The Golden Ticket?


With the new UCD SU loyalty card campaign having launched recently, Chief Features Writer Natalie Voorheis examines the scheme’s merits and shortfalls

UCD SU President Paul Lynam promised the introduction of an SU loyalty card as part of his election manifesto. The scheme was originally based on that of NUI Galway’s SU loyalty card. Lynam tells The University Observer that he wanted to introduce the card to afford students a reward for using SU facilities and adds that he had initially thought: “If it worked in NUIG, why can’t it work here?”

In UCD, the new SU loyalty card scheme affords students a one per cent return on their spending – i.e. one euro back for every one hundred euro spent. In comparison, at NUI Galway, students spending in their cafes and bar enjoy a four per cent return and in their SU shop, a return of two per cent.

Lynam, aware that this is a small return for UCD students, stresses that this fact was certainly “not the real selling point of it” and explains that the card affords different kinds of rewards to students. Such rewards include a free eleventh coffee when you purchase ten and a monthly draw rewarding eight users, one from each program within UCD.

In addition, Lynam was keen to stress that although the scheme has been officially launched, it is still in its preliminary stages and that students should shortly expect a reward scheme involving dinners similar to that of the coffees and more. Lynam was optimistic about the scheme, saying that he expects it to be part of the UCD “furniture” once its implementation phases were complete.

The exact nature of the physical loyalty card has caused some confusion among the student body. The UCD SU Loyalty Card does not exist as a physical card as such, but once you have registered your details online at the SU website, your student card serves as a loyalty card and is scanned at the tills when you purchase something. In general, registration is quick and easy and definitely worth it, as it means less junk to carry around.

Lynam explains how “your student card is transforming”. Accordingly, the UCD student card has become more than just the bearer of bad news that you owe the library a tenner and is now something of a smart card.

During Freshers’ Week, an average student amasses more than their share of plastic cards, most of which lie forgotten within a week. The SU, recognising this inevitability, have made a move towards the branding of the traditional student card as a smart card with additional functionality. Residence students now use the student card to get into their rooms and one swipe of the card transforms it into your SU Loyalty Card.

The University Observer ventured out around campus to ask students their opinion on the new scheme. Unfortunately for the SU, most of the interviews proved wholly unsuccessful, with the majority of students unaware of the scheme or how it worked.

Those students who were able to speak to us gave mixed reviews. Many were positive about the scheme. Fourth-year Economics student, David Lyons, expressed his satisfaction about how the SU were working towards new schemes regarding finance for the student. Similarly, third-year Social Science student, Niamh Dolan says: “I spend a lot of money in the student shop so the reward is going to build up.”

In contrast, teething problems resulted in frustration for Cathy McCabe, who is in her final year of a Social Science degree. She comments: “It won’t work. I tried to sign up for it and it said that my Students’ Union card is already being used. I’ve already emailed the Students’ Union twice and they haven’t got back to me. It’s quite annoying. Clearly they’re not interested.”

So what really are the benefits of the scheme for students? Well, as Lynam points out enthusiastically on multiple occasions in the course of his interview with The University Observer, the scheme is free to sign up to. However, its ease of access is the case with all normal loyalty cards, so this initiative is hardly surprising and, not exactly a benefit.

Nonetheless, Lynam’s message is clear. He maintains that “the important thing to point out is that this year is a launch year,” indicating how we can expect bigger and better things from the scheme in the future, while adding that: “It doesn’t cost the students anything. It’s free sign up. Support your shops now and you will be rewarded. Thus, he concludes: “The first phase is to launch, we’ve done that and the second phase is to add to it.”