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Amazon

Debit card users can cash in on a new perk when shopping online.

Amazon this month launched a program called Prime Reload. Prime members with a debit card linked to a checking account can earn 2 percent cash back.

To earn rewards, shoppers must sign up for Amazon Prime (which costs $99 annually) and provide debit card and bank account information, as well as a U.S. driver’s license number.

Then, you can load your Amazon Reload account — which is essentially a gift card balance — with money from the checking account connected to your debit card. In most cases, those funds will be ready to use within five minutes.

The catch? You can’t earn cash back simply by paying for items with a debit card. According to Amazon, you’ll accumulate rewards each time you reload your gift card balance rather than with every purchase.

The benefits

Few programs offer debit card users exclusive rewards. Previously, only Amazon customers with credit cards had access to benefits besides the ones available with Prime membership.

Through Prime Reload, consumers can earn cash back without racking up credit card debt or interest.

You won’t have to worry about extra charges either. With a rewards credit card, you may be stuck paying an annual fee.

Since your gift card balance never expires, you can load funds over time that you plan to use later. That could make it easier to set aside money for holiday gifts or presents for other special occasions.

The fine print

To avoid accidentally paying directly with a debit card (and sacrificing your chance to earn rewards), you may be tempted to add a lot of money to Amazon Reload at once. But according to the terms and conditions, $2,000 is the most you can transfer with a single reload.

Plus, you can’t earn more than $196 in rewards daily. For most people, though, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Unfortunately, if you have an Amazon Prime Store Card or an Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Card you can’t combine the rewards they offer with the cash back you earn through Prime Reload.

Rewards are automatically applied to your Amazon Balance within 24 to 48 hours after each reload. Rewards must be used on Amazon.com.

Consider a rewards credit card

Amazon Prime Reload doesn’t offer a high earning rate. To get more than 2 percent back, you would have to apply for a rewards credit card.

Depending on the card you choose, you may be able to earn rewards whenever you travel, buy groceries or dine at a restaurant.

Look for low-fee credit cards that make it easy to earn rewards. Just be sure to check your credit score first.

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