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Technology Pays Dividends

05 July 2016

Many universities have traditionally used card systems, but many are now offering payment via mobile apps, in addition to, or as an alternative to card.

Cashless means different things to different people. There are currently three main contactless cash free transactions:

• Wave & Pay – credit/debit card contactless payments, eg Applepay

• Open Loop – third party wallet providers either pre-pay or linked to credit cards or mobile phone bills

• Closed Loop – the university gets the cash in advance and payment is restricted to university outlets.

While all three are big on the convenience front, there are additional benefits to the Closed Loop solution. For one, there are the reduced costs of handling cash and the costs associated with movements of cash to and from the establishment. Then there’s the possible elimination of staff time spent in collecting cash from the points of sale, providing floats and management of change. There’s also a reduction in audit requirements.

Electronic processing of transactions reduces the opportunity for fraud or theft while providing quick access to detailed transaction history to provide full and rapid audit of the operation and detection of anomalies.

Such payment types necessitate the cardholder to load funds with their debit/credit cards over the internet via a desktop PC, tablet or smartphone. Importantly, however, it also allows others such as employers and student relatives etc to load funds into an account where the expenditure can be restricted, typically to restaurants and then to main meal items. This encourages increased loads given the nature of the controls that surround the expenditure.

MCR’s SymPay can feature various features. For example, loyalty points can be accumulated on a designated purse on the card, triggered by numerous user activities, ranging from spending at a designated location to triggers simply based on the level of spend. These loyalty points can then be redeemed, either automatically or by prompt, in various ways designated by the student. Triggers range from the location to the purchase of products, or a combination of triggers.

Products can also be configured individually to take advantage of any available country specific tax benefits, eg lower tax rates for students, eat in/eat off premises, etc. Groups of cards can be issued to specific departments to manage the provision of services to them, too. At the end of a period, total departmental expenditure can be calculated and charged. During the period total departmental spend by card can be accessed and managed more efficiently, thus reducing cost. Another advantage is that visitors and contractors to the university can be issued temporary cards or download the app. The product pricing to these ad hoc account holders can then be adjusted to full commercial rates, if required. Deposits can also be collected and refunded to them, with any remaining card balances.

Universities can also reduce administration costs by charging for other services (other than catering) with the card, for example, for washing machines and dryers, library systems and printing/copying services. MCR Systems is currently working with a third party to deliver full integration at the University of Reading, offering a single purse for cashless loading and payment for all catering, library, sports memberships, print services and travel. This will enable the student population to do away with the pinch point of having to load up different purses and use different cards/apps when utilising all paid services across campus. It will also increase spend in catering as they can tap into funds from elsewhere.

Of course, there are other new technologies out there, too. Click and Collect is possible for in-app ordering and purchasing direct to an order point. Then there’s EPoS Terminals, which enable delivery to table or for predetermined time slots for either collection or delivery (to lecture theatres, meeting rooms or accommodation, for example). Digital receipts are coming to the fore – which saves on not only costs of the paper in the receipt printer but also time in processing the transaction – as well as photo recognition. For added security and customer interaction, systems can produce the image of the account holder on the EPoS terminal when an account card or mobile app is presented. Payment cards can include loyalty accounts with voucher notifications and special offers that can be sent to account holders’ phones based on birthday dates, buying history and habits. The ability to utilise these kind of accounts at vending machines and self-service kiosks, eradicating the need for cash, is also on the rise.

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