Smart Voucher – better known by its
trading name Ukash – has formed its fifth new distribution alliance
in six months, reinforcing its claim of having the world’s largest
and fastest-growing prepaid-cash estate.
The latest alliance is with French-issuing
network la SAF, which provides the UK-based prepaid specialist with
distribution points for Ukash vouchers at 15,000 POS terminals,
primarily in tobacconists and newsagents across France.
Targeting consumers reluctant to use payment
cards or divulge personal details when shopping online, each Ukash
voucher carries a unique, randomly generated 19-digit number which
can be delivered in many ways including paper, email, mobile text
message and plastic card.
Ukash vouchers are available in France in
denominations of €20 ($29) to €200. The addition of France, where
Smart Voucher has had an online distribution presence for some
time, brings the number of issuing points where the vouchers are
available to 300,000 in 29 countries.
The tie-up with la SAF followed hard on the
heels of the introduction of Ukash vouchers in China where, in
December 2009, an online distribution initiative was launched in
alliance with China’s card organisation, China UnionPay (CUP).
Purchase of Ukash vouchers using CUP-branded
debit cards is undertaken online in what Smart Voucher describes as
a process which involves a physical security device that ensures a
consumer’s details are kept “completely safe”. Ukash vouchers are
issued in US dollars in China and are available in denominations
ranging from $5 to $50.
The launch in China came two months after
Smart Voucher’s entry into North America where it teamed up with
Canadian automated transaction software developer VendTek Systems.
Ukash vouchers are available under VendTek’s Now Prepay brand from
15,000 POS terminals throughout Canada, with denominations ranging
from C$25 ($24) to C$150.
October 2009 also saw Smart Voucher make its
entry into Latin America, albeit on a small scale through a link-up
with retail financial service provider Redpagos which is providing
300 outlets for Ukash vouchers in Uruguay.
A far more significant alliance got underway
in Australia in August last year, in an alliance with prepaid
product distributor epay, a unit of US payments solutions provider
The alliance initially provides some 3,600
outlets for Ukash vouchers which are available in denominations of
A$10 ($9) to A$500.
Established in 2001, Smart Voucher
is one of four companies authorised by the UK’s Financial Services
Authority to operate as an electronic money institution, a status
that allows a single maximum online cash payment transaction of up
to £500 ($810). Marketing of Ukash vouchers commenced in 2005.
Smart Voucher received a significant financial
boost in September 2008 with investment by UK payments processor
Data-Cash and South African prepaid products specialist Blue Label
DataCash’s investment of £3.8 million ($6.2
million) was via a three-year convertible instrument which will,
after conversion, give it a 16.66 percent stake in Smart
BLT’s $6 million direct equity investment gave
it a 17.25 percent stake.
The additional capital gave Smart Voucher the
fire power to accelerate its international expansion strategy,
reflected in the company trebling in size within 12 months. Ukash
transactions were reported in July 2009 to be running at an annual
rate of over €100 million.
The Ukash voucher system is hosted by UK
communications company Cable and Wireless while multi-currency
transactions are managed using Royal Bank of Scotland’s automated
currency processing platform, FXmicropay.
Anti-fraud and anti-money laundering is
entrusted to UK payments systems vendor Alaric’s Fractals Merchant