The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

84° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Fed up with finicky CatCards

    I must admit I have an item in my possession with a voracious appetite. It’s not a puppy or even my pet parrot, Godzilla. It is my wallet, and it has found its favorite food: my CatCard.

    It may seem ridiculous, but like those of many students on this campus, my wallet has eaten my CatCards – in the ballpark of about four. It may nibble on the magnetic strip, rendering it useless at the keyless entry boxes, or leave teeth marks on my SmartChip, making it hard to use the photocopy center at the library (the attendant and I are practically on a first-name basis).

    But it’s not just wallets consuming these cards. High-use readers, like those at the entrances of dorms and the registers of student union restaurants, are notorious for rendering these cards useless. Diane Tatterfield, assistant director of CatCard services, said her office offered 100 free CatCards last semester, because even though the readers are cleaned often, the student union readers were used so heavily they afflicted the cards with scratches and dents that made them unreadable.

    The plight would not be as obnoxious if one could receive a new card, worry free. But the CatCard office doesn’t allow that. It charges a $25 replacement fee – an arm and a leg for a piece of plastic. (By the way, if you want a visitor’s card for copies, that’s $10 – $5 just for the card and a $5 minimum on the card.)

    That seems unreasonable, since other vital cards are nowhere near as expensive. An Arizona driver’s license, a state-mandated identification, costs only $4 to replace; that can even be done online. Wells Fargo, like many banks, will send you a replacement card for free if its card gets damaged or stops working. But CatCards will only be replaced if the card was created defectively, not if it was damaged by normal use.

    Most students use their CatCards for small things. They wave it at ticket takers at sporting events or use its SmartChip to purchase a soda or make copies at the Manuel T. Pacheco Integrated Learning Center.

    The first card is free, but the chances are low someone will be able to keep his or her card pristine after four years of class-break Pepsi recharges, keyless entries and storing it in his or her pocket in the student sections. Do these simple tasks mandate an expensive sliver of plastic?

    There are those who use their CatCards repeatedly throughout the day. Freshman who eat on campus, do laundry on campus, live in the dorms and crave snack machine munchies can burn through a card in no time at all. The life expectancy of a CatCard is about four years, according to Tatterfield, but she admits that’s not exactly true for “”high-use”” CatCards. Should freshmen be forced to shell out an extra $25 just because their lifestyle dictates their cards are “”high use””?

    “”Honestly, how much does that little piece of plastic cost them?”” asked Angelique Masherella, an undeclared sophomore. She has gone through two CatCards, though one was lost. She found it after she had deactivated it and purchased a new card, but that did not help her. She was told her card could not be reactivated, so now she has a useless $25 photo ID.

    A cheaper system must be found to allow the CatCard office to perform at a lower cost. ASU found one, and its student ID costs only $10. Tatterfield said that the CatCard is more technological than the Sun Card, with advancements like the SmartChip. But the ASU card has a system for money for copies, uses keyless entry magnetic strips and has a photo ID – all at a lower cost to students.

    It is time the university reformed its CatCard situation. The CatCard service was created to serve the students and faculty, but the university has not yet found a way to lower the cost to its community. With a slight change in technology, the CatCard could cost less, which would help the CatCard office as well because the card actually costs more to produce than what the office charges students.

    Ultimately it will help students by shrinking the costs of a finicky, expensive, vital piece of plastic.

    Mike Morefield is a political science senior who has been flagged at the CatCard office for too many damaged CatCards. He can be reached atletters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

    More to Discover
    Activate Search