If you’re a Nats season ticket holder, you already know that one of the biggest incentives for renewing your seats this season was “e-cash” bonuses, part of the team’s new electronic-everything approach for plan holders. E-cash was one of the long-term benefits of the team’s Ultimate Ballpark Access program, which began with ticketing last season, but was always meant to encompass several other systems, including retail and concession payments.
Season ticket holders received further information about the system last week, and one fan sent me a pretty strongly voiced concern about some features of the program. So I will present a few questions and answers.
Q: How much bonus e-cash are season ticket holders receiving?
A: It depends on when they renewed or bought their tickets, how much the tickets cost and so on. Some plan holders are receiving thousands of dollars of bonus e-cash. The smallest amount anyone is receiving is $100. This promotion applies to season ticket holders with 21-game plans or larger.
Q: Where can e-cash be used?
A: At any concession or retail location inside Nationals Park. There will be e-cash-only lines, meant to ease congestion, in which fans will just need to swipe their card over a reader to pay for their items.
Q: How do you activate the system?
A: This is where the above-mentioned concerns came in. To activate your account, you need to load $50 onto the card — an “account activation deposit” — which would be added onto whatever bonuses you received from the team. The money you load yourself – including this $50 – will never expire, and can carry over to future seasons. The promotional e-cash rewards expire at the end of the season.
To active your account, you also need to sign up for the program’s “Auto Top Up” feature, which will automatically reload your account once it dips below a certain threshold, like with E-ZPass. Once you have activated your account, you can later turn off this Auto Top Up feature.
Q: Why do you have to put money into your account if you’re already receiving a starting sum from the team?
A: A team spokeswoman compared it to a bank account or other loyalty program that requires an initial investment to open. The spokeswoman said that the details of the program were clearly outlined in all the promotional materials sent out to renewing customers.
Q: What happens if you don’t want to do this?
A: You are not required to turn on your e-cash account. If you don’t activate it, however, you would not receive the promotional bonuses.
Q: Did this explanation mollify the fan with concerns?
A: It did not. That fan, David Umansky, continues to see this as an example of ownership “squeezing every last penny out of their customers.”
Q: How would the team respond to such a concern?
A: The team believes this is one of the most generous season plan holder benefit programs in all of sports, and would point out that you are not losing this $50; that it remains your money now and indefinitely into the future.