BlueCards To Add More Stores to Network; Volume of Use Already Much Higher Than Last Spring

Andover students are now swiping BlueCards at the Andover Bookstore, CVS and Papa Gino’s in the first year of the BlueCard network’s formal launch. BlueCard use has dramatically increased since last spring. She said that last spring the highest number of uses in one day was 70, when Seniors purchased their prom tickets. By noon on September 14, over 300 swipes had been recorded, according to Liz Fortino, Manager of the BlueCard and Contact Management Office. “Any day now we’re supposed to get Bruegger’s Bagels and King’s Subs,” two dining locations in downtown Andover, said Fortino. “We’ve talked to other places that students expressed interest in [adding to the BlueCard network]. Either they’re not interested or haven’t gotten around to it yet,” said Fortino. “I would expect a couple more vendors to be added eventually.” Fortino said the other vendors will see hopefully the success of the downtown BlueCard shops and pay the fee to join the BlueCard system. Fortino said the fee is “negotiated between the vendors and BbOne, which is the division of Blackboard whose job it is to recruit and manage the financial details for off-campus vendors on behalf of campuses. The Academy is not involved in that process at all except to recommend vendors we think the students would be interested in having on the program.” However, this increase may not stay consistent throughout the term. Most of the transactions were filed at the Andover Bookstore when students bought their textbooks, Fortino said. She added the system has been running smoothly so far, but she said she is unhappy with the e-mail alert system for the BlueCard on PAnet, Andover’s intranet service. According to Fortino, if any one of students’ three funds drops below the minimum amount one specified, the student will receive an alert email saying that there is a low amount of money on the card. Students have access to a Bookstore Fund, solely for purchases at the Andover Bookstore; a PA Campus fund, available only at the locations on campus that accept the card (Art Store, Central Services, the Ice Rink Pro Shop and snack bar, The Den and the copy machine on the first floor of OWHL); and BlueBucks, the general fund available anywhere the card can be used, on or off campus. “If either of the first two funds runs out of money, the system will look for money in BlueBucks. We put the three funds in place in order to leave it up to families how they wanted to manage their money,” said Fortino. “If the parents wanted to control where the money gets spent, they can use just the Bookstore Fund, for example. If the parents trust the student to spend the money appropriately and not spend all of it on pizza before buying their books, for example, a lot of people found it easier to just put all the money into Blue Bucks.” Although most people only put money on their “BlueBucks” fund, they will still receive emails when their Bookstore and Campus funds are empty. “I’ve complained to Blackboard about it and they said ‘We could fix this for you but it would cost you money,’ and that’s not going to happen,” Fortino said. Other than this, the BlueCard has received positive feedback so far. Alex Hauck, who works at a register at CVS, said “I think [the BlueCard system is] going fine right now. The real testament will be at the end of the week when we see if there are any glitches in the technology.” Fortino said that she has received “largely positive” responses from both new and returning parents thus far. “It seems to have been very well accepted by the parents. I’ve been getting lots of phone calls where they want to put money on their child’s card and they think it’s a good idea,” she explained. She also said that John Hugo, owner of The Andover Bookstore, is satisfied as well. “Mr. Hugo from the bookstore seems very pleased with it. He called me Saturday to let me know it’s going well, and if he’s happy, I’m happy,” said Fortino. According to Fortino, the impetus for the BlueCard system was the increasing difficulty that Hugo faced using a credit card system at the bookstore. After Hugo collected credit card information from parents in the fall, the credit card numbers would often change to fend off fraud. This made keeping accurate credit card information on file for everyone virtually impossible. The school employed multiple precautions to avoid BlueCard theft or fraud. If students log on with their passwords, they can monitor the spending on their cards to make sure there is nothing suspicious. Also, if the card is lost, there is a ten-dollar replacement fee to change the number so no one can use the missing card. The picture identification on the card works as another form of fraud deterrent. According to Fortino, using someone else’s BlueCard is grounds for disciplinary action. “If you thought your roommate or someone couldn’t find her card and therefore used yours and wasn’t nice enough to tell you or something like that, that’s the same thing as stealing money. Clearly that would go through the Dean of Students office,” said Fortino. The reactions to the BlueCard system on campus are generally positive or critical but infrequently negative, because if students do not wish to put money on their BlueCard they are not required to do so. Anneke Heher ’10, who was not on campus for the introduction of the BlueCards last year, said she has found her BlueCard very convenient. “The card’s efficiency is its best aspect. I can charge at, for example, the Den faster. It’s also nice that the charges go to my parents so I don’t have to hassle with money,” Heher said. She continued, “I thought that the bookstore would be ridiculously long wait like in previous years, but I was in and out within 15 minutes. I also like the identification feature of the card. It is an ID and debit all in one.” Charlie Walters ’10 said he considered the BlueCard to be an unnecessary hassle. “I have a credit card and a debit card already, so [the BlueCard is] just another way to complicate things and make me spend more money. It’s basically a debit card I can’t use wherever I want,” Walters said. Fortino knew that some families agreed with Walters, and said that the BlueCard does not have to be used by everyone. “We’re just trying to give families a tool. If it’s useful to them, great; if it’s not, great, then they’ve figured out something else,” Fortino said. Fortino added, “I have heard that there are schools that have similar programs that make everybody put some money on it. We don’t do that.”