Bearkat 1 Card to make trial run this summer

Schools across Texas are turning their student ID’s into simple debit cards, and Sam Houston is catching on.

Helena Banks, SHSU Student Government Association president said Sam Houston State will trial run a Bearkat 1 Card this summer.

“It’s bridging the gap between the community and the university,” Banks said of the card.

Banks said the card “is an all access card for students and faculty of SHSU.”

The card will be modeled after the University of Houston’s Cougar 1 Card, which is on a declining balance system.

Banks said she hopes the Bearkat 1 Card will incorporate meal plans, Bearkat Bucks and, in the future, financial aid and parking garage access, all in one card.

“It’s everything,” Banks said.

In planning the card so far, students and parents alike will be able to deposit money into the Bearkat 1 Card account. The money will then be deducted according to the purchases a student makes. Students will not be permitted to make purchases with Bearkat Bucks that drop the account below zero.

Banks said she hopes purchases made with the card will not be limited to campus. She said she’d like to see vendors in the Huntsville area participate in the program, and accept the Bearkat Bucks like any other debit card.

She said she’s also hoping vendors will give students a discount for using the card.

In order for the card to be accepted at other places besides campus, SHSU is looking for a financial institution to coincide with on the project. Banks said the university will partner with a bank, and the bank will then chose a lender.

“We’re looking for a Visa/Master Card logo because we want (students) to be able to use it anywhere,” Banks said.

The goal of the Bearkat 1 Card is to be able to use Bearkat Bucks anywhere the aforementioned logo is accepted.

“You can go home and use your Bearkat Bucks – you can go anywhere and use your Bearkat Bucks,” Banks said.

Banks said the card is in its final stages of development, and is not yet permanent in any way. Many of the options with the Bearkat 1 Card could not be discussed because of its preliminary state.

Texas A&M seemed to start the trend in taking the student ID to another level. The “Aggie Bucks” program at Texas A&M University in Bryan / College Station is one of the oldest and most successful programs of its kind.

“The ‘Aggie Bucks’ program began in the mid 1980s as a means of providing Texas A&M students greater flexibility in paying for meals on campus using their university-issued identification cards,” the A&M Web site said. “In 1993, the program was modified to include purchases at the campus bookstore and was subsequently expanded to allow purchases at off-campus bookstores and several fast-food establishments.”

From there the program grew. Today the Aggie Card functions not only as a debit card, but students also have the preferred option to open a credit card account through one of the Aggie Bucks sponsors, MBNA.

With the Aggie Card, students deposit money into a personal Aggie Bucks account. They use their ID as a debit card, in addition to the standing uses of their ID for school functions. Funds carry over from the account each semester.

Aggie Cards and Aggie Bucks can be used and accessed on and off campus. Eateries, ticket offices, the student health center, laundry facilities, parking garages, bookstores, study abroad programs, bowling and games and vending machines all accept Aggie Bucks on campus. ATMs are also accessible for cash advances.

Vendors in the community got involved with the Aggie Bucks program, and through an agreement with Texas A&M, MBNA and Wells Fargo, the Aggie Card is now accepted at participating locations in the Bryan / College Station area. Beauty services, bookstores, dry cleaners, apparel stores, a florist, grocery stores, gas stations, lube centers, a photographer, various restaurants and a veterinarian in the area all cater to the Aggie Bucks system.

Other schools took the lead from Texas A&M, and brought similar programs to their institutions. The University of Houston has a Cougar 1 Card, which is compatible with a “flex” system. The Cougar 1 Card, like the Aggie Card, has an optional credit card built into it, which a student must activate on their own.

The Cougar 1 Card has the Master Card logo on it, and is received anywhere the Master Card logo is accepted.

The “flex” system is an optional debit-like system, similar to Aggie Bucks. Students deposit funds into the account and are able to purchase snacks, tickets to U of H activities, books, meals and pay for use of laundry facilities.

Like the Aggie Card, leftover funds on the Cougar 1 Card carry over from semester to semester.

Stephen F. Austin’s Jack Bucks program has taken off, and is used both on and off campus. According to the SFA Web site, “Jack Bucks is a stored value card, (a) student can never spend more than is deposited in the account.”

Unlike the Aggie Bucks program, cash advances are prohibited at SFA. There is not a monthly fee for the use of this program, though a $20 minimum first time deposit is required. There is also no pin number issued for the Jack Bucks program.

Jack Bucks can be used at any eatery on campus and at the campus bookstore. Off campus Jack Bucks can be used at tanning salons, many restaurants in the Nacogdoches area, apparel stores, Starbucks and ticketing offices.

Banks said she is hopeful the Bearkat Bucks will be a success at SHSU.

“I think it’s going to be great,” said Banks.

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