Travel Tech UTU Raises $33M to Promote Tax-Free Shopping

Part of Series B funding was used by utu to acquire CardsPal, a Singapore-based fintech that offers deals and promotions nearby to users

Travel Tech UTU Raises $33M to Promote Tax-Free Shopping

Utu, a Singapore-based travel tech company that helps travellers maximize the experience of their tax-free shopping, has raised a $33 million Series B led by SC Ventures.

The aim of the startup, founded in 2016, is to remove friction from the tax-free shopping system, with a cross-border rewards technology for VAT refunds.

Over the years, utu worked to establish partnerships with travel, hotel chain and retail brands. It cooperates with refund operators across 50 countries, bringing extra rewards to tourists. For partner retailers, airlines, hotels and other organizations, utu offers the benefits of increased customer loyalty and potential revenue growth.

Utu’s main offering is a Tax Free Card. With this virtual card product, tax-free shoppers can opt for frequent flyer miles or hotel points instead of VAT refunds. They can also select an immediate store voucher equal to 120% of the VAT or GST they paid while shopping overseas.

The difference between traditional VAT refund methods and utu’s proprietary solution is that tax refunds don’t bring back the full amount of VAT. Although the travel tech also isn’t always able to compensate its customers with 100% VAT, the firm claims to maximize the refund in airline frequent flyer miles up to 90% of the original tax.

Moreover, its customers can get about 30% higher refund value with one of utu’s exclusive airline or hotel partners, and 5% more on a VAT refund in their home currency in 19 Eurozone countries, when the refund goes to the customer’s linked payment card in the utu Tax Free app.

The company will use the new funding to expand its offering across all countries that offer a VAT refund service, invest in innovations and strengthen its management practices. Part of the funding was already used to acquire CardsPal fintech which will give utu a digital marketplace, a promotions engine and a self-service merchant registration portal.

Nina Bobro

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Nina is passionate about financial technologies and environmental issues, reporting on the industry news and the most exciting projects that build their offerings around the intersection of fintech and sustainability.