Thanks to a warning from the Student Association (SA) Executive Board, some groups selling food around campus might be less willing to take Venmo.
The SA warned groups earlier this month that using mobile payment services like Venmo, Apple Pay and Square could lead to serious consequences, including having their bank accounts frozen. Under Binghamton University policies, payment services that are not payment card industry compliant cannot be used.
Payment card industry compliance is a list of requirements that merchants are held to by companies like Visa and Mastercard in order to protect the customer’s credit card information when making a payment, according to Stephen Duseau, assistant director and payment card industry compliance officer for the University’s Office of Risk Management and Administrative Compliance. Currently, all schools in the SUNY system follow these guidelines.
Duseau said the University can only be truly compliant if student groups abide by Requirement 12 of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard Guide. Requirement 12 states the third-party vendor, Venmo, must establish a written agreement with the merchant that spells out the security policy. The third party must also annually prove they are fulfilling industry requirements through specific documentation. Because Venmo does not have a written agreement with BU, it is not compliant, and even with a written agreement, the company would have to agree to provide the University with annual documentation indicating it is following compliance requirements.
According to Rebecca Ho, the SA vice president for finance and a senior majoring in business administration, the SA is held to compliance standards by the University.
“The use of Venmo is considered a serious violation because it violates university PCI compliance policy, which the Student Association is subject to,” Ho wrote in an email. “If I were aware of a student group using Venmo, I would be obligated to follow the Financial Policies and Procedures (FPP), and freeze the group’s account.”
An SA Line newsletter statement on Feb. 2 referenced Page 5 of the SA’s Financial Policies and Procedures. The fifth rule under Section 1.1C, Budgetary Restrictions, states that SA groups may not accept payment for fundraising through Venmo, Google Wallet, Square, Facebook Messenger or similar online services.
Currently, SA groups, including groups housed under Campus Recreation, are only allowed to accept cash or checks, which are deposited into their individual SA group bank accounts, according to the Financial Policies and Procedures. Craig Dube, the director of University club sports and intramurals, said he is not aware of any club sports using Venmo as a form of payment for fundraising. According to Dube, the organizations he oversees are instructed to use their individual University bank accounts, similarly to the SA.
“We discuss not using personal accounts at our annual club leadership training because club leaders do not have the capacity to manage the financial needs of their respective club individually,” Dube wrote in an email. “The club would not be able to function appropriately given the complexity of the budget and purchasing process.”
However, other student groups, including Greek life organizations, do not have the same restrictions as SA-chartered clubs.
L.C. Coghill, the director of fraternity and sorority life at BU, said Greek organizations don’t have financial rules to abide by because they are separate entities from the University.
“They all have independent accounts, because they have national dues that they have to collect, and they have to pay the national organization, and so all of that is separate from the University,” Coghill said. “So the SA groups are not supposed to have external accounts, so they would have nowhere to actually deposit the money that they’re collecting.”
Kevin Wallace, a sophomore double-majoring in computer science and mathematics and a member of the Hinman Production Company (HPC), a student-run theatre group, said HPC doesn’t use Venmo to accept payments for their ticket sales.
“We use cash for all of our ticket sales, and our ticket prices are very affordable, so we’ve never had a problem with people being able to get tickets,” Wallace said.
According to Duseau, the University’s payment standards keeps BU secure in terms of finances.
“If BU does not do its part to keep payment cards secure, it could end up costing the University thousands, perhaps even millions of dollars,” Duseau said.
Michael Levinstein contributed reporting to this story.