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Harvard to end longstanding declining balance program starting July 1

CrimsonCash to be phased out in stages over next 12 months

CampusIDNews Staff   ||   Jun 07, 2024  ||   , ,

Harvard’s CrimsonCash – a declining balance program that enables students to use their campus card to make payments on and off campus – will be sunsetted in phases beginning July 1, 2024 and finishing July 1, 2025. The announcement was made in an email sent to account holders and a posting on the university’s website.

At one time, CrimsonCash was widely regarded as one of the industry’s most successful, pioneering declining balance programs. Millions of dollars flowed through the system and the off-campus merchant program was a model for other campuses.

Over the years, the prevalence of open system payment methods took a heavy toll on CrimsonCash and virtually all declining balance programs. Today it is the norm for students to arrive on campus with a bank account, debit card, and credit card.

CrimsonCash was widely regarded as one of the industry’s most successful declining balance programs with millions flowing through and a model off-campus merchant program.

According to the announcement, the decision to end CrimsonCash was “made in close consultation with University partners and stakeholders and based on significantly reduced utilization of the program due to the evolving purchasing habits of the Harvard community.”

In the first phase, July 1, 2024, four key areas will stop accepting the payment method:

  • On-campus undergraduate residential dining
  • Vending machines
  • Harvard athletic gyms
  • Off-campus merchants (note GrubHub merchants will still accept CrimsonCash until the following year)

In each of these venues, cash, credit, and debit cards will be accepted – with the exception of residential dining. Dining will not accept cash but will continue to accept mealplans and the BoardPlus dollars that are provided with mealplans.

On January 1, 2025, phase two will see CrimsonCash eliminated from all retail dining locations on campus.

The trickier applications include laundry and on-campus print and copy services. These locations only accept CrimsonCash today, so a wholesale change is required.

On July 1, 2025, the final phase will end the program entirely. A new Grubhub agreement will define the new payment options, though credit and debit cards will certainly continue. Student grilles will accept the BoardPlus account and other payment options to be determined.

Harvard CrimsonCash merchant sign

CrimsonCash signs to come down across Cambridge as off-campus merchant program ends

The trickier applications include laundry and on-campus print and copy services. These locations only accept CrimsonCash today, so a wholesale change is required.

The announcement stated that for these services, the future payment and funding model is yet to be determined.

An article in the Harvard Crimson noted, “the email did not describe how or if Crimson Cash would be replaced (for laundry and print) but added that the program team would share more information over the coming academic year.”

“Leadership is looking at options to streamline laundry, print, and copying funding and payment methods,” states the email.

All this seems to leave the door open to new models that could eliminate fees for residence hall laundries and could include a dedicated account for printing and copying. Both approaches are common on campuses today.

On many campuses across the country, declining balance and off-campus merchant programs are constricting. For Harvard, it seems the cost to maintain the program ultimately outweighed the operational efficiencies and student convenience considerations.

Farewell CrimsonCash. You’ve had a great run.

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