By Shangyan Li ‘14
This fall, Groton School introduced a pre-funded debit card system for student purchases at school stores as well as cash withdrawals at the mailroom window.
Groton has partnered with MyKidsSpending.com, part of Odin, Inc., to implement the debit card system. The cards double as School IDs and will be required to make any purchase at school stores. Instead of mailing checks or paying through wire after receiving monthly statements, parents are now expected to fund the cards either through MyKidsSpending.com or by mailing checks to school. A 4% charge is placed on credit card transactions, and 1% plus a 75-cent per transaction fee on electronic checks. The charges go to MyKidsSpending.com, and there is no fee for checks mailed directly to the school. Parents may also request an online copy of statements as well as set up automatic transfers when the balance drops to a certain point.
Groton students will soon be required to show their student IDs/debit cards with any purchase or cash withdrawal. According to Ms. Peggy Duffy, who oversees the running of both the bookstore and the athletic store, this would reduce issues of accidental billing, which happens mostly when a student charges an item on another’s account. Since students would have to carry the debit cards with them during athletic practice, in order to buy anything at the athletic store, Peggy explained that lanyards would soon be available to make things easier.
Another possible inconvenience with the debit cards is that the students’ remaining balances limit student purchases. What’s more, cash advances made at the business office, which are essentially loans from the school, are no longer available. This means that, in order to make future purchases or to withdraw cash, the students’ only option is to call or email parents to fund their accounts.
While the new system does reduce the time for the school to receive bills, the school’s main initiative of introducing the debit cards, according the Mr. James Raney in the Business office, is to provide parents with greater access through the website. For instance, parents may view a detailed list of each item purchased, through MyKidsSpending.com, instead of the categorized sums on previous monthly statements. Another upside is the immediacy of account funding. With the online system refreshing every fifteen minutes, students would barely have to wait once their cards are funded.
Groton is, in fact, one of the later schools to use student debit cards, Mr. Raney explained. So far, slight issues such as wrong readings of the cards on computers have prevented the system from being enforced, but, according to Mr. Raney, the cards will be required when the system is smoothly running, possibly shortly after long weekend. He also hopes that by this time next year, everything students buy on campus will be paid by the debit card, including snacks at Health Center, and food and drink at Scudder’s and Dory’s. Charge sheets, by that time, would become obsolete.
Before the complete implementation of the system, not much feedback has been received from either parents or students. Mr. Raney did explain that beforehand communication could have been more efficient, since the finalized email explaining the student debit cards was not sent until late August. “We would love to hear more feedbacks from the students”, said Mr. Raney.