By Christine Kern, contributing writer
Amazon Wallet App Allows Customers to Store Loyalty and Gift Cards for Checkout
Amazon.com quietly rolled out a digital wallet for smartphones just days before the release of its Fire, suggesting that the retailer has ambitions of selling it as a mobile cash register. According to TechCrunch, Amazon has quietly launched Amazon Wallet in Amazon's App Store and Google Play. For a limited time, the Fire comes with a free year of Amazon’s Prime unlimited shipping membership, which normally costs $99.
The new app, Amazon Wallet, allows people to store loyalty cards or gift cards to use at checkout, Amazon said. Amazon lists about 70 participating retailers, including Dress Barn and Legal Sea Foods, whose gift cards will display a balance in the app. Shoppers can also access program information and check balances on gift cards from supported merchants, according to TechCrunch.
Amazon Wallet will be preinstalled on the Fire smartphone. The app, which Amazon said is still in beta, joins the crowd of dozens of digital wallets already in play, including Apple’s Passbook, all of which promise to eliminate physical credit, debit and loyalty cards.
Digital wallets have failed to gain much traction among consumers, however, in part because there is little effort to swiping credit cards at checkout. Google, for instance, has cycled through several iterations of its digital wallet.
The Fire has several features designed to encourage people to keep buying products at any time throughout the day, notably a software program called “Firefly” that can identify and store merchandise through the handset’s camera. With the Wallet app and smartphone, Amazon appears to be moving closer to its goal of offering merchants a digital cash register through the Kindle Fire tablet. That would put Amazon in competition with PayPal as well as Square and other startups.
There's also a website for the Amazon Wallet that lets shoppers manage payment information and gift cards, but the two are not yet linked. 'Yet' being the critical word.
Amazon's Fire Phone, announced last month and set to ship July 25, could transform mobile commerce and the online retailer has been working its way up to implementing a full-fledged, consumer-facing mobile wallet.