a half-price discount on Amazon Prime subscriptions, the Internet retail giant announced Tuesday.
Anyone with an Electronic Benefits Transfer card -- about 20 percent of the U.S. population -- can pay $5.99 a month for Amazon Prime instead of the usual $10.99 per month or $99 per year charge, the company said in a release. That represents a 45.5 percent discount on the regular monthly rate.
Prime's benefits include free two-day shipping on most Amazon orders as well as unlimited free streaming of Amazon video and music content.
EBT cards, which replaced the paper food stamps in the late 1990s, are given to people on government assistance programs, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and Women, Infant and Children Nutrition Program.
You can't use the EBT card to pay for the Prime membership.
"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," said Greg Greeley, vice president of Amazon Prime, in a release.
Customers can cancel at any time and qualify every 12 months up to four times.
Amazon is going after customers of Walmart, which generated about $13 billion in sales last year from shoppers using SNAP, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Of the money spent among the 44 million SNAP recipients, around 18 percent goes to Walmart.
Laura Kennedy, director, retail insights at consultancy Kantar Retail, told The Wall Street Journal low-income shoppers are "a big opportunity." But she noted some of these consumers "still face hurdles because they more often lack typical bank resources like accounts or credit cards."
Walmart is increasing its online efforts, including acquiring low-cost Jet.com for $3.3 billion last August. The retailer offers free shipping on orders more than $35.
Amazon offers free shipping for non-Prime customers on orders more than $25.
About 47 percent of U.S. primary household shoppers never or rarely shop on Amazon, according to data from Kantar Retail.
Approximately 52.2 million people -- or 21.3 percent of the U.S. population -- participate in government assistance programs each month in 2012, according to a report issued by the Census Bureau in 2015.