“I use it for everything from grabbing a small snack to ordering books from Amazon,” Kim, a freshman at Georgetown, said.
Banks are increasingly turning to debit cards to lock in young customers, as credit card solicitations at college campuses have come under fire in recent years.
The Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure Act of 2009 included provisions that limited banks’ presence on university campuses and prohibited them from giving out gifts in exchange for credit cards, but had no such measures for debit cards, according to Rich Williams, higher education advocate for the U.S. Public Interest Research Group.
“Debit cards are the newest trend on college campuses,” he said. “Banks have been trying to find a way back onto campuses, and this is one way for them to have exclusive access to young customers.”
PNC’s partnership with Georgetown University had been in the works for a few years, said Richard Bynum, executive vice president of the bank.
The “GOCards” are protected with a PIN number and are being marketed to incoming and returning students, as well as faculty and staff.
“Freshmen are coming onto campus, establishing their lives outside the home for the first time, so that’s a big part of the market,” Bynum said.
PNC currently has three ATMs on campus and plans to add one in the university’s GOCard office.
“I would say we haven’t had a whole lot of demand yet,” Bynum said. “But once students get a sense of the value that we’re bringing them, I would expect it to pick up by mid-fall.”
PNC, based in Pittsburgh, has similar arrangements with about 25 campuses throughout the country. The bank provides on-campus workshops on personal finance, as well as an online platform that allows students to manage their money.
Additionally, the first overdraft fee is waived and students are allowed one free incoming wire transfer every month, in case parents need to send money to their children.
“People make mistakes and we understand that, but we don’t want that to get in the way of our relationship with them,” Williams said. “You’ve got a Georgetown student, someone who in six or eight years is probably going to be working in this market or at least be living in an area where we have a footprint.”
For universities, Williams said the exclusive deals often come with large payouts and cash incentives.
Stacy Kerr, a spokeswoman for Georgetown, would not comment on the specifics of the deal, but said the school considered proposals from several different banks before choosing PNC.
The University of Maryland, American University and George Washington University said they do not have similar programs in place.
Darius Baxter, a Georgetown sophomore, signed up for the card Thursday.
“I’m a person who misplaces my wallet three times a week, so this is very convenient,” he said. “I have my picture ID and debit card in one.”
Alas, by Friday morning he’d misplaced his wallet — with his GOCard inside.
“I haven’t even had a chance to use it yet,” he said.