Whole Foods' Prime discounts let Amazon ask its most important question to customers in person

  • Amazon has expanded its Whole Foods discounts, and it's designed to place Prime front and center.
  • Cashiers now ask each customer if they're a Prime member upon checkout, and the stores are covered with signs advertising the sales.
  • It marks the first time that Prime, Amazon's most important customer offering, has jumped offline, and it provides another avenue for growth for the service.

Amazon is giving its Prime membership prime treatment as it rolls out discounts across Whole Foods stores.

The stores are now staging grounds for Prime membership, filled to the brim with in-store advertisements showing the latest deals that are available only for Prime members. Workers wear blue Prime aprons advertising the membership, and cashiers make a point of asking every single customer if they are Prime members so that they can scan the code for discounts at checkout.

7 PHOTOS
7 top credit cards for Amazon cash back
See Gallery
7 top credit cards for Amazon cash back

Amazon Prime Store Card

This card is only for Amazon Prime members, with Prime membership recently costing $99 per year. It has been estimated that there are at least 66 million members, though, so there's a good chance you're a member and able to take advantage of this card.

If you're not, but you spend a lot at Amazon, it might be worth a Prime membership in order to get the card. Why? Because it offers 5% back on purchases at Amazon. Spend about $100 per week, on average, at Amazon, and that can get you $260.

It offers special financing deals, too. There's no annual fee, but the card only can be used for Amazon purchases. (Its APR is on the steep side, though, so aim to pay off your bills in full.)

Amazon.com Rewards

This card is another good option for Amazon shoppers and is available to Prime members and non-members alike. It, too, charges no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees, either.

You'll receive a $50 Amazon.com gift card upon signing up and then earn 3% cash back on all Amazon purchases, 2% back on spending at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores, and 1% back on everything else. This card is more versatile than the Amazon Prime Store Card as it can be used in most retail locations and offers many common card perks, such as extended warranty protections.

Amazon Prime Rewards

If you're an Amazon Prime member and would like the best of both cards above, this is the one for you. It sports largely the same terms, only you receive a $70 gift card as a welcome gift, and more importantly, you earn 5% cash back on Amazon purchases (plus 2% back on spending at restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores, and 1% back on everything else, as with the above card).

Discover it Cash Back

This card offers a simple 1% back on all spending, plus 5% back on purchases in rotating categories such as restaurants, gas stations, or Amazon.com (up to a limit of $1,500 in spending each quarter, limiting the reward to $75 per quarter). You won't earn 5% back on Amazon spending at all times, but when you do, it will be a sizable percentage amount. (In 2016, 5% back on Amazon spending was available for a full six months.)

The deal gets a little better, too: After your first year ends, the card will match the rewards it has already given you. So if you earned 5% back on lots of Amazon purchases, you'll receive another 5% back, for a whopping total of 10%. This is only for the first year, but it can still be well worth it. The card charges no annual fee, and it includes your FICO score on each statement. (Read our full review of Discover it Cash Back to learn more.)

U.S. Bank Cash+

This card, like the Discover card above, offers 5% back in rotating categories that you choosefrom a range of options. You get to select two per quarter, and you may be able to choose bookstores -- with Amazon being classified as one -- in more than one quarter. The 5% back is capped at $2,000 in spending per quarter -- enough to earn $100 in the period.

You'll also get to choose which everyday category (such as gas or supermarkets) you'll earn 2% cash back on, and you'll collect 1% back on everything else. There's no annual fee. 

Citi Double Cash Card

The Citi Double Cash Card will never pay you 5% or even 3% cash back on your Amazon spending, but it will pay you 2% back -- on all your spending. You'll get 1% when you make a purchase and then another 1% when you pay off that sum.

That's clearly not the best Amazon cash back deal around, but it's simple and dependable, and may net you the most, overall, when you take all your spending into account. After all, with many other cards, most purchases earn just 1%, while here they will earn 2%. (Read our full review of the Citi Double Cash Card to learn more.)

Fidelity Rewards

This card offers a simple 2% cash back reward -- with a catch. The 2% will be deposited into a Fidelity account. That can be perfect if you've got a Fidelity savings account, retirement account, brokerage account, or other account. It's also perfect if you'd like one card to use for most of your spending that features a significant cash back percentage on everything -- and it can help achieve your retirement savings goals, too. There's no annual fee.

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Asking customers directly, in person, if they're part of the Prime program is something Amazon has never been able to do before. That changes the game, opening a new avenue of potential growth for the service.

While all these materials and techniques are ostensibly advertising the Prime deals, they also necessarily function as advertisements for Prime itself — and only Prime.

The most obvious case is the Prime signup table, where workers ask Whole Foods customers if they're Prime members. If they're not members, they get little pamphlets advertising all the benefits of Prime.

These employees function as Prime evangelists, zeroing in on shoppers who say they don't have Prime or haven't heard of it, pulling them aside to chat free, two-day shipping.

Having Prime in Whole Foods gives it a foothold in the physical world as the service becomes more vital to Amazon's business. Prime customers are by far Amazon's most loyal, buying more stuff more often, so it makes sense that the company would want to keep customers within the Prime ecosystem and expand the number of people the service reaches. 

Though analysts estimate that about 75% of Whole Foods customers already have access to Prime, that other 25% is ripe for the picking as some indicators see Prime membership growth slowing in the US.

Additional reporting by Hayley Peterson. 

NOW WATCH: Learning to celebrate failure at a young age led to this billionaire's success

See Also:

SEE ALSO: Amazon's struggles with its Fresh grocery service show a huge liability for Prime

Read Full Story