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Amazon lets shoppers pay with a phrase

Amazon unveils new PayPhrase feature that aims to let buyers more easily check out by storing names, addresses, and credit card info with a short phrase and ID number.

A simple phrase and pin code may be all you need the next time you pay for that book or CD at Amazon.

The online retailer on Thursday debuted a new feature called Amazon PayPhrase, designed to let busy shoppers store their name, address, and payment information in a single phrase and pin code. Instead of entering all that data at the online checkout counter, you type your phrase and pin number when it's time to cough up the cash.

PayPhrase doesn't just work at Amazon--it can be used at any online retailer that lets you pay via Amazon Payments. That covers a range of cyberstores, including, J&R Electronics, DKNY, and Car Toys.

PayPhrase also omits the need for a user name and password to store your personal info on every shopping site that uses Amazon Payments. However, you will need an account to set up and maintain your phrase.

Amazon sees PayPhrase as a benefit to consumers trying to juggle different accounts at different retail sites.

"PayPhrase solves the headache of trying to keep track of all the different user names and passwords people use to shop on various sites across the Web," said Matt Williams, general manager of Amazon PayPhrase, in a statement. "With PayPhrase all you need is one phrase and one PIN to pay online."

Here's how the process works:

  1. You first set up your PayPhrase. The phrase can be two or more words, and the entire phrase must be at least four characters but no more than 100. Amazon provides a list of suggested phrases, or you can create your own. (With Amazon's suggested phrases of "Unusually Obese," "Contraceptive Cream," and "Bush's Education Department," you might want to create your own.) Since everyone's PayPhrase must be unique, Amazon will tell you whether or not your phrase is taken.
  2. You set up your four-digit pin number.
  3. You enter your user name and password.
  4. You either confirm or enter your mailing address and credit card information.
  5. After your PayPhrase is set up, you'll receive an e-mail from Amazon confirming the details.
  6. The next time you check out to buy an item on Amazon or an Amazon Payment retailer, a field for PayPhrase Express Checkout will appear. You enter your phrase. You then review your order details and total cost and finally enter your pin number to submit the purchase.

Of course, a feature like this always shouts out one question: Is it secure? Amazon naturally believes so.

Though Amazon stores your credit card information, the company points out that your payment information is not shared with other online retailers. And to modify your PayPhrase settings, you have to log in to the PayPhrase site with your username and password.

You can establish monthly cash limits on your account ranging from $10 to $500. Finally, you can opt to receive an approval request by e-mail or cell phone for all orders that are placed.

Check out Amazon's promo video page for a brief tour of PayPhrase.