University switches to Visa ProCards for some

Walmart Stores, Inc., the parent company of Sam’s Club, announced Jan. 11 that it was closing 63 different Sam’s Clubs nationwide, including ones in Alaska.

The news was especially hard for members of the UAA community who use ProCards, commercial credit cards for UAA, because Sam’s Club has been the only warehouse retailer to accept MasterCards. Up until recently, all UAA ProCards were MasterCards and the other big warehouse retailer in Alaska, Costco, does not accept the credit card.

In response to Sam’s Club’s closure the University of Alaska is working on giving a small group of UAA departments Visa cards, which are accepted at Costco.

“A movement to the Visa card was prompted by the Sam’s Club closing,” Myron Dosch, UA chief finance officer, said. “There was a need for certain university departments that buy bulk type items to continue to buy in bulk for the benefit of the university.”

The Student Union Information Desk is one program that would benefit from the ability to shop in bulk at Costco.

Student Union Operations Coordinator, Tim Flynn, said his department has been notified that they will receive a Visa card. Flynn has been purchasing items from Walmart while waiting for the card, but he is looking at Costco as a more affordable warehouse retailer.

“Ideally, it means that we will be able to have a fully stocked fridge and shelves with food and products that are affordable for students,” Flynn said.

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In a memo from UAA ProCard Administrator, Justine Nelson, on Feb. 5, Nelson wrote that the department was in the process of administering new ProCards.

“With the approval from Statewide and the help of JP Morgan, we will be issuing a limited number of Visa ProCards. We are still in the early stages of the implementation process. We anticipate the implementation will take 4 weeks. The Visa ProCard will allow you to shop at Costco (with a membership card). We are still working out the details of how/who the cards will be issued,” the memo stated.

One big change that comes with the switch from Sam’s Club to Costco is that individual UAA departments will have to purchases memberships to Costco.

“Sam’s [Club] allowed us to have an overall membership for the main campus so UAF had an account that we had purchased and we had a card available at the store so that any department could go in with a ProCard and make purchases under that account. Costco does not allow that. So each department that wants to make purchases at Costco will have to purchase an individual membership,” Denise Caissie, ProCard administrator at UAF, said.

John Hebard, UA chief procurement officer said the university is administering Visa cards to select departments only for now. As the current MasterCards expire starting in 2019, Hebard said the university may consider replacing other MasterCards with Visas.

“It costs quite a bit of money to do… a swap out of cards across the entire campus,” Hebard said. “We’ll have a time in the not too distant future with the cards that we have will expire and that will be the time when we may well switch over to Visa so we don’t have that problem.”