A new membership card is quickly revolutionizing the off-campus Binghamton experience, and it’s obviously not BUC$. Rather, it’s CommuniKey, every student’s “ultimate friend with benefits.”

CommuniKey was founded three years ago by alumni, and it aims to universalize, simplify and economize the currency of Binghamton University students. The Key itself resembles a gift card — small, black and wallet-sized. It’s a good addition to the arsenal of plastic already in our wallets, except it helps us save money, not spend it. What differentiates the CommuniKey from other discount programs is that it is student-centric. In fact, it’s Binghamton-centric.

You can get a CommuniKey for $10, but once you have the card, the perks instantly abound. It’s accepted at more than 60 local businesses, including Cyber West Cafe, Tom and Marty’s, Nirchi’s and Burger Mondays. There are also law firms, massage parlors and other businesses that subscribe to CommuniKey.

Using CommuniKey gets you up to a 15 percent discount at some locations, and if you track your usage online, you get you access to prizes, free stuff and even exclusive parties. The company recently held a kick-off event at Terra Cotta to showcase these and the other benefits the card offers.

Beyond the money saved and prizes awarded, there are a number of things CommuniKey brings — or at least has the potential to bring — to the Binghamton community as a whole.

The company name itself is indicative of the first: CommuniKey’s success means all participating businesses will be able to showcase what they have to offer with much more ease. Integration with social media means students will stumble across offers on Facebook, and the more popular it becomes, the more it can be a go-to method of eating around town.

Most importantly, the CommuniKey holds the potential to break the stubborn barrier that has persisted between students and locals for as long as we can remember. Town-gown tension is far from being a problem confined to Binghamton, but it’s a problem nonetheless, exacerbated by the firestorm that ensued last year following a graduating senior’s reflections on her time spent in the city.

It’s true that there are some pretty drab parts of Binghamton and that the places where we spend the majority of our time off campus — State Street and the surrounding area — certainly look like they’ve had better days.

But there are some pretty great places around town, even if they are tucked away. The best ones maintain a rural, upbeat feel that’s a good change of pace from the redundant, out-of-the-can routine that is Sodexo dining.

And when there’s an incentive to go to those places — namely, the discounts and prizes via CommuniKey — students are sure to take the extra time out of their day to check out some of the the local cuisine lying around.

CommuniKey holds promise as a business not just because it offers cheap stuff. The fact that it incentivizes residents and students to communicate is a step in the right direction. Once we believe in the city around us, we’ll put more money into its businesses, and maybe some day — though it’s probably a ways off — Binghamton will become the city on a hill we all know it to be.