Amazon Is Giving People on Benefits a Prime Discount. Here’s Why That’s Bad


When it comes to online shopping, Amazon is king. The Washington-based retail giant makes billions of dollars each month through volume sales of everything from books to bedding. They know how to entice people to buy their heavily discounted products — and possibly spend more than they ought to.

That’s why Amazon constantly pushes their Prime subscription service. This $99-a-year service locks customers into free shipping, movies, books, and countless other goodies to keep them on Amazon all the time. It also entices them to do most or all of their shopping on Amazon, because why go anywhere else?

Now, Amazon is offering Prime at a discount for potential new customers on government-subsidized benefit programs. These less fortunate shoppers will have the chance to enjoy the same Prime benefits, albeit at a reduced cost. But is Amazon’s Prime discount a noble effort — or just a way to make more money?

Amazon will let Americans on government assistance programs pay less for Prime.

Americans who receive food stamps, EBT cards, or any form of government assistance can soon buy Amazon Prime for $5.99 a month. This is a significant discount from the $9.99 monthly charge (or $99 yearly charge) to use Prime. Like all other Prime users, discounted users will get the same free two-day shipping, Prime Video, and other services included in the subscription. These users will just have to verify their benefit status through their program-specific identification cards.

This offer is great for Amazon…and not so great for those on food stamps.

Prime users spend significantly more on products than non-Prime users, which makes Amazon more money. By having discounted Prime subscriptions, Prime users on government benefits would be incentivized to purchase things they wouldn’t have bought on Amazon before. For someone in need, the incentive to spend more and seamless transactions could mean spending money they need or don’t have. There’s also the $5.99 subscription fee, which is $5.99 more than many people on government benefits have to spare each month.

A discounted Prime subscription does have its upsides.

Amazon offers cheaper essentials like diapers, toilet paper, and other necessary items for any household. Paying a $5.99 premium to get a steep discount on these products could, in fact, pay for itself in a short period of time. Yet the service also incentivizes and even encourages needless spending on non-essentials, which could be bad news for anyone on a budget.

Should you invest in a Prime subscription?

If you’re buying essentials like baby products, school supplies, and everyday home goods, then Prime at any price could eventually pay for itself. If you find yourself buying using the service’s one-click purchasing more than you’d like, a Prime subscription could end up costing you. After all, Amazon knows how people shop and know how to get them to shop more. If you’re curbing your spending for budgetary or saving purposes, a subscription service with the sole purpose of having you buy more might be bad news.