FlashCash system provides benefits, but student use on decline

Josh Echt


Credit: Carl Schierhorn

Robert Wachala prefers to keep his FlashCard close to his vest – and closeto dining options on campus.

“I don’t eat off-campus,” said Wachala, sophomore theater studies major. However, he probably will put money on his FlashCard in the future, he said.

“It’ll just be for printing on the computer lab,” he said. “I can hit all the cafeterias on campus with my board plan.”

However Joe Dunn, senior business manager of FlashCard operations, said the FlashCash system benefits the university, students and businesses.

Dunn urged more students to take advantage of the system.

“Students can buy items off campus with their FlashCard, even if they have no cash,” Dunn said. “It’s safe to use – no personal information is revealed during a transaction.”

More than 15,000 students have FlashCards that have FlashCash on them, said Dining Services manager Andrea Spandonis.

Students have the option of having their money refunded at the end of the year or letting it roll into the next semester or year.

Business benefits

Roughly 20 to 25 off-campus establishments, such as Rockne’s and Acme, are in the system, Spandonis said.

Most merchants are eligible to enter the initial 12-month contract agreement, except if their businesses sell alcohol or drug-related paraphernalia, said Dining Services marketing manager Eugene Walters.

The prospective business pays a one-time $550 fee for the FlashCard VeriFone Tranz380 readers. The business then pays $150 for a one-time reader installation fee and connection to the Kent State system, similar to the installation of regular credit card machines, Dunn said. The initial contract lasts 12 months and then goes to a monthly basis after the first year.

“If an off-campus vendor makes $1,000 in a given month for FlashCard-based sales, Kent State will send it a check for $950. It will then keep the other $50, if the vendor’s rate is calculated at five percent, for instance,” Dunn said.

Dunn said he would not comment on specific percentages of each business involved in the program. However, he said Kent State receives different percentages from each business because each business targets a specific market.

Dunn also said the business could opt to receive weekly payments via wire transfer instead of monthly payments by check. However, an additional 0.5 percent charge is added to the normal amount charged by the university.

In return, Kent State markets the business with tools such as advertising campaigns and a list of FlashCash system vendors at the FlashCash Web site.

More efficient programs

Kent State started the FlashCash system in 1989 after students used coupon books to purchase food in campus cafeterias, Dunn said. The program began because customers wanted a more efficient payment system in place, he said.

“Initially, the university bookstore was the first to use the FlashCash system,” Dunn said. “The major rollout of the off-campus FlashCash system by merchants took place around the mid- to late 1990s.”

Between two and four businesses per year enter the program, Spandonis said.

A symbolic gesture

A small percent of students enter East of Chicago Pizza in Kent to use their FlashCard to purchase food, Manager Tom Pekarcik said.

Pekarcik said the FlashCash system helps the business because some parents still haven’t given their children credit cards yet.

“Some parents put money on their childrens’ FlashCards,” he said. “The FlashCard is a good way for students to purchase items without the risks of credit cards.”

Chris McIlnay, manager of Mike’s Place, said the restaurant experienced a decline in FlashCash users since it started accepting it in 2001. He said the system doesn’t suit the restaurant because the college community has moved away from the FlashCash system.

“More students are apt to use their Huntington debit cards or credit cards to pay for their meals than the FlashCash system,” McIlnay said. “One night we could get a group of six FlashCard users and then go a week without any.”

He said students commonly choose credit and debit cards for payment, citing reasons such as safety and their trust in established banks rather than the university.

“We’re becoming a credit card society,” McIlnay said.

However, he said the FlashCash system has one major benefit: It is a symbolic gesture toward the university, which provides Mike’s Place with most of its customers, even if they pay via different means.

“We do it to keep in good faith with Kent State,” McIlnay said. “Students provide their trust in us. Our use of the FlashCash system is a good token of appreciation for the university.”

Contact general assignment reporter Josh Echt at [email protected] .