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Crimson Cash Expands Range of Options

By Alan J. Tabak, Crimson Staff Writer

Crimson Cash, the Harvard ID card debit system that can be used to pay for laundry machines, library copiers and food at 18 Square eateries, has received six new feature enhancements in recent weeks.

The Graduate School of Education and the Countway Medical Library at the Medical School have also this week committed themselves to the Crimson Cash program, meaning that this fall will mark the first time all of Harvard’s graduate schools will participate in the service, Harvard University Dining Services Assistant Director for Business Applications Jeffrey B. Cuppett wrote in an e-mail.

Cuppett wrote that the upgrades are the first to the program—implemented in 1996 for undergraduate use at laundry machines—since the website that allows students to add value electronically to their Crimson Cash accounts was launched in 1998.

The improvements are generally focused on making it easier for Crimson Cash users to maintain their desired balance.

Cuppett said he hoped the changes would lead to more local venues accepting Crimson Cash.

One new feature of the system allows users to view their Crimson Cash balance on the internet.

A second, corresponding service allows users to designate parents and other guests who can also view a Crimson Cash statement online.

“We’ve had a few parents phone over the years to request statements of their child’s accounts,” Cuppett explained in the e-mail. “The Guest/Parent Access features addresses the few inquiries we get a year from (typically) first-year parents who want to know how much is left on their student’s account before they further replenish.”

Cuppett wrote that student ID numbers and PINs would be secure in the new system.

Another new feature for graduating students will enable them to download a form to request a full refund of their remaining balance of Crimson Cash.

A fourth new enhancement is the “Request Money” feature—a standardized e-mail that can be sent to parents asking for an addition to the Crimson Cash account—which Cuppett wrote could be an advantage for parents.

“If mom gets paid every other Friday, it’s now easier to request money every other Friday,” Cuppett wrote.

But Leanna L. Boychenko ’06 expressed skepticism over the utility of the automated e-mails.

“I would love for my parents to get an e-mail about Crimson Cash and maybe, in some surge of missing their dear daughter, give me all their money,” Boychenko wrote sarcastically. “This never could have happened before.”

A related feature is the “Low Balance Warning,” which can be sent to designated e-mail addresses after the Crimson Cash balance falls below a predetermined threshold.

Finally, the new “Auto Refill” ability allows students and their parents to charge a credit card automatically to replenish a Crimson Cash account once the balance falls below a preset level.

Cuppett wrote that for users who choose to activate the “Auto Refill” option, the Crimson Cash system will scan balance levels daily between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m. and refill them as needed during that time.

Several students expressed a desire to utilize the “Auto Refill” option, saying they would no longer fret over forgetting to add value to their ID cards.

“After trudging through snow with a heavy sack of laundry, it would certainly be disappointing to not have enough money on my card to pay for the machines,” Jennifer R. Schiffman ’06 wrote in an e-mail. “I think I’d also find it equally disappointing to be unable to buy a bag of chips or soda at 3 in the morning due to low funds.”

The new system would also mean that students doing laundry would not have to scrounge for spare change if they forgot to refill their ID cards, Boychenko wrote.

“No more begging quarters for laundry and offering people my huge, although for some reason unappreciated, collection of pennies,” Boychenko wrote.

But some students said they worried that the ease of refilling their cards under the new system would promote fiscal irresponsibility.

“This may be a disadvantage for parents with kids who have not learned the concept of managing money,” Rebecca R. Gong ’08 wrote in an e-mail.

Cuppett wrote that the redesign of Crimson Cash is not yet complete. Within the next two weeks, problems with the PIN system should be fixed and the appearance of the website will be altered, he said.

—Staff writer Alan J. Tabak can be reached at

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