INTERNATIONAL. Travel tech start-up utu has launched a four-tiered membership package which upsizes tax refunds on shopping in 50 countries. It is intended for use with existing tax refund forms issued by shops and gives bonus utu miles.

Singapore-headquartered utu said its initiative puts the power of tax refunds into consumers’ hands by rewarding their tax free shopping abroad, “kickstarting a positively multiplying travel rewards cycle”.

utu Co-Founder Ameer Jumabhoy said: “Our goal is to surpass the status quo of the global tax refund system and give travellers the best value for their tax-free shopping abroad. The utu Membership will allow our users to not only get a better upsize on their tax refunds, but also receive bonus airmiles that can be channelled into their next trip abroad.”

Using a digital interface, shoppers can upsize their tax free refunds in 50 countries via the utu service

Utu said that the amount of tax refund travelling shoppers can claim is a strong influencer when choosing their travel destination.

However, most travellers receive only about 60% or less of the actual tax amount due to tax refunds operators’ processing fees and other charges. Coupled with the often cumbersome process and paperwork, many end up forgoing their tax refunds, utu observed.

The key benefits of membership of the utu scheme (click to enlarge)

utu incentivises travellers to consolidate and claim their tax refunds, rewarding them with a +25% upsize on their refund amount in utu miles when they use the utu Tax Free Card. This is a virtual card created specifically to receive traveller VAT refunds.

The utu miles can be converted by the shopper into frequent flyer miles of their choice. The tax free specialist has built up a wide variety of frequent flyer programme partners to choose from, including Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer, Emirates Skywards, Qatar Airways Privilege Club, Royal Orchid Plus and more.

The four levels of utu membership – Elite, Voyager, Explorer and Traveller – and their benefits (click to enlarge)

The utu Tax Free Card can be used in any of 50 countries where VAT/tax refunds are available, including in major shopping destinations such as Paris, Milan, Rome, Dubai, Bangkok and Singapore.

Today’s newly-launched membership programme further multiplies these rewards with a larger refund upsize and a welcome bonus utu miles reward even before the member travels.

The virtual utu Tax Free Card rewards travellers with a +25% upsize on their refund amount in utu miles

Taking the Elite tier as an example, members get a +30% upsize on their tax refunds and a bonus US$1,250 worth of utu miles upon successful subscription, which can then for example be converted into 31,253 KrisFlyer miles.

Singapore Airlines is among utu’s early frequent flyer programme partners

utu Chief Marketing Officer Sanjay Chinchwade added: “With the utu membership amplifying the rewards on the Tax Free Card, utu is on track to change the way tax free shopping refunds are handled and put the power of tax refunds into the hands of the consumer.

“The membership launch is just one of many steps that utu is taking to deliver new value to shoppers in the travel ecosystem.”

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