Business

Amazon’s new way to pay, with a payback — and a bit of potential risk

Amazon is now offering a cash-reloading balance payment program for Prime members with 2 percent rewards added.
Amazon is now offering a cash-reloading balance payment program for Prime members with 2 percent rewards added. TNS

If you don’t want to use a credit card at Amazon but you’re a Prime member (and wouldn’t mind some rewards), then read on.

The new Prime Reload option, introduced earlier this week, gives Prime members 2 percent rewards when they reload their gift card balance using their checking account. This is your cash that Amazon holds for you instead of using a credit card.

Here’s the good and the potential risk for you in the deal:

How it works: You submit your bank account and routing number and your debit card number, along with driver’s license number. That sets up the 2 percent rewards part.

Reload the card balance using the 2 percent rewards payment method, and your rewards are added to the gift card balance with each cash reload.

Amazon’s site says the money typically is made available to you to spend within five minutes, unless “a closer review” is necessary, then it could be up to four hours.

Advantages: If you are a heavy Prime user, you can gift yourself the money instead of using the rewards to pay for part of your Amazon gift card to Aunt Millie.

A 2 percent bonus loaded onto the gift card account also is Amazon’s way of thanking you for it not having to process your credit card with the associated fees.

If you’re careful with this program and watch your account like a hawk, or even set up a checking account just for this purpose, it can be a money-saving way to keep your Amazon purchases cash-based.

That feature alone might be appealing if you’re a little too quick and frequent with the one-click-buy-now option using your plastic.

Disadvantages: Remember, this is drawing from your bank account, not a credit card where damage can be isolated if your account is hacked.

If someone drains your bank account, your automatic mortgage payment (or any payment) might go awry. And it may not take a hacking event. A forgotten automatic withdrawal, ill-timed with a reload, could cause issues for you, too.

Banks and credit unions also might not be as fast as credit card companies with sending you fraud alerts if something does happen to your account or suspicious activity is detected.

The main takeaway: Think about how long you could go without the cash if you had to unspool a case of fraud or insufficient funds. That’s way more serious than not receiving packages as fast as you’d like through Prime.

For more information on the various payment options Amazon offers (Prime Rewards Visa, Prime Store Card and Reload) go to http://amzn.to/2tnz68f

Debbie Cockrell: 253-597-8364, @Debbie_Cockrell

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