Disadvantages of ECU Debit Card

Many students are upset with the ECU debit card that has been distributed throughout the university.

Students are concerned about whether or not they are secure using the ECU debit card and many still question how the process works.

Portland State University already attempted to boycott the Higher One financial management company, and now ECU students are following a similar pattern. Many students who walked by the Wright Plaza Friday were handed flyers saying to boycott the ECU debit card.

Even though the problem was resolved with PSU, some people at ECU still do not trust Higher One. David Mason, senior English major who passed out the flyers, said he did not want to sign up with Higher One because he was concerned they already have too much of his personal information.

Mason does not trust Higher One because they are not a member of the Better Business Bureau.

Higher One, a Connecticut-based company, partnered with ECU in October 2005 to improve the disbursement of financial aid checks, which will take affect Jan. 4, 2006.

Along with students who have expressed their opinions on ECU OneStop and PartyEastCarolina.com, Mason said Higher One gave out his personal information including a photo without his consent and he feels that is neither right nor legal.

ECU provided Higher One with students’ names, addresses and Social Security numbers. However, ECU spokesman John Durham said in an article with the Daily Reflector that ECU complied with federal laws to provide information with Higher One, which is considered to be a university partner.

Under the Federal Education Right to Privacy Act, ECU is allowed to share information with its partners.

Students are also afraid that Higher One could sell their information to other companies or schools.

"I want to know what’s going on with my money because I don’t trust this company," Mason said.

"The card is only complicating things," said Jesse Creech, sophomore psychology major.

"Most people already have a bank account and either a credit or debit card. Everyone on campus has a OneCard, so I don’t see the point of having an ECU debit card too."

Chuck Hawkins, senior associate vice chancellor for financial services, said the only advantage to having a debit card is for students receiving financial aid who do not already have a checking account.

There are three options to receive financial aid refunds – through the debit card, direct deposit or a mailed check.

Dee Bowling, cash operations manager, said each student who anticipates receiving a refund of any sort still needs to use the card data to authenticate themselves to Higher One and then make a choice.

Steps for authenticating the ECU debit card can be found on their Web site at ECUCard.com.

Using this third party system brings up concerns among students who think the money will still take longer to transfer from a bank so far away, but it will still take the same amount of time or even quicker.

Students also do not understand why ECU cannot direct deposit checks directly into their existing account.

Students can still use their bank accounts to directly deposit financial aid, but since the university is in contract with Higher One, they must first sign into the Higher One system and make the choice between continuing their own accounts or signing up for the Higher One account.

ECU never directly deposited checks directly from the university into students’ accounts. They always used a third party system. The system will be exactly the same, except ECU will be going through Higher One instead.

"I would still have to give Higher One my banking account numbers, and I really don’t trust that," Mason said.

The Higher One bank also does not have local ATMs nor does it have a local branch office. ECU will soon have three ATMs on campus, two on east campus and one on west campus said Bowling.

There is no service charge for students who choose to withdraw from a Higher One ATM.

However, students who choose to withdraw money from other bank companies aside from Higher One, like Wachovia or BB&T, will have to pay a service charge.

When asked if ECU thought about the rarity of Higher One ATM machines nationwide, Bowling said she could certainly talk to Higher One about some change, but for now the marketing plan includes the three Higher One ATMs that will soon be on campus.

If students are not near the university, the only way they can have access to a Higher One ATM is if they are near a university town that is partnered with Higher One.

"It doesn’t make sense because if you can’t find a Higher One ATM, you’re going to get charged using another ATM," said Starla Wood, junior dance performance major.

This is especially true since there are only 33 schools in the nation who have Higher One ATMs.

Students are still concerned that Higher One charges hidden fees. When he entered his debit card pin number, Mason said he was charged 50 cents every time.

It is important for students using the ECU debit card to select the "credit" option when paying rather than "debit" in order to avoid being charged an extra 50 cents from their account.

"Don’t treat the ECU debit card as a pin transaction and you will be fine," Bowling said.

Like any checking account, there are fees for additional services such as overdrafts, wire transfers or stop payments.

Yet, students are concerned they can only take out a maximum of $500 a day out of their Higher One account. However, that is a common process among the banking industry for there to be a limit on daily withdrawals Bowling said.

The ECU debit card is not the same as the ECU One Card, and ECU does not currently have the software capability to combine both cards.

Willy Lee, director of university printing and graphics, is currently working on a system to allow the One Card to be combined with the ECU Debit Card. When the temporary arrangement with Higher One expires in 2007-2008, the university plans to look at a request for proposal to eventually integrate both systems.

Soon the system will be similar to that of UNC-Chapel Hill and NC State, which are both partnered with Wachovia Bank.

Katie Tinney, sophomore at UNC-Chapel Hill, said she loves her UNC One Card.

"I use it every day, mainly the debit part of it," said Tinney.

In the meantime, Higher One has launched its B-4 campaign to serve as a liaison between SGA and students. Considering that Higher One is such a new company, students in the campaign may not know all there is to know about the company, which may pose problems.

Michael Bannister, junior nursing major, said he has not heard much about the B4 campaign but he did read about the Higher One Card Forum, which will allow students to ask questions about the debit card.

"Even though Higher One has contracts with 32 schools, these three guys who graduated from Yale four years ago who opened up this business can do whatever they want with students’ money," Mason said.

A question and answer session will be held Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Hendrix Theatre. Students and faculty are welcome to attend.

For more involved questions, students may also contact the student liaison department at 1-888-809-6180. The Higher One customer service number is1-866-663-1313.

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