Asda has replaced gift vouchers with an electronic gift card ­ a move it claims is a first for the UK grocery industry. The card can be used to purchase any item at any Asda store, with the exception of petrol, products sold from the kiosk and Asda call time ­ a prepay scheme for home phones. It is sold at tills and customer service desks and comes with a receipt bearing the card's unique number. Customers can choose between three designs and can ask for the card to be loaded with any sum between £1 and £500. The amount paid is logged on a central database in Bentonville ­ Wal-Mart's US headquarters Customers can also reload cash onto the card by quoting the card number at the till and they can regularly check their balance at any checkout or by calling Asda's customer service line. The card can be deactivated if lost or stolen and if customers keep their receipt a new card can be issued with the balance transferred. It can also be used as full or part payment for goods ­ money not used is stored on the card for future use. Asda said this feature would allow parents to add regular amounts to their student offspring's card when they pay for their weekly shopping. An Asda spokesman said: "It's a more flexible system than paper vouchers. Wal-Mart has been issuing these cards in the US for four or five years. Within five years everyone here will be doing it too. "We've only been able to do it since we revamped our stores with Wal-Mart systems." He said initial signs were that the scheme would be a success: "We've had a number of shoppers reloading their cards already." {{NEWS }}