MasterCard Inc. has launched a service that lets European consumers top up prepaid cards at merchants, and two processing companies have signed up to offer it.

Metavante Technologies Inc. of Milwaukee said Tuesday that its European unit has begun to offer the MasterCard rePower reloading service for MasterCard and Maestro prepaid cards in Europe, in conjunction with Advanced Payment Solutions Ltd., a British prepaid card provider.

Also Tuesday, the British online payment processor Smart Voucher Ltd. said it would offer the rePower service through the merchants that sell its UKash vouchers.

Dan Shannon, a senior vice president at Metavante, said the European payments market is well-suited for prepaid cards.

Although there are 27 countries in the European Union, only 13 participate in the Single Euro Payment Area and use the common currency, Shannon said in an intervew Tuesday. "The ability to load and unload in different currencies is a huge barrier to cash replacement."

Metavante announced the agreement at the Prepaid '09 Conference and Expo, a London event sponsored in part by Metavante and MasterCard.

MasterCard did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Metavante Technologies Inc. bought Nomad Payments Ltd., a London processor of prepaid and debit cards, in January of last year. Two months ago Metavante agreed to sell itself to Fidelity National Information Services Inc. of Jacksonville, Fla.

Smart Voucher said it would offer the rePower service initially in the United Kingdom and then elsewhere in Europe.

The company's primary offering is a payment voucher that consumers can buy at newsstands, grocery stores and gas stations. They can make purchases at hundreds of Web sites by entering the 19-digit number on each voucher.

Smart Voucher said it has signed several international deals over the last 12 months.