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College Students Launch Debit Card Promising Harvard Square Discounts

El Jefe's Taqueria
El Jefe's Taqueria is located at 83 Mt Auburn Street.

Three College students recently launched a debit card capable of making rapid microtransactions and offering discounts to several popular Harvard Square stores in an effort to woo undergraduates.

The debit card system, Axle, was developed by Abdul M. Jamjoom ’19, Matteo A. Carroll ’19, and Vojta T. Drmota ’20. Axle eliminates the fees that often come with charging and processing standard debit cards, according to Carroll. Student users currently save 10 percent on every purchase at partnering stores.

Three Harvard Square businesses currently accept the card — BerryLine, Tommy’s Convenience Store, and El Jefe’s Taqueria. The developers said they plan to increase the number of partner stores in the near future.

As of Thursday afternoon, Axle had 93 users, according to Carroll.

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Though Axle’s primary marketing strategy is to provide discounts to students at the College, the developers said the underlying purpose of the project is to facilitate rapid, small-value transactions for customers beyond Harvard’s campus.

“Online media outlets are having trouble monetizing their content. What we imagine is having this as an avenue for online content to be monetized,” Drmota said. “For example, we imagine someone not having to pay a subscription fee to just view one article, rather, they can just hit a button and pay 20 cents to view that one article.”

Interested potential users can sign up for Axle by adding their name to the waitlist on the card’s website. As of Wednesday, both Berryline and El Jefe’s Taqueria displayed signs notifying customers that they now accept the Axle card.

El Jefe’s general manager Jon Eller said the restaurant is excited to support the students’ business venture.

“We’re involved with the students and the Harvard community a lot,” Eller said. “The students started Axle, and they walked in to see if we wanted to be a part of it since they’re huge fans of El Jefe’s.”

Though Eller said Axle has only been used by a handful of students thus far, he said he believes that it will become increasingly popular among students at the College and that stores will see additional patrons requesting to use the discount.

Samantha R. Zarkower, a manager at Berryline, said that only “two or three” people had come in to use the card, but that it had helped to facilitate connections among customers.

“This one girl came in and was like, ‘Oh, you guys have Axle’ and this guy said, ‘Oh, you’re one of the Axle people, I have it too,’ and then they started talking,” Zarkower said.

Some students said they are interested in learning more about Axle.

Benjamin J. Dreier ’22, a self-proclaimed devoted patron of El Jefe’s, said the card has the potential to increase his frequent trips to the Square’s late-night taqueria.

“El Jefe’s has the best burritos on campus — better than Felipe’s, in my opinion. I heard you get 10 percent off of El Jefe’s orders,” Dreier said. “I would definitely use the Axle card, especially if it’s at El Jefe’s.”

— Staff writer Ellen M. Burstein can be reached at ellen.burstein@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @ellenburstein.

— Staff writer Sydnie M. Cobb can be reached at sydnie.cobb@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @cobbsydnie.

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