Consumer Alert: Amazon access for low-income Americans. And back to the future – layaway!

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — This Consumer Alert is all about access.

Take a moment and think about the last time you looked for something on Amazon. If you’re like 85 percent of Prime members, you visit the site at least once a week. But for more than a third of Rochester’s population, Amazon is out of reach.

Just 31 percent of American households making less than $25,000 have an Amazon prime membership. Now consider the fact that 40 percent of Rochesterians have an income of $24,000 or less. Just weeks before the holidays, Amazon announced the creation of something that will likely bring the online giant into the homes of much of the Flower City.

Folks with Prime memberships shop on Amazon. That’s because for most products, shipping is free whether the item is $5 or $50. Now Amazon is introducing Amazon Access. And it’s a game-changer, providing Prime memberships for less than half the regular price. And if you have an EBT card, you can now use it on Amazon.

 Here are new benefits for low-income Americans:

  • If you’re on government assistance, like SNAP, you can get a Prime membership for $7 a month rather than the regular price of $15.
  • If you don’t have transportation to the grocery store, you can use your EBT card on Amazon Access and have groceries delivered to your door for free.
  • You get instant access to discounts and coupons.
  • And if you don’t have a credit or debit card, there’s a cash option. Just reload your Amazon gift card at any convenience store. 

And Amazon is introducing another offering that is bound to make parents happy as the holidays approach. The world’s largest online retailer is offering layaway all year long. It allows you to put 20 percent down.

Then it will automatically charge your credit or debit card every two weeks for eight weeks in equal installments. If you’re late it won’t be reported to the credit bureau. If you decide you don’t want the item, you can get a full refund.

So here’s how it works:

  • Not all products are layaway eligible, so you first go to the Amazon layaway home page.
  • Look for Reserve with Layaway near the name of the product.
  • Check the layaway box at checkout.
  • Place the order to start your payment plan.
  • Remember you’ll be charged 20 percent.