Best Buy has started to offer $200 yearly memberships to customers in the Twin Cities in return for benefits such as free or discounted Geek Squad services.

Best Buy Beta is a pilot program that started a month ago in Iowa and parts of Pennsylvania and Oklahoma. It is now available in the Twin Cities.

"As we look to evolve our membership programs, the goal of Best Buy Beta is to create a membership experience that customers will love and to leave them feeling confident throughout their relationship with Best Buy," said Allison Peterson, Richfield-based Best Buy's chief customer officer, in a statement. "This pilot offers premium service, complete with support aimed at anticipating our customers' needs."

Besides the services and consultation of the Geek Squad technology team, members receive a concierge service to answer questions on products, installation and more.

Also free: a 24-month warranty on purchases, special discounts and free and faster shipping.

Members will receive free standardized installation and a 20% discount on other technology services.

To compete with Amazon Prime and membership-only retailers such as Costco, several retailers have begun offering extras to people who agree to pay a monthly or yearly fee. Grocery stores are getting into the game as well: Hy-Vee offers a Plus membership that gives extra gas and food discounts, free delivery and two-hour express pickup service.

Best Buy already had a subscription called Total Tech Support, which involved Geek Squad services. With positive reaction to that service, Best Buy thought it could add other benefits, a spokesperson said.

Although planning on a membership-type service began before the coronavirus pandemic, Best Buy Beta incorporates what the retailer learned about customer preferences and retail needs from the changes instituted during the pandemic, the spokesperson said.

A dozen Twin Cities stores are part of the pilot.

Catherine Roberts • 612-673-4292