FIU One Card may lead students into debt, report finds

Mariella Roque/ Staff Writer

Following a report done by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group last May, banks in partnerships with universities around the country have been looked at with closer scrutiny.

Wells Fargo at the University is no exception.

The report, named the Campus Debit Card Trap, found that banks are targeting colleges to be the “gatekeepers” for students just beginning their line of credit.

The report stated that “bank deals are campus monopolies which prevent students from linking their own bank or credit union… Banks can aggressively market their bank accounts to maximize… fees through orientation and other campus affiliated events.”

Wells Fargo, which has established locations in 43 universities totaling over 2 million students, began its partnership with the University two years ago. The FIU One Card, with the option of linking a student ID with a debit account, was instituted a year ago.

“The partnership at FIU was initiated to provide students, faculty and staff with the added convenience of a full service retail bank on campus,” said Assistant Vice President of Business Services Jeff Krablin to Student Media. “[The FIU One Card eliminates] the need to carry a campus ID card and separate banking card, thereby creating a single card solution.”

This past fiscal year, the University received a total of $122,000 from the partnership, according to Krablin. “The funds obtained from the partnership are reinvested to enhance and expand services offered to the FIU community,” Krablin said.

Wells Fargo offers students who link their accounts to the FIU One card a free checking account and there is no minimum balance that must be placed on the card.

Kyle Decker, senior in religious studies who had his card linked, didn’t like the outcome.

“I can only use the One Card on campus and at ATMs since it’s not a real debit card,” Decker said, calling it “misleading advertising.”

“It didn’t really hurt anything to do it, but it definitely forced me to spend it on campus,” Decker said.

Students receive a separate Wells Fargo debit card in the mail after linking the FIU One Card and have the option of having their financial aid disbursement deposited on either card.

“FIU messes up a lot of stuff already so I wouldn’t trust them being directly connected to everything in my bank account,” said Armani Cate, a junior in biology, in relation to financial disbursement. “[Having the debit option on the One Card] would be an incentive for me to spend more money at school.”

Junior biology student Christine Baldoquin, however, likes having the link between her ID and her bank account.

“I didn’t have to put a minimum balance [on it] like I did with Bank of America,” Baldoquin said. “A plus is that I also have a new savings account [with Wells Fargo].”

The savings account is part of the College Combo, giving students the ability to open a Way2Save account, use the Wells Fargo Mobile and Online options and personalize the debit card using Card Design Studio.

“This is helping students establish a line of credit,” said Ken H. Johnson, assistant professor of finance. “If used wisely, [the debit card] does reflect on your credit.”

Johnson saw only one setback in the linkage: individual financial responsibility.

“Some students without wise credit spending knowledge misuse it,” Johnson said. “If you’re a freshman, I wouldn’t suggest it…. As a senior, I would almost expect them to have something like this.”

At Wells Fargo, the overdraft fee per item is currently $35 if there is no money transferred to the account by the same day.

According to Johnson, when looking for a debit or credit card provider, the larger the bank, the better.

“I think that the larger credit providers are the best [because] you’re going to get better customer service,” Johnson said. “If there is a mistake, it’s probably easier to get it worked out.”

Johnson’s best advice to students is to never spend money you don’t have since this can help establish good credit and avoid paying interest.

“Don’t buy something unless you have the money to pay for it.” Johnson said. “Use it, use it sparingly and attempt to pay off the balance every month.”

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