The University of Pennsylvania is joining a growing number of campuses that rely on smart cards for identification and electronic purse applications.
The school aims to distribute PennCards to 35,000 students in time for the fall semester.
The program, developed by PNC Bank Corp. with technology partners Schlumberger and Diebold Inc., reflects some unusual cooperation among financial services companies. Two other financial institutions will participate.
One is the University of Pennsylvania Student Federal Credit Union. Students are to be able to link their cards to deposit accounts at the credit union as well as at PNC.
The other is MBNA Corp., which will offer a stand-alone affinity credit card. Students would be able to use such cards at special kiosks to get cash advances and to load value onto their PennCards.
Students would also be able to add value to the smart cards from their PNC Bank or credit union accounts or with cash.
The PennCard will have a magnetic stripe for banking and point-of-sale functions and a computer chip for cashlike purchases from vending machines and at campus bookstores, snack bars, and other locations around the Philadelphia campus. The chip will also be used for building access and as a library card.
PNC will manage the stored-value portion of the card, receiving transaction fees and float income. The bank will also have the opportunity to gain deposit accounts. PNC will profit as well by being the prime contractor for the university, bringing all the technology and financial partners together.
"This is the first multibank program done by a school," said Judith Campbell, senior vice president of PNC.
Smart card IDs have been issued at two universities in Michigan by First of America Bank Corp.; at Florida State University, a pioneer in campus cards; and at Ohio Dominican College, through a joint venture called Cybermark. A handful of other campuses around the nation are issuing the advanced technology cards.
Even so, Kevin Mullen, administrator for the National Association of Campus Card Users, said, "Smart cards are not making a lot of inroads into the campus market at the moment." He said the vast majority of schools are using magnetic-stripe cards and can't justify the extra expense of smart cards.
But, he added, "while magnetic-stripe technology is still strong, smart cards will win out in the long run."