This summer, Amazon debuted a new program that made it easier for those on government assistance programs to join Prime at a reduced cost. Today, rival Walmart is announcing a change that will benefit that same demographic of low income shoppers. The retailer says it will allow customers using EBT benefits to use its Online Grocery Pickup service to pay for their groceries with their government benefits.
An EBT card is used to disburse funds for a number of government assistance programs in the U.S., including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program (WIC).
While Amazon's expansion of Prime to EBT customers was focused on delivery, and Walmart's is on pickup, both share a similar viewpoint: that today's modern e-commerce services shouldn't just be conveniences for those more well off financially, but should be accessible by everyone.
That's a valid position, in fact. We've passed the point where shopping online is considered a luxury. You don't even need a home computer or fast internet connection to use these services - a cheap smartphone and wireless plan will do.
In fact, online sites often have lower prices than retail stores which can benefit budget conscious shoppers. Free delivery from Amazon could also be more affordable than gas. And Walmart's pickup service could save people time in terms of performing a routine task like grocery shopping - something that could be especially valuable for those working multiple jobs to make ends meet, for example.
Walmart says the ability to shop Online Grocery Pickup with EBT is not yet broadly available across its U.S. stores.
Today, it's available in one store in the Houston market and four more in Boise. But the eventual plan is to roll out this option to more markets throughout the 2017 holiday season and beyond, the company says.