Campus cash cards: Financial aid tool or money trap?

Colleges and universities across America have taken to using campus cash programs to dispurse financial aid -- reasoning campus cash programs allow for students to get their funds faster and easier. If a campus cash card gets stolen or lost, it can easily be replaced.

These campus cash cards can be used to purchase food, clothing, electronics, books, and school supplies, depending on that college's campus cash policy and merchants incorporated in that program.

New York University's campus cash program requires students to take "credit bearing courses" and students (or relatives) can top up their cards online, but they have to pay a $2 fee every time they do so. That's more than the cost of most banking fees, but if you want to avoid that fee, you have to go to their bursar office -- a fun time for any student. Or students can add cash to their cards at "Value Transfer Stations." The NYU campus cash card allows students to make purchases with their campus cash card at selected vendors in downtown Manhattan.