U Card offers many options

by Michelle Kibiger

University students and staff members can now grab some munchies from vending machines without having to dig change out of the depths of their pockets.
Most campus beverage and food vending machines will accept the U Card as a form of cash by the end of fall quarter.
Currently the U Card office is adding card readers to University Coca-Cola machines. Some campus machines already accept the cards.
In a pilot program last year, students in Bailey Hall and Centennial Hall used their cards to purchase items from vending machines and operate laundry machines. Also, employees in the West Bank Office Building can buy food with their cards from the building’s restaurant.
John Neita, U Card office stored-value program director, said students have found the cards easy to use.
He said card readers will be initially installed on already existing vending machines in high-volume locations, such as Coffman Memorial Union. Card readers allow students to check how much money is on their cards, as well as purchase items.
Neita said he hopes vending machines will be ready to accept cards by early November. The official deadline is the end of fall quarter.
Cash-to-card machines have already been installed across campus. U Card carriers can use these machines to transfer up to $50 in cash onto their cards to purchase goods and services.
Currently, students can use their U Cards to make copies from 87 campus copy machines.
Students pay 8 cents per copy using the cards in newly purchased copy machines. Some machines still accept coins, but the price for copies is 10 cents each. Only five of the 19 machines in Wilson Library accept coins for copies.
University libraries will continue to convert copy credits from previous purchasing cards to the new cards during limited periods of time.
Each U Card has two magnetic strips on the back. Information contained on the wider strip recognizes an individual’s identity, while the smaller strip stores monetary credits.
The identification strip allows students who have a TCF Bank account to use the card at automated banking machines or to make purchases at University Bookstores. This strip also gives cardholders access to various University facilities, such as the recreation center and the University golf course.
The University only uses the identification strip to keep track of a student’s registration status. Banking and calling card options, including individual PIN numbers, are regulated by TCF Bank and AT&T.
Monetary credits placed on the card are not tracked. The smaller strip at the bottom of the card, which regulates these credits, is coded differently, and does not recognize an individual’s identity.
“Students didn’t want anyone tracking their purchases,” said Shirley Nordstrom, U Card program senior administrative director. Surveyed students said they wanted their transactions to remain confidential.
Students can spend the money on their cards any way they want, Neita said, but placing money on the card is just like carrying cash. If students lose their cards, then they lose the stored value as well.
“Students have been very receptive to changes in the U Card program,” Nordstrom said. She said now students only have to keep track of one card.