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No bank account? Amazon makes it easier for you to shop online

The company unveils Amazon Cash as a new way to add money to an Amazon account, and potentially for the e-commerce giant to target more Walmart shoppers.

At an Amazon fulfillment center in New Jersey.
Ben Fox Rubin/CNET

To keep growing, Amazon appears to be focusing on some of Walmart's faithful customers.

The e-commerce giant on Monday introduced a service called Amazon Cash, which lets people instantly add money to their Amazon accounts when visiting more than 10,000 retail locations, including CVS and Sheetz.

While this concept may not be as futuristic as Amazon's other ideas, such as delivery drones, Amazon Cash could help the company reach a broader audience. Seven percent of US households don't have bank accounts, according to an annual survey by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Creating a service like Amazon Cash could help people underserved by banks or without credit or debit cards to shop online. Amazon gift cards are already available in stores, but -- using an Amazon Cash barcode for your account -- the company made it simpler and faster to add money. Additionally, the same service could help Amazon bring in more lower-income customers, after it's successfully convinced wealthier customers to shop there.

New services like Amazon Cash could pit Amazon more directly against rival Walmart, whose customer base includes lower-income buyers. Walmart already offers a similar service called MoneyCard. Walmart, meanwhile, has been working to expand into Amazon's territory with a renewed push into e-commerce and its multibillion-dollar acquisition of online store Jet.com.

In addition to Amazon Cash, the company last year started letting people pay for its Prime membership on a monthly basis, instead of only annually, and it started a pilot program to deliver groceries to food stamp recipients.

People underserved by banks look to be gaining more attention from the tech industry, perhaps as companies see opportunities to grow their audiences. PayPal has made helping people without bank accounts a big focus, most recently agreeing to buy TIO Networks in February to help people pay their bills using cash at convenience stores.

Amazon Cash, which is free to use, is available around the country. The stores include CVS, Speedway, Sheetz, Kum & Go, D&W Fresh Market, Family Fare Supermarkets and VG's Grocery, with more retailers coming soon.

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