Credit cards offer thirsty students more options

Students no longer have to rummage for coins to get a drink from some of the University’s vending machines. Instead, they can go cashless by using their debit or credit card.

Debit and credit card readers have been added to about half of the University’s Coca-Cola vending machines.

Coca-Cola and USA Technologies, the provider of e-Port technology, installed the readers at other educational institutions on a trial basis during the 2006-2007 school year before offering them at USF. The readers proved successful and were implemented at USF in August 2007.

Jeffrey Mack, assistant vice president of auxiliary services, said there has been a growing trend in the use of debit and credit cards at vending machines.

“USF introduced the debit-credit readers program to provide ease and convenience in providing a source for cashless vending,” Mack said. “Since the initial installation, the use of debit-credit cards in beverage vending transactions has continued to rise.”

Mack said debit and credit transactions accounted for 30 percent of total beverage machine sales in February.

Billy Epstein, a senior majoring in sociology, buys a drink from a machine every day.

“I think it’s good. It’s much more convenient than having to stuff dollars in the machine that don’t work,” Epstein said.

Other students are wary of using their credit cards in the machines.

“I haven’t used it yet. I’m scared of it because you always hear stories about people breaking into machines or getting their identity stolen. Cash is safer,” Brittany Wilson, a freshman business major, said.

Although the price of the beverages in the machines has gone up, Mack said that was not because of the installation of the readers. Coca-Cola pays for the debit-credit readers and the transaction fees associated with using them.

Mack said the rising costs of production and fuel made it necessary to increase the vending price by 25 cents in the summer of 2007. Before this, the prices remained steady since the beginning of the University’s contract with Coca-Cola in July 2002.

“The new vend prices are consistent with the local vending market and comparable to other university programs in Florida,” Mack said.

Nichole Copes, a senior majoring in international studies, regularly uses the debit-credit option on the machines.

“It’s awesome because when you’re thirsty you don’t always have change,” Copes said. “Sometimes it takes a little bit to scan, but I love it.”

If students experience problems with their debit-credit transactions, each reader displays a toll-free number to call regarding refunds and questions.