The credit card is making a comeback to the University of Alberta this fall thanks to a new tuition-payment vendor called Plastiq.
The third-party service will allow U of A students to pay their tuition using a credit card: a form of payment the university abolished in July 2008. Since then, payment methods for students have included cheques, money orders, online banking and cash.
The move back to credit card payments is mainly a matter of convenience, according to Paul Natland, a U of A alum overseeing Plastiq’s dealings with the university.
Natland said the service is especially helpful for out-of-town parents who want to pay for their children’s tuition, along with international students wanting to avoid the hassle of setting up a new bank account. The service will also benefit students looking to build credit or obtain reward points on their card.
“It can also be a lifeline,” Natland noted. “There are students waiting for that last cheque to come in from their summer job. Or maybe you need to bridge a gap between receiving a student loan.”
Ron Ritter, director of treasury and investments at the U of A, said several third-party vendors have tried to offer the same service, but none have gained traction.
“We felt (Plastiq) was fairly sophisticated and well-organized. We wanted to move ahead with them given their approach to things,” Ritter said. “We’re not formally endorsing them. We’re just making sure, like any financial institution, that the data flows as best as possible.”
The university wants to ensure that students’ payments are reflected as quickly as possible on their account, Ritter said. Once a student submits a payment on Plastiq, the amount is transferred directly to the university, with Plastiq taking a small convenience fee.
When the U of A accepted credit card payments prior to July 2008, credit companies were charging such high commission fees that the university felt savings could be redirected to university operations, Ritter said.
In most instances, students should see their payment reflected on their BearTracks account within 24 hours.
Melissa Mooney graduated from the U of A in 2011, but is coming back in the fall to pursue an after-degree in education. She’s willing to use the service, she said, but first wants to ensure that it’s trustworthy and reliable.
“My tuition this year is going to be $6,600. So if I get one to two per cent cash back on that, that’s anywhere between 60 and 120 dollars,” Mooney said. “It doesn’t seem like a lot, but that’s a textbook right there. I’m constantly having to pinch pennies.”
But Alex Hladun, a third-year student in chemical engineering, said he doesn’t understand why students want to pay tuition with credit cards in the first place, especially when taking interest rates into account.
“My credit limit — and probably most students — isn’t even high enough to cover a semester’s tuition in the first place. I’ve been using online bill payments, which are just as easy,” Hladun said in an email.
Students can pay for their tuition through Plastiq starting immediately on www.plastiq.com.
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