Why Amazon Coins are worse than gift cards or cash

Martin Brinkmann
May 14, 2013
Updated • Jan 4, 2018
Amazon, Companies, Internet

Amazon launched Coins recently, a virtual in-store currency similar to Microsoft Points or the Steam Wallet. Coins can be purchased directly on Amazon in chunks of 500 or more. Coins are linked to the value of the Dollar so that 100 coins equal 1 Dollar or 100 cent. That's easier to remember than Microsoft's system where 80 points equaled a Dollar.

Coins are currently discounted by up to ten percent depending on how many you buy. If you buy 500 coins you save $0.20 or 4% while a purchase of 10,000 coins saves $10 or 10%. It is not clear if this discount will remain in effect or if it is an initial offer to get Amazon customers to buy coins.

Once you have purchased coins you can spend them on Amazon. But, and that is a big one, only on Kindle Fire apps, games, and in-app items on the Amazon website or on the Kindle Fire. You can't use Coins for other purchases on the Amazon Marketplace including other virtual goods such as ebooks or mp3. That's different from gift cards and cash money as both do not have those restrictions.

Coins do not expire and have no fees associated with them, just like gift cards. While you can trade gift cards, you are not allowed to trade coins and cannot exchange them back into real money.

Coins cannot be resold, transferred for value, redeemed for cash or applied to any other account, except to the extent required by law

Why would anyone want to buy coins if they can as easily purchase the goods with cash money? The only incentive is the discount that you get currently when you buy coins. If you buy coins for $90 you get 10,000 which effectively means that you will spend 10% less on purchases if you spend all coins on it.

Usually though that won't happen. You either spend less, so that you end up with coins in your wallet that do not have any real value for you unless you are sure you will make additional purchases in the future, or you spend more, in which case you need to stock up on coins to make the payment.

Since you cannot use coins for anything else, they are dead weight so to speak as soon as you buy them.

Buying with coins on Amazon


  • Amazon is giving away 500 Coins to U.S. Kindle Fire owners in a promotion. These coins expire one year after they have been given to the customer which is different from coins you purchase.
  • Note that tax on items that you purchase with coins is not shown directly on the product page. You may end up having to pay more coins than you have because of taxes.
  • Coins that you have purchased cannot be returned.

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  1. m said on May 18, 2013 at 4:15 am

    It also annoys me that the media are referring to it as a “virtual currency” – it’s no different (except the ways it’s more limited, as you say) than any digital gift card, which Amazon and loads of other places offer. No one calls these things currencies.

    I guess it’s a poor attempt to ride off the hype around things like bitcoin, but that’s a completely different thing (Amazon coins aren’t being used as a medium exchange, except for Amazon products; they don’t have an independent value to other currencies).

  2. Mike said on May 16, 2013 at 10:20 pm

    Come on Amazon, surely you can do better than that! I give this 6 mos – 1 year before it’s dead and gone!

  3. MerryMarjie said on May 15, 2013 at 9:37 am

    I have so many free apps on my Kindle Fire that I don’t have time to use them all, but from what you’re saying, I guess I can’t even use Coins for MP3s? Hmm, doesn’t sound like a worthwhile currency to me, but maybe I’m just old.

    Thanks for the “head’s up” on this!

  4. Anonymous said on May 14, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    And still ‘taxing’ with the usage of coins as shown in the example? No thanks. Waste of time. Nice work on the coin image though.

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