Cash causes so many problems for universities and other educational establishments. It’s a headache to distribute and account for with huge opportunity for fraud. It’s also a turn-off for many young people who view cash as an outdated inconvenience. In fact, increasing numbers of young people prefer not to use cash at all. Research shows that today’s teenagers are four-times less likely to use cash than the general public and use cash for just 6% of their payments, according to debit-card company Current.
With around 2.32 million students in UK higher education last year , it’s a big problem for which universities are increasingly determined to find an innovative solution. The goal is to reduce the inefficiencies of cash for themselves while increasing their appeal to prospective students.
Some progressive educational establishments in the UK are turning their backs on cash-based expense management systems in favour of issuing prepaid cards.
Many of the most interesting innovations in financial services in recent years have been made with prepaid cards. The Oyster card for travel around London’s rail network was an early example followed by new challenger banks such as Monzo which targeted millennials with services initially based on prepaid cards.
One of the main reasons for this growth is that prepaid cards have emerged as a convenient way to overcome many challenges from simplifying expenditure management to breaking down barriers to financial inclusion.
Here are a few examples of how prepaid cards are delivering benefits to universities and students.
Course and open days are huge opportunities for universities to attract new students in person. These are important days, with most universities opening 2-3 times a year. In Bristol alone, a total of 30,000 visitors booked to visit over the university’s open weekend last year. 
Many educational establishments offer travel bursaries as a way to incentivise and help students to attend these events. A prepaid card can help remove the hassle and admin involved with distributing cash for travel purposes to visitors before the open day.
Research programmes are one of the most important services universities can offer to a variety of industries. They often involve some form of reward in exchange for student participation. Dealing with the administration and distribution of funds after the research is often a time-consuming task with huge scope for fraud.
Alternatively, prepaid cards offer an easy way to upload funds in a way that is far less open to fraud. Cards can be retained by regular participants so funds can be uploaded remotely after each research programme is complete and rewards have been earned, removing the need for postage and associated administration.
University can be a financially challenging time for many students with a reported 40% worrying about how they will finance their studies and daily life. Financial Hardship programmes can, therefore, be an important factor when students are choosing their university.
Managing such a programme can however be challenging for universities as a robust, reliable and ongoing financial process is required with regular payments being made. Delivering funds to students using a prepaid card can be automated with recurring payments. Prepaid cards enable universities to monitor spending and take far better control of where funds can be spent with the ability to prevent spending on activities such as gambling. Moreover, certain goods and services can be excluded to ensure funds are used appropriately.
Prepaid cards can replace the use of petty cash throughout the university, from any one-off payments to expense cards for employees and contractors. Combined with powerful receipt management tools, prepaid cards can deliver a solution that keeps you in full control of your expenditure.
An important factor in the success of a prepaid card programme to meet the needs of both the University and its students is its ability to be used in many locations. The prepaid solution from B4B Payments offers a Mastercard prepaid card that can be used in the millions of locations globally that accepts payment by Mastercard. Funds can be spent in-store or online.
The B4B solution is currently used by further education bodies, companies and government departments in the UK to replace inefficient cash-based systems. It was named winner of the Best Prepaid Card Programme category of the Card & Payments Awards 2019.
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