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NC State goes prepaid for student ID


Campus among first to use U.S. Bank’s new nationwide service

When you’re pitching your banking partnership program to a college and you don’t have a brick and mortar facility any closer than one state away from the university, it helps to have other ammo in your arsenal. So it is with U.S. Bank, which can now service colleges without a physical presence near the school over even in the state.

Last year, North Carolina State University in Raleigh went looking for a new banking partner to service its 34,000 students. The school had a banking relationship with another institution, but the university wanted “a stronger program, one with more universal acceptance,” says Randy Lait, senior director of Hospitality Services Campus Enterprises for NC State. “We wanted to take our card to the next level. It was time to test the waters.”

A key ingredient missing from the school’s previous campus card was that it served only as an ATM card. It didn’t feature a MasterCard or Visa logo and could only be used at ATMs and select merchants that accepted PIN-based transactions, says Lait. In the request for proposal, Lait says the school also wanted to find out what a state of the art program might look like. “We had about six responses initially,” he adds.

One of those responses was from U.S. Bank and Lait liked what he saw.

Whitney Bright, vice president and general manager for Campus Banking at U.S. Bank, says NC State wanted a card that could be accepted around the world.

Essentially, the new program piggybacks onto the school’s existing Wolfpack One Card giving students, faculty and staff what the school wanted–a MasterCard-branded card that serves as a debit card. Students can have leftover financial aid placed on the card and they can add money to it via the Web. Parents can fund the card and employees can have a portion of their paycheck direct deposited to it. Funds can also be loaded through MasterCard’s rePower Network that enables MasterCard-branded prepaid cardholders to reload at participating retail locations, explains Bright.

“The account tied to that card is a prepaid one as opposed to a checking account. Because it’s prepaid the account can be opened and serviced completely online,” she adds. “That gives us the ability to launch programs outside our banking footprint.”

What’s important to both the university and bank is that students can only spend the funds that are in the account. They are not allowed to overdraw and cannot incur overdraft fees, says Bright. NC State is the third school to partner with U.S. Bank under this new prepaid program. The product is also in use at Harris Stowe Sate University in St. Louis and Oakland Community College in Michigan.

U.S. Bank will place two ATMs on campus, and because U.S. Bank owns the MoneyPass ATM Network, students have access to more than 23,000 ATMs in that network without incurring a fee, says Bright. She says there are about 650 MoneyPass ATMs in North Carolina, and there is a mobile app to help a student find the nearest location.

Card stock concerns

“We launched the new program at the end of June,” Bright adds. “The incoming freshmen class is starting on the program with the fall term.” Of course, students aren’t required to use the new prepaid offering.

Additionally, no mass re-carding was planned. Existing cards will continue to work and re-carding is necessary only if a student wishes to take advantage of the new program. Cardholders that had linked their ID to the school’s previous banking partner can even continue using that service. “We’re not doing anything to break that link,” says Lait.

The university’s concern about card stock costs helped elevate U.S. Bank’s proposal, Lait says. The school uses HID Global’s iCLASS technology for physical access control and wanted to make sure that same card could be used regardless of whether or not the student elected to use the prepaid card functionality. With some programs a new card must be issued if the student later opts into the program, and these additional pieces of contactless card stock can become costly.

With the U.S. Bank program, everyone gets the same card stock with both the contactless technology and the MasterCard logo. It’s up to the individual cardholder to activate it, says Lait. The card stock is produced at a secure facility and arrives on campus already set for MasterCard … complete with a printed logo, explains Lait.

Lait admits that he initially had concerns about partnering with a bank that had no locations in North Carolina. But, he says these worries evaporated, when he saw a demonstration of U.S. Bank’s new video teller machine.

The video teller enables a person to interface with U.S. Bank to do anything that a customer can do with a flesh and blood teller, says Lait. “You see the teller on the TV screen. If you want to cash a check for $10, you can do that. You can put your ID on the screen and feed checks to the system,” he says.

Eventually the bank will be putting the video tellers into the university’s new student center, which is under construction and scheduled for completion in 2013.

Of the banks serving the campus card market, U.S. Bank leads the pack in terms of number of relationships, serving 51 schools in 25 states, according to CR80News’s 2011 banking survey. The bank’s new prepaid offering can now enable expansion into states outside its physical branch-banking footprint, giving it nationwide opportunities.

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