Expanding Student Check-Cashing Options

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Expanding Student Check-Cashing Options

Man holds shopping cart in grocery store.

Providing unbanked students with convenience and cost savings

Receiving a refund from financial aid disbursement should be good news for all college students, but it can be more of an inconvenience for some than for others.

While numbers have been falling over the past several years, 25% of U.S. households are still considered unbanked or underbanked, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) data. Unbanked Americans are those who lack any kind of account at a financial institution, while underbanked individuals have a primary bank account, but also use non-traditional services such as check cashers, money transfer services, cashier checks, payday and auto title loans, and pawn shops.

Who are the unbanked and underbanked?

First Data reviewed FDIC data and their own research to share insight to help others understand how to better serve unbanked and underbanked consumers. Distrust of banks, fear of fees, past poor customer service, a belief that they don’t have enough money to justify having an account, and a lack of convenient access to a bank are some of the reasons Americans cite for not having bank accounts. Many of these individuals are careful with their money, pay their bills on time, and like having control over their own finances. Even so, they may find that when they need help with credit or cashing a check — including a refund check from financial aid disbursement — they’re forced to seek non-traditional services that charge high fees.

On American campuses, international students add another group of unbanked consumers who are often unable to establish credit. These students have a difficult time establishing banking without a prior credit score or a Social Security number. The simple task of cashing a refund check from a bursar’s office can be costly if the only place that will accept it is a check cashing retailer charging high fees.

Cash a check at a store, not a pawn shop

Colleges and universities can make life easier and less costly for all of students – including those who are unbanked or underbanked — by offering a refund service that gives students the option of cashing their refund check at convenient retail locations for a much lower fee than a non-traditional check-cashing store.

Nelnet Campus Commerce now partners with Certegy®, a trusted leader in traditional check acceptance and Automated Clearing House (ACH) payment solutions. With Certegy, students can cash their refund check at convenient retail locations near them (like Wal-mart) without paying exorbitant check-cashing fees. Students don’t need a traditional bank account or Social Security number in order to receive these excess funds from their financial aid disbursement, and aren’t penalized by losing a portion to expensive fees from a check casher.

Financial aid refunds are also regulated by the Department of Education. To meet these regulations and the demand from students for more refund options, campuses need a refunds solution with varied disbursement methods and processes. Nelnet Campus Commerce’s Student Choice Refunds allows institutions to automate disbursing refunds, while providing students three convenient disbursement methods – direct deposit, reloadable debit card (including cards the student may already have), or paper check. Students select their refund delivery choice online and can track the status of their refund along the way. Now, with our Certegy partnership, students who select a paper check can easily cash their refund checks at retail locations they already visit.



Susie has three (!) decades of marketing experience, half of which has been in higher education. She’s supported students and institutions through writing emails, web content, and case studies, but especially enjoys meeting new people and sharing their stories. She loves empty nest living with her cat, but enjoy visits from her daughter (22) and son (24), along with their significant others and dogs. She’s passionate about travel, reading, the ocean, and pizza.


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