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The Disappearance of Compass Cash

Gia Patel

Staff Writer

Graphic by Macy Loy

As of 2022, Compass Cash has been discontinued and funds can no longer be added to Compass Cash accounts. Students with existing Compass Cash will be able to use it until the end of the academic year. When Compass Cash was introduced to Willamette in 2008, it provided a method of payment for a number of different services offered at Willamette University, including the vending machines, Goudy Commons, Bon Appétit providers, laundry services and photocopying services. Ross Stout, director of Campus Safety, points to the modern era of debit and credit cards as the main reason for the discontinuation of compass cash.

Stout said Compass Cash “was very popular then [in 2008] because it was a time when we didn't have the proliferation of debit and credit cards like we do today. Some people had them and some people didn't. Now, everyone has one.” Stout also emphasizes the distinction between flex dollars and compass cash, saying, “flex dollars are only associated with a meal plan. Those dollars can't be spent anywhere else. In fact, we don't even really consider them ‘dollars,’ because they're not refundable. Compass Cash was real money that you deposited into your Willamette account for your benefit to use for spending.”

Similar to what Stout said, in today’s modern age, almost everyone has a debit or credit card, and with the uprise of the COVID-19 pandemic and online shopping, this became even more prevalent. Even prior to the pandemic, the implementation of credit and debit card readers at Willamette University was drastically increasing, seeing that more and more students had one.

Stout emphasized this, saying that “vendors, like Pepsi, started providing their own credit card readers on the vending machines, but previously, we had these readers associated with our Compass Cash program that allowed people to use their ID card.” As this shift occurred rapidly, Bon Appétit services such as Rick’s Cafe and Blitz Market, as well as the Bistro, started implementing card readers as their main forms of payment. Stout elaborated that during this time, “the only reason we were using the Compass Cash was for Bon Appétit and The Bistro. But both of them now have the ability to take debit or credit cards. So it became kind of silly in some ways that people would take their debit or credit card and go online to transfer money to their Compass Card account only to spend it and then have to replenish it with that same debit or credit card.” Stout added, “it just became this extra step that no one was interested in, costing the university time and money to maintain it. So the decision was made that after this academic year, Compass Cash would be completely discontinued.”

When asked about if a program like Compass Cash would be implemented at Willamette University again, Stout answered, “I think the replacement is that people have debit and credit cards. Bon Appétit, the bookstore, at the Bistro, printing services, all of those places that accepted the Compass Cash now accept credit cards and it's a much more versatile tool for people. We have grown out of the need to have Compass Cash.”

Students are still able to access and use their Compass Cash this year as the program phases out. Stout highlights that there are still places on campus that accept compass cash. “The only places on campus that still accept Compass Cash are the Bistro and Bon Appetit services, which include Goudy Commons, Ricks Cafe, and the Mill Stream Market. No other services accept Compass Cash anymore.” If students are uninterested in spending their remaining Compass Cash, they are also able to retain a refund by emailing the service center at receiving the refund via check in the mail.

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