Payment Evolution in Academia

From 'Mondex' to biometrics: how eductional payment systems have changed

Back when I was a student, my university trialled a new payment system called ‘Mondex’. Every student was issued with a welcome pack containing a shiny Mondex card with a futuristic-looking golden chip at one end. This was it, we thought. The future was here. We were boldly going where no student had gone before.

University payment cards – a short lived solution

The card worked as a cash substitute. Students could load money onto their cards at ATMs, then use the card anywhere within the university to buy meals, books, drinks, etc. All we had to do was slot the card into a machine and the cash would be transferred instantaneously. The theory was sound, but since there was no way to check that the user was authorised to use the card we only ever loaded small amounts, meaning many visits to the ATM. This effectively eliminated a key advantage of the card, since it required almost as much effort as cash, but without the reassurance of the actual money in your pocket.

University is also the time in one’s life that most people obtain their first debit card, meaning that we each had not one but two new cards. At that time debit cards only required a signature, but this was leagues ahead of ‘nothing’ in terms of security, and so it was a no-brainer – students chose the debit card, even if the Mondex card was shinier.

School thumb print payment systems

Skip forward to 2015, and those students are today’s parents. I was looking at secondary schools for my children recently, and they all have one thing in common: thumb print payments! Children do not carry money around – they might lose it. Now they do not even carry cards around – all they need is a thumb. The unique thumb print is linked to their (parents’) account and the ‘cashier’ is simply a thumb pad. The money is debited automatically and the parents pay online. Biometric payment is surely the future – and now it really is here.

Show a Mondex card to today’s children and they would think it a relic of the past. And actually they would not be far wrong: