When shopping online, there are plenty of things to be wary of. You need to ensure that the website you are shopping on is genuine, for starters.
And you also need to be on your guard that any page where you are required to enter your personal or card details is secure (with a URL beginning https or a padlock appearing in the address bar).
It can all be a lot of hassle. Which is why the ability to shop online, paying with cash, may appeal.
Shopping with cash
Confession time: even though Ukash has been around for years, until last week, I had never even heard of it.
Here’s how it works. You hand over your money to a shop which sells Ukash. In exchange for that money, you get a voucher, carrying a 19 digit number. You can then use that voucher to pay for items at one of the websites which accept Ukash.
It’s a bit like an iTunes voucher really, but you can spend that money at more than one store.
There will be a use by date, typically 12 months, though Ukash told me that if you didn’t actually manage to use your voucher within the year, the firm would issue you a new one if requested.
There is a limit to how much you can get in Ukash. They are only issued up to a maximum of £200 per voucher (or €250).
The plus sides
Safety is the main benefit to shopping in this way. After all, fraudsters are not going to able to get hold of your personal details or card numbers if you pay with Ukash, since they are not needed in order to get the voucher.
This is a big selling point, particularly for older shoppers. I know that the older members of my family are very suspicious about the idea of entering their details online, no matter how secure a website may appear.
There’s also a bonus in terms of budgeting. You can only spend the value of the voucher, so there’s no risk of getting a bit carried away and maxing out your credit card all because there’s a nice sale on at Debenhams.
Finally, the fact that Ukash is regulated by the FSA means that its services are all above board.
Where you can get Ukash
There are more than 400,000 locations across the globe where you can get Ukash. These are usually in places where you see the epay, Paypoint or Payzone symbols. That means various off licences, one-stop shops and even supermarkets like the Co-op.
You can search for yourself which retailers offer Ukash on this section of the website. I found ten Ukash outlets within a mile of my house, far more than I’d expected.
Where you can spend Ukash
This is where the appeal of Ukash starts to fade a little. While there are thousands of outlets that accept Ukash, the firm has focused on areas where there has been a big demand for paying by cash. And that has mostly been with gambling sites and online gaming.
Check out the full list of retailers that accept Ukash here.
The firm assured me that its main aims at the moment revolve around getting more mainstream firms to accept Ukash, so hopefully there will soon be outlets like Amazon or Play on the list as well.
Converting the voucher into a prepaid MasterCard
However, if you want to spend your Ukash in a store that isn’t on the list, don’t fret. You can convert your Ukash into a pre-paid MasterCard, allowing you to spend that money anywhere that accepts MasterCard.
It’s a virtual card, so you don’t need to worry about yet more plastic in your wallet. When you register you’ll be emailed your card number, which you can then use to pay wherever.
There are fees to consider here though. Here’s the charges for the various card values:
Cost to purchase
Will it take off?
It would be remiss of me to not mention that, for all the risks, there are still reasons to stick to paying with a credit card online. The main one is of course the protection offered by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
However, I can absolutely see the appeal of Ukash. Many people deal mostly in cash, particularly those in manual jobs. So it makes life more convenient for them to simply change up their money for vouchers to then spend online, rather than relying on paying into a bank account and waiting for the money to appear in that account before they can spend it.
But if Ukash, or any other similar service is to take off, it will be as a result of the retailers that accept it. And that’s the one area where improvements are definitely needed.
So what do you think? Would you prefer to pay online using cash rather than a card? Do you think a service like this will take off as people grow disillusioned with banks? Let us know your thoughts in the comment box below.
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