[Dave Birch] Back in March 2006, BT Click and Buy became ClickandBuy. ClickandBuy Europe is wholly owned by FirstGate Holding which is why some people still call it FirstGate, the name of the original German payment service, rather than ClickandBuy but anyway. You’ll remember that ClickandBuy was a sort of virtual chargecard, letting consumers choose whether to pay using their bank account, credit card or a BT phone bill. ClickandBuy was awarded an FSA e-money licence in November 2006. They then added an e-money service around the end of last year so that consumers could load their wallets with stored value, funding it from other cards. As of today, customers can now load their e-money wallet using cash. Next year they plan to introduce stored value person-to-person. Why bother with capturing cash? Well, ClickandBuy quote some pretty recent research showing that almost half of UK consumers (15+) don’t have a credit card and a third don’t have a debit card, which means that there are plenty of people out there unable to take advantage of the convenience and lower prices of buying online. You can load your ClickandBuy wallet with cash by going to any retailer that has payzone, the wholly-owned Alphyra retail payment network, which has nearly 30,000 locations in the U.K. I’ll give it a try and report back.

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They’re not the first or the only people here to try to marry cash and the Net, of course. There have been plenty of attempts to get cash into e-wallets of one form or another. To pick one almost at random, NetCash launched a service in the U.K. a few months ago, although without the retail link. To buy Netcash currency, consumers can deposit physical cash at one of the company’s partner high street banks or make an electronic transfer from their Internet bank account to Netcash. They can then email Netcash currency to other people, or make a funds transfer from the Netcash Website, the firm says. Netcash offers real-time funds transfers for a one percent fee.

The idea of using cash online is very appealing: there are plenty of people out there who want to use cash to buy stuff on eBay, download games for their phone or e-mail money to a mate. But it’s always been the cost of cash acquisition that’s been a barrier. If it costs (say) 3% to get cash into the wallet, then the scheme can hardly charge the merchant less than 3%.

My opinions are my own (I think) and are presented solely in my capacity as an interested member of the general public. [posted with ecto]

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