ECCash’s shortcomings deserve SGA attention

by Editorial Board / Beacon Staff • April 2, 2015

At issue: Griddler's the latest eatery to accept ECCash
Our take: Time to take out the EC-trash

Emerson students can now pay for fried pickles and chocolate-covered bacon at the new Boylston Street Griddler’s with ECCash, the prepaid currency students can load onto their Emerson student ID cards. This would be great news—if students actually used ECCash. But the ECCash system’s antiquated requirements and arbitrary division from Board Bucks mean students likely won’t be whipping out their Emerson IDs anytime soon.

The system is simple, in theory. The debit card-esque payment method can be used at local businesses like Boloco, CVS, Sal’s Pizza, and starting this week, Griddler’s. ECCash is loaded online by students—or, more likely, their parents, and can also be used to pay for laundry in dorms, fines in the library, and books at Emerson’s Barnes & Noble. 

Yet in practice, the ECCash system has numerous shortcomings. For example, it requires a minimum deposit of $25. Campus laundry machines—which, of course, can also be paid with quarters—cost $3 for a complete wash and dry cycle, so students have to buy, at minimum, 8 1/3 cycles at a time. Even then, students must first wade through the obscure, anachronistic ECCash site and provide their credit card numbers, instead of going down to 7-Eleven and getting change. 

ECCash does roll over from one semester to the next. But at the end of the school year, students must submit a request form to get reimbursed for the remaining balance of ECCash, which is a tedious exercise that surely no one bothers to do. In the age of Apple Pay, ECCash is about as outmoded and helpful as a convenient store with a ‘cash only’ policy.

What’s most baffling about ECCash is that it doesn’t really have a practical application. All of Emerson’s eateries accept credit and debit cards, and cash, so there’s no reason to use it there. Same with the bookstore and all of the restaurants that accept ECCash. It seems pointless to create an extra step between students’ money and the goods they want to buy.

This stems from ECCash’s seemingly illogical separation from Board Bucks. Students receive Board Bucks in most meal plans, but can only spend them on campus. It would make much more sense if ECCash and Board Bucks merged, creating a single system in which money could be furnished annually along with tuition, spent on or off campus, and reloaded throughout the year.

Boston University has an equivalent to ECCash, a system it calls “Convenience Points.” Similarly, according to the Boston University website, students can use Convenience Points  to “pay for books and software; pick up school supplies and snacks; buy computer supplies, soft drinks, and a sweatshirt; and do laundry.”

Yet food is typically covered by BU students’ dining points, whether in dining halls or at third-party vendors like Dunkin Donuts, Jamba Juice, Starbucks, and Panda Express. (We won’t even bring in BU’s special theme meals at their dining halls, like the annual Lobster Night, into this.)

According to Emerson’s website, ECCash can be used at 16 restaurants in the area, from Crazy Dough's Pizza at City Place to the Subway under the psychic. If only Board Bucks could be used at these vendors, rather than ECCash, students would have real-world options at meal-plan prices, instead of merely having the complaint-riddled dining hall, Max Cafe, and Emerson’s Cafe at their disposal.

Though Emerson’s Student Government Association has a full docket of initiatives it has been working on addressing since yesteryear, this is a small but actionable problem it is fully equipped to tackle. It’s incumbent upon Emerson’s administrators to end the false equivalence between two forms of imaginary cash.