5 best new Alexa features for Amazon Echo in your home and car, and how to use them

Amazon's new Alexa assistant tools include making emergency contact calls and paying for gas hands-free.

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Katie is a writer covering all things how-to at CNET, with a focus on Social Security and notable events. When she's not writing, she enjoys playing in golf scrambles, practicing yoga and spending time on the lake.
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Amazon added more new features to its Echo devices.

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Amazon regularly adds new features to its Echo devices and Alexa voice assistant intended to make your life easier. Some of the latest include having Alexa pay for your gas so you don't have to swipe your card, and calling your emergency contact in case you can't make it to your phone.

Last month, Amazon released new features that let you go hands-free in its app, upload photos to your Echo Show and start your daily routines with just your voice. Here are the newest updates to your Amazon Echo and Alexa voice assistant and how you can get started using them today. 

Pay for your gas with Alexa

Forgot to grab your card before you left the house? As of Tuesday, you can now use Alexa to pay for your gas at more than 11,000 Exxon and Mobil gas stations. 

Amazon Pay processes the transactions, so you'll be able to use the same default payment method you use on your Amazon account. To get started, just say, "Alexa, pay for gas," and follow the on-screen prompts to activate the pump. The payment will be processed after you're finished pumping gas.

You can use the new feature in the Alexa app or Alexa-enabled devices like the Echo Auto, which is a $35 device that snaps into your car and connects to your phone's cellular data. If using your phone, you'll need to have the Alexa app open.


Pay for gas with your Echo Auto.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Call your emergency contact

Amazon has added a new safety feature that lets Alexa call and text your emergency contact when you say, "Alexa, call for help." 

To set up the new feature, open the Alexa app, select Communicate and tap the contacts icon in the top-right corner. Scroll through your list of contacts and select a person. Tap Add as Emergency Contact, and select OK.

Alexa will reach out to your emergency contact any time someone in your household asks Alexa to call for help. Note that your emergency contact needs to have a US phone number and their phone needs to be turned on.

Emergency contact calling is available on all in-home Alexa-enabled devices that support Alexa calling, such as the Amazon Echo 2019, Echo Dot and Echo Show.

Listen to Pandora podcasts on your Echo

Pandora podcasts are now available to listen to on your Amazon Echo device. To listen to your favorite podcast from Pandora, just say "Alexa, play [podcast name] podcast on Pandora."


Listen to your favorite Pandora podcasts on your Echo.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Less noisy announcements and group drop-ins

Amazon has improved the way you send announcements and drop into groups with its Voice Focus feature. The update is designed to mute distracting background noises like outdoor sounds or dogs barking. You don't have to do anything to make this work, it's automatically part of the Voice Focus update.

Get school updates for your kids on your Echo

School is different this year, but Alexa can help keep track of upcoming assignments and due dates when you use skills from Canvas, Infinite Campus, Coursera and more. You'll need to figure out which skill your school is using and enable it in the Alexa app.

After you've enabled the skill and entered your information, just ask, "Alexa, are there updates from the school?"

Want to know more things you can do with your smart speaker? Here are three Amazon Echo security features to turn on when you leave the house, the best uses for Amazon Echo in your bedroom and five outdated things Amazon Echo can replace in your home.

Watch this: Amazon Echo Show 8 review: Alexa is getting even better