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ONEcard looks at expansion in MacHall

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The campus ID card is used for everything from security identification to gym access, but the University of Calgary plans to expand the system even further.

Though the timeline for the whole project spans several years, the school plans to improve the printing interface and replace traditional payment methods at more vendors with the card.

"They sort of had this vision of a cash-free campus eventually," said Students' Union vice-president operations and finance James Delaney, who is working with the university on the project.

"We want to make it more user-friendly and easier to use," said U of C business manager for residence and ancillary Trevor Rempel. "We're also really looking at all the different things we can do with the card."

Rempel said students pay several hundred thousand dollars for laundry every year using a different card. In order to simplify the process and reduce the number of cards a student needs to carry around at the U of C, the school may add this system, and others, onto the campus ONEcard. Some of those other cards include debit and credit by bringing the ID payment system into the MacHall food court.

Rempel said only a "select set" of vendors currently accept the card.

"We'd like to see more third-party vendors, maybe in the food court downstairs or maybe even off campus," he said.

With no signature required or pin to punch in, the cards are faster than traditional forms of payment. The university found it took half the time to pay with the ID card compared with debit or credit.

Rempel said the U of C MacHall food court is unique. Most other schools are affiliated with the majority or all of their vendors while most MacHall vendors are independent. This makes negotiating with vendors to add the ONEcard system a slow process.

The card currently carries a 3.25 per cent service charge, which goes partly toward the company that administers the card.

"If there's a 3.25 per cent service charge either the student eats that right away from the amount that's added on top or the vendor pays for it," said Delaney. "But in the long run the vendor's going to raise prices. One way or the other students are going to be paying for that service charge I feel."

"There's costs associated with it the same way a vendor sees costs associated with accepting debit or Visa or any of those," said Rempel. "The advantage is that we already have to have a system like this to do things like student printing and meal plans that debit and credit can't cover, so can we take that system and extend it to students in other ways."

Rempel said the expanded system is all about convenience for students -- quicker transactions will cut down on long lines and waits for service.

While the ONEcard expansion program is in the planning phase the university and the SU will work together to see if this system might be extended to MacHall tenants and students in a way that benefits both parties.

"They're business people, they're going to see the problems with it right away," said Delaney, of the vendors. "If it's shown that costs do occur to students I'm fairly confident that they won't go for the program."

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