Amazon's Mobile Wallet Sports Prepaid Muscle

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Amazon's new mobile wallet can't make payments, but it benefits from working with Blackhawk Network to connect to gift and loyalty cards from Blackhawk merchants.

Amazon Wallet, like Apple's Passbook, functions as a container for digital payment cards and other apps. The app runs on the Amazon FireOS and Google Android mobile operating systems, and can be managed from the same page that consumers use to access their payment methods for

"The fact that Amazon tied the features into their account page for all account holders at Amazon is extremely convenient and clever," said Tomas Campos, general manager of online and mobile at Blackhawk Network.

This approach allows consumers to manage third-party gift cards alongside their credit and debit cards, Campos added. "Basically, they took the best-of-both-worlds approach by integrating it into their current user experience on as well as creating a dedicated companion app," he said.

For now, Pleasanton, Calif.-based Blackhawk is simply "powering the features around gift cards" in the Amazon wallet, Campos said. "There is always opportunity for other features when it comes to innovation as the consumer evolves," he added.

Those opportunities could be built on Blackhawk's expertise in the gift card market, said Brian Riley, senior research director and analyst with Boston-based CEB TowerGroup.

"Blackhawk has truly been an innovator in this space from day one on prepaid cards," Riley said. "They have talked about doing a gift card that would break the closed loop into more of gift card that plays within the many merchants Blackhawk has."

Amazon provides numerous payment services to merchants, and "it will be interesting to see how Blackhawk will play into that," Riley said.

Amazon did not reply to inquiries about the Blackhawk arrangement.

Reports also surfaced last week that Amazon is preparing to launch a mobile card reader similar to Square's offering.

Late last year, Blackhawk acquired InteliSpend Prepaid Solutions as a way to provide businesses with employee rewards, wellness incentives and other promotional programs through prepaid products.

Blackhawk based its digital e-gift network on the model it established for its Gift Card Mall in retail stores. 

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