BU pioneers pre-paid card to help bursary students manage finances


Bournemouth University (BU) students who receive bursary payments can now get their money on a pre-paid card, helping them better manage their finances and get cash back on purchases.

BU is the first university in England to introduce the Spree Student Cashback Cards, which allows users to only spend the total value of bursary payment pre-loaded onto the card – helping students avoid slipping into debt or expensive overdrafts.

They can also get up to 2 per cent cash back on purchases at well-known retailers, making their budget stretch even further.

Andrew Wright, Finance Operations Manager at BU, said: “We wanted to introduce a pre-paid card solution as research has shown that students want as much financial support as possible upfront.

“If you pay money to students in a cheque, some of that will be used up in their overdraft and bank charges. This is an opportunity to give them a new account where that doesn’t happen. You can’t get into debt with it.”

The scheme was launched last September, to distribute money allocated from the National Scholarship Programme (NSP), which has also been match-funded by the university.

So far, nearly 800 cards have been issued, with more than £362,000 given to students.

The chip and pin cards will last for the three or four years that a student is registered with the university, with payments made termly.

Students also have access to a web portal where they can check their balance and find out about special offers being held by retailers.

“Students can choose whether they want to have the cards, but the response so far has been very, very favourable,” said Andrew.

“The money is put onto the account within a couple of hours, and they like the fact that it is simple, they can get the cash back, and they don’t have to queue up or wait each term for their payment.”

“This is cutting-edge, innovative stuff, but it is all about the student experience.”

The Student Cashback Cards, provided by P&MM, can be used anywhere that accepts Mastercard, but cannot be used for cash withdrawal, gambling or to pay for content on adult websites.

It is hoped that the cards will also be made available to scholarship students next year, and that payments will be made in nine monthly installments to further help students with budgeting.

The Students’ Union at Bournemouth University (SUBU) was involved in the process of procuring and introducing the cards.

SUBU President Murray Simpson said: “The pre-loaded cards not only mean students can access their bursaries quickly and easily, it also means next year they will be able to access their payments monthly rather than termly.

“With the majority of rent payments happening monthly this will hopefully make life easier for students in managing their budgets.”