National CacheCard Co. of St. Louis, which has spent the past four years developing a campus smart card system, has begun marketing it to banks.
The system lets students and other members of campus communities use chip cards to make purchases at snack machines, copiers, washing machines, and at on-campus merchants, such as bookstores.
Plans include allowing cardholders to transfer funds from their bank accounts to their cards via specially equipped telephones run by GTE Corp.'s telephone operations unit based in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
Closed-loop campus systems are evolving into common proving grounds for smart cards in the United States. The self-contained programs expose thousands of consumers to the benefits of the cards, while giving banks and technologists an opportunity to experiment and work out glitches.
"We can market the system in partnership with a bank," said William H. Corrington, president and CEO of National CacheCard. The company announced its plans this week at American Banker's Future Money Conference in Atlanta. "We can offer an end-to-end turnkey solution," he added.
The system would let banks offer a product that could be used for three purposes: student identification, chip-based purchasing, and standard card- based credit.
The inclusion of GTE in the project gives it some weight. The company is one of the largest providers of both local phone and cellular services. It also has been providing smart card-based services through Nortel telephones for more than a year.
The cards used in the GTE/NCC system are different, however, because they are accountable, meaning that they record each monetary transaction. This allows for cardholder refunds and merchant reconciliations.
Though banks could process transactions flowing from a campus system themselves, they also could outsource this function to National CacheCard, which runs a data center. It retrieves transactions in batches and settles merchant accounts by check or via the automated clearing house network.
National CacheCard launched its first campus smart card at Washington University in St. Louis in 1994. This system, which handles transactions from 16,186 cards, is the longest-running multipurse campus platform in the United States.
It also is the only university where National CacheCard has deployed its system, but Mr. Corrington said the company has requests for proposals from six other universities and has just concluded a Medicaid eligibility pilot in Montana.
National CacheCard has upgraded the chip used in its cards several times. The current one has four "pockets"-one for personal identification data, one for an Instacache account (which can carry a maximum of $50 and requires no personal identification number for withdrawal), one for a SecureCache account (which can carry a balance of up to $10,000 and requires a PIN for withdrawal), and one for discretionary accounts that can be used in prepaid meal plans.
The average transaction with Instacache is 59 cents. The average transaction with the SecureCache purse is $19.54. Fifty-one percent of Washington University students use CacheCard for laundry, 35% at snack- vending machines, and 14% at copiers.