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Quantum, MIT Press Accept Card

By Nathan Collins

EXECUTIVE EDITOR

The MIT card is gaining in acceptance among local businesses, but restaurants and the MIT Coop will not soon be joining their ranks.

Quantum Books and the MIT Press Bookstore have joined the TechCASH program, an improved version of last year’s meal card system. LaVerde’s Market began accepting TechCASH near the end of last semester, along with all campus dining locations.

“We’ve been asking for it for fourteen, fifteen years,” said LaVerde’s manager Marc Semon. “As pleased as we are, the students are more pleased.”

LaVerde’s previous efforts to begin acceptance of the card were stymied by LaVerde’s former competitor Aramark, said John M. McDonald, the assistant director of enterprise services.

For similar reasons, new restaurants are unlikely to be added to the card system in the near future, he said. “We’ve kind of made an agreement with Campus Dining” not to recruit new restaurants in the near future, McDonald said.

Lower commissions also played a role in LaVerde’s acceptance. “When Frank LaVerde was [originally] approached, the percentage was much too high,” Semon said. MIT now charges a fee of four percent of each purchase to use the system.

LSC may soon accept TechCASH

The Lecture Series Committee has also indicated its interest in accepting the MIT card as payment, but the cost of the system may be an impediment.

“LSC has wanted to have the card for a long time,” said LSC Chairman Alex Rolfe G. But the card reader system required to accept TechCASH costs about $1,500, McDonald said, in addition to the cost of a dedicated telephone line.

The Student Activities Office may allocate money to help pay for a student-group card reader, McDonald said, and “we will try to spread the cost of the terminal around” by sharing the machine among several groups.

“I suspect there are lots of groups who, like the theater groups, would like to sell tickets on the card,” Rolfe said, but LSC has not yet discussed in detail sharing the system with other groups.

Getting LSC on the TechCASH system will take at least a month, the time required to acquire and install the necessary hardware. “I would guess a realistic time frame is between November and [the Independent Activities Period]” in January, Rolfe said.

Rolfe was not concerned about the four percent commission. “Compared to the convenience ... it’s small,” he said.

Coop balks at MIT commission

In contrast, the MIT Coop “had some concerns about” MIT’s commission, but will continue negotiating with the card office, said Coop General Manager Allan Powell.

The TechCASH commission rate is more than what the Coop pays for credit cards or the Harvard University “Crimson Cash” system, for which Harvard takes a 2.1 percent commission, he said.

Unlike the Harvard system, TechCASH allows students and parents to make deposits from credit cards, necessitating the large MIT commission, McDonald said.

Powell said that he wanted students “to think of [the Coop] as a resource,” and as such wanted to join the TechCASH system. But “it’s probably not going to be [available to students] this semester,” he said.

TechCASH has added features

The TechCASH system has some additional benefits compared to the old meal card system. Apart from the new businesses participating in the program, the procedure for adding money to an MIT card has been streamlined. Previously, students filled out forms to make payments, and those payments were handled through MIT Student Account Services. With the new system, students and their parents can make payments on the MIT card Web site, <http://web.mit.edu/mitcard>.

Students are not able to withdraw money from their accounts. “When we set up the program, we didn’t want to make it like a [bank card],” McDonald said. “We just want to make it easy to use.”

Other businesses may soon begin to accept the card, he added, including Kendall Drug in Kendall Square and a dry cleaner.