Amazon figured out a way for online shoppers to pay in cash

Key Points
  • Tech giant Amazon will let customers buy something online, then visit a Western Union in person to pay in cash.
  • It also unveiled “Amazon Cash,” which lets users load cash into their Amazon balance for making online purchases.
  • The cash option is a benefit to those without a bank account who might not have access to a debit or credit card.
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon
Katherine Taylor | Reuters

Online shopping giant Amazon is betting that some customers would rather use cash.

The e-commerce company announced "Amazon PayCode" on Wednesday, which lets shoppers buy something online, then show up at one of 15,000 Western Union locations in person to pay in cash. That option was already available in 19 countries, but is rolling out in the U.S. in coming weeks, the company said.

It also unveiled "Amazon Cash" — way for users to load cash into their Amazon balance in person, so they can make online purchases later. That is now available in over 100,000 cash-loading locations nationwide.

"Customers have told us they love the convenience of paying in cash," Ben Volk, Director, Payments at Amazon, said in a statement Wednesday. "Together with Western Union, we're able to offer customers more shopping choices, enabling them to pay for their online purchases in a way that is convenient for them."

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While most Amazon shoppers will likely stick with the convenience of online payments, cash options helps those without a bank account or access to the traditional banking system.

The company has recently rolled out other options for the underbanked. In June, Amazon partnered with Synchrony Financial to launch a card for those who might not have good enough credit to get one otherwise. "Amazon Credit Builder" lets users build up credit through a secured card, alongside budgeting tools and tips. It allows people eventually to "graduate" to another Amazon Store card once they've established credit.

Despite the rise of mobile payments, cash is still a leading payment method in the U.S. Last year, 79% of consumers used cash for purchases, according to Bain. PayPal, by comparison, had 44% of consumer purchases. Apple Pay made up 9%.

At checkout, customers can select the "Amazon PayCode" option to get a QR code and a number, which they show to a Western Union agent. They have 24-hours after the order is placed to show up at a location. In the event of a return, customers get cash back.