UI Housing and Dining changes payment options after new rules from Visa

Dining locations around campus have lost contactless payment options in their locations after Visa implemented new rules for their merchants.


Lillie Hawker

A sign in Grand Avenue Marketplace informs customers that UI Dining will no longer accept Apple Pay.

Marandah Mangra-Dutcher, News Reporter

Students can no longer use contactless payment methods after Visa implemented new rules, requiring that all terminals have options for both contactless and chip reader payments.

As of Feb. 1, students who typically used Apple Pay or Google Pay have to physically swipe their card to pay for meals.

“Visa Core Rules require all merchants that support mobile wallet or app payments on a chip-enabled payment device to also support contactless chip tap payments,” Scott Seagren, a business officer at Division of Student Life, wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan.

Seagren said the university was made aware a change was occurring in contactless payment in November 2021. Contactless payments include mobile wallets, like Apple Pay and Google Pay, and credit cards with tap functionality.

The university terminals do not accept contactless “tap” card functions, Seagren said.

“The readers currently support payments made by swipe, by inserting a chip card, or by contactless mobile wallet payment [e.g. Google Pay or Apple Pay],” he wrote. “They cannot accept contactless chip payments [made by tapping a physical card on the reader].”

Seagren said the university could have faced fees if they did not update their terminals.

“If merchants have payment devices that are unable to meet that requirement, they must take action to disable all contactless payment capabilities or face Visa assessments starting at $5,000 per month and increasing to $10,000 or more per month,” he wrote.

The vendor the university uses, Elavon Inc., has faced challenges when updating the existing terminals, Seagren said, so UI Housing and Dining disabled the function.

“Housing and Dining therefore chose to temporarily disable all contactless capabilities in the interim to avoid costly Visa assessments,” he wrote.

Seagren said UI dining locations have multiple options for payment.

Other payment options at university dining locations include Hawk Dollars, Iowa One card, Dining Gift Cards, Meal Plan, Credit Cards magnetic stripe, and chip inserts, he said. The only payment option being removed was contactless payment.

Gretchen Fisher, a student manager at the Clinton Street Market, said business has not been affected much by the change.

“Nine out of 10 times, if not more than that, they have their physical card and are able to swipe it,” she said.

Fisher said credit and debit card transactions are the minority transactions done at the Clinton Street Market.

“We get about 70ish transactions a day that are by a credit or debit card and that has been around the same,” she said.

Most of the transactions, Fisher said, are flex meals, Hawkeye dollars or U-bill charges.

“For Hawkeye dollars and U-bill charges, those are when you are buying something isn’t available for flex meals, are usually between 500 to 600 transactions [per day],” she said.

Fisher said being located in Burge Residence Hall, Clinton Street Market’s clientele is predominantly first-years.

“We cater to a lot of freshmen. We’re in the middle of a residence hall that’s really well known,” she said. “We get everyone coming in wanting to spend their Hawkeye dollars U-bill or flex meals.”

Seagren said rule changes from Visa are normal, and the change is not because of card security concerns.

“The decision to temporarily disable contactless capabilities was to ensure that Housing & Dining remained in compliance with Visa Core Rules,” he wrote.

Replacing the terminals will include finalizing a purchase contract for new terminals, programming the new terminals, and installing the new terminals and hardware, Seagren said.

The payment change is not permanent, he said.

“It is anticipated that new terminals will be installed yet this spring semester, which will enable acceptance of all contactless payments,” he wrote.