Ready Credit Corp., which sells prepaid cards to the unbanked, is now offering them electronic bill payment through an agreement with Fiserv Inc.
Tim J. Walsh, Ready Credit's president and chief executive, said that some people use the Eden Prairie, Minn., company's ReadyCard prepaid product to pay bills on the Internet or over the phone but not all billers accept them. To help people reach more billers, Ready Credit said last month that it had connected its ReadyStation kiosks to the bill-pay network operated by Fiserv's CheckFree Corp. unit
"It certainly solves the problem for them," Mr. Walsh said.
Ready Credit markets the MasterCard Inc.-branded cards to consumers who prefer to use cash or who do not have bank accounts, and it wanted to offer a cash-based bill-pay service to the same people.
Consumers can also buy the prepaid cards at the kiosk, Mr. Walsh said.
"For those who don't have a ReadyCard, who are still buying money orders or going around paying bills" in person, "we introduce them to our product, and hopefully they adopt a ReadyCard," he said. Consumers pay $1.50 for two- to three-day bill processing, or $2.50 for next-day processing.
Mr. Walsh said that the prices for his bill payment service compare favorably with the cost of going to a store to buy a money order and a stamp to mail in bills and the bills are paid more quickly.
"It's far more cost-effective than a late fee," he said.
Paul Harrison, the general manager of CheckFreePay, CheckFree's walk-in bill-pay business, said that Ready Credit and CheckFree share the revenue.
Consumers can pay bills from more than 1,000 companies in cash at the kiosks, and CheckFree plans to increase that number to 2,000 by yearend, Mr. Harrison said. "Essentially all they have to do is know the name of the biller they want to pay, and they have to have their account number and some cash," he said.
Consumers can pay credit card bills at the kiosks for $2.50, and all they need is their credit card number.
To pay, consumers enter the card number into the kiosk, which encrypts the numbers. CheckFree's system finds the issuer and directs the payment to the proper bank. After paying at a kiosk, people get a receipt they can use to settle disputes, Mr. Harrison said.
Mr. Walsh said Ready Credit has kiosks in 55 stores in Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Texas, and Wisconsin and plans to install some in Chicago this month.
"They're primarily in mainstream retail outlets such as grocery stores, convenience stores, and Dollar Tree stores," he said. "A lot of our locations are open 24 hours a day. People working nontraditional working hours have the convenience of paying their bills on their time."
Ready Credit's kiosks are built by NCR Corp., which introduced the prepaid card marketer to CheckFreePay to help develop the kiosk market, Mr. Harrison said. "The more transactions that go through kiosks, the more kiosks are going to be sold," he said.
CheckFreePay has 12,000 walk-in bill-payment sites in 48 states. Using kiosks lets the company offer its services in businesses without the staff to accept bill payments.
"There are certain locations that are not equipped to take bills with human interface, a convenience store that has only one employee," for example, he said.
Mr. Harrison said that 30 million households lack bank accounts and generally pay their bills in cash.
"They are hard-working families and two-income families," he said. "They manage their budgets on a cash basis. They control their spending by making sure they don't spend more than they currently have."