Gatecard: Don’t Leave Your Dorm Without It

The ‘Gate Card makes purchasing items on campus and in town much easier for many Colgate students and faculty. For years, the Student Government Association (SGA) pressured the administration to create the ‘Gate Card, a goal that was finally realized two years ago.Since its inception, student participation has increased. This past fall, local merchants had about 30,700 ‘Gate Card transactions totaling $244,600. Still, this convenience does come at a price to merchants and the University. The school now spends $100,000 each year for the ‘Gate Card, in addition Hamilton merchants who pay a fee of 5 percent on transactions.For many, the ease of an on-campus and Hamilton Village debit card is worth the price, yet others have opted out of the program.According to Associate Vice President and Comptroller of Colgate University Tom O’Neill, the off-campus merchant portion of the ‘Gate Card is provided by a third party vender, Student Advantage. The basic concept of the program is similar to credit cards, which charge venders a percentage of the sales and a transaction fee for each purchase. Typically, universities contract out the task of negotiating this fee with venders. Therefore, in most college towns, vendors’ fees vary. Colgate, in an attempt to increase participation, has subsidized a large portion of the program. Rather than charge venders seven or eight percent as a sales fee, Colgate subsidizes the program with $30,000 a year to ensure all venders pay a five percent fee. (Credit cards charge an average fee of three to five percent).Colgate also subsidizes the transaction fee for every Gate Card purchase and spent about $2,000 for this service last semester.Students are also given the option of adding ‘Gate Cash to their cards from a credit card. While this comes at an additional cost to the University, O’Neill, members of the administration and other students agree that this is an integral part of the program.Any merchant in town is eligible to participate in the ‘Gate Card as long as it does not primarily sell alcohol. The University does not allow alcohol to be purchased with the ‘Gate Card, andmerchants are not permitted to charge additional fees for ‘Gate Card customers. Vendors who agree to accept the ‘Gate Card are provided with all necessary equipment and must participate in promotional sales at the beginning of each semester.It is difficult to judge whether the ‘Gate Card is helping the local merchants. Roger’s Market and other businesses were unable to see a peak in sales due to the ‘Gate Card.Still, some are hesitant to withdraw from the program because many of their sales are ‘Gate Card transactions, and they recognize the convenience for students.Roger’s Market noted that they have more ‘Gate Card transactions than credit card transactions. Most merchants in town have opted to use to the ‘Gate Card, a potential indicator of the program’s success.These vendors include the Colgate Inn, Community Taxi, Curtis Lumber, Hamilton Movie House and even major franchises, such as McDonalds and Subway. This trend is gaining popularity, with almost 7,000 more transactions this fall than in the previous fall.Only three vendors, Heart and Hands, Nichols and Beal and Main Moon, have withdrawn from the program.The ‘Gate Card did not serve as enough of an incentive for the restaurants, especially with the five percent fee. Main Moon also found the ‘Gate Card to be too slow and inefficient for their restaurant. Tops and Wayne’s Markets have also abstained from the program, which O’Neill says is typical due to the low-profit margins in grocery stores.Still, approximately 39 merchants in town are members of the ‘Gate Card program.The ‘Gate Card is mandatory for all Colgate students as a form of identification on campus, where it can be used at the laundry machines, vending machines, the Post Office, for paying fines and at the O’Connor Campus Center. Students who on meal plans also use their ‘Gate Card throughout the day, and some students use the card as their primary debit card. When students lose their ‘Gate Card, they are now able to replace them at Campus Safety seven days a week.This convenience comes at a cost of a $40 replacement fee to pay for the additional cost of staff. ‘Gate Cards can also be deactivated if lost and then reactivated for $20.