Borrowing a page from phone companies, America Online has begun selling prepaid Internet access cards at certain retail stores. Earlier this month, Target retail stores started selling AOL "starter kits," which include an AOL CD-ROM and 500 minutes of Internet access for $14.99. Consumers can also buy refill cards for 325 minutes at $9.99, 700 minutes at $19.99, or 1,200 minutes for $29.99.
AOL distributes CD-ROMs containing 1,025 free hours of Internet access for 45 days as its core incentive for new members. The difference is that the 45-day offer requires people to submit a credit card number. Prepaid customers, however, are not required to submit credit card information to AOL in exchange for access. The company said its pricing plan targets people who don't own credit cards or feel uncomfortable giving away their account information.
"Through research we found that this product appeals to those who don't want a commitment or a monthly fee," said AOL spokesman David Theis. "Some of them may not have a credit card or another billing method or may want to get online less frequently than unlimited usage." The cards are offered in all Target stores, and refill cards can be purchased in all estern Union locations. Starter kits will appear in Office Depot stores starting next month.
The prepaid phone cards signal AOL's ongoing efforts to lure new subscribers to its industry-leading 35.3 million member base. AOL has a number of pricing plans, but most of its subscribers pay $23.90 a month for unlimited access.
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News source: c|net