Amazon's Payments Adventures
From payments to lending to insurance to checking accounts – Amazon has been attempting a multi-pronged onslaught in financial services. The internet company has been supremely focused on building financial services that supports its core business objective of increasing participation in the Amazon ecosystem, and payments is an extremely important piece of this ecosystem participation puzzle. Digital and closed-loop payments solutions help Amazon to offer frictionless transactions to consumers and reduce cost of transactions that it pays to payment processing firms. Most importantly it helps Amazon unlock the value of financial data to aid its personalization objective. This quest to own a bigger piece of the Payments value chain has resulted in several run-ins with the incumbents and partnerships with the fintech disruptors. We look at Amazon’s Payment adventures during the last 30 months.
The e-commerce giant and payment solutions provider Visa are back in the limelight this year, as in a recent turn of events, Amazon has decided to temporarily halt the ban on Visa credit cards in the UK – a decision taken by the online retailer in November 2021. We take a look at some of the key events that shaped the retail platform's payments journey through the years.
Amazon’s courtship with credit card solutions started way back in 2019, when it launched a credit card in partnership with Synchrony Financial to lend to shoppers with poor or no credit history. Later that year, Amazon Australia inked a deal with Zip to introduce the buy now pay later (BNPL) service on its local retail website. Consequently, the US retail turned its sights to India, where in a partnership with CapitalFloat, it introduced Amazon Pay Later service that allowed shoppers to get instant credit on the platform, and in just over a year’s time, the service boasted over 2 million customers and 10 million transactions with an almost 100 percent success rate.
Encouraged by the success of these ventures, Amazon went all out on a payment diversification spree across the globe – one continent at a time. In Germany, it partnered with Barclaycard to offer financing for purchases made through Amazon.de above EUR 100; teamed up with Nubank in Mexico to offer monthly payments without interest with the Nu credit card on sales at the website; and collaborated with Ebanx to allow Peruvian customers to pay for Prime Video services in Peruvian Sol. Through a partnership with Affirm, Amazon introduced a pay-over-time option at checkout, and its agreement with PayPal meant that customers were able to pay with Venmo for purchases on the website as well as on the mobile shopping app. In December last year, Amazon struck a deal with Barclays enabling customers to pay in instalments in the UK. Its constant strive for innovation was further reflected in the e-commerce platform’s decision to field bids to replace JP Morgan Chase as the issuer on its popular co-brand credit card that reportedly garnered interest from American Express and Synchrony Financial.
Amazon’s feud with Visa has been quietly brewing since September last year – when the retail giant started adding a small surcharge to any purchases made with a Visa credit card in Singapore, citing Visa’s high interchange fees, which was soon implemented in Australia as well. In the UK, Amazon upped the ante, and not only announced a complete ban on Visa credit cards starting this year, but also offered monetary incentives of up to $27 to encourage customers to shift to a debit card or a non-Visa credit card. Although a formal resolution is yet to be achieved, the reversal of this decision as posted on the company’s UK website on Jan 17th, seems to be a more suitable option, as the online retailer was poised to lose out nearly £1.4 billion from UK shoppers because of the ban. Hopefully, customer inconvenience and longer-term revenue would be the key priorities as the two companies work together towards an agreement.