Board Bucks and ECcash and Meal Swipes, Oh My!

Navigating Different Emerson Funds 

By Mandy Seiner, ’18 

In addition to learning how to navigate a college campus and the college years, another thing Emerson students and families must become acclimated to is the variant forms of payment and ID swiping for different services, products, and events around the school.

Dining center swipes serve the exact purpose the name implies. These do not have an associated dollar value, but instead are simply a set number of meals your student will be able to access the dining center for during a given semester. Each student with an on-campus meal plan is defaulted to 101 personal meals, 10 guest meals, and 1 faculty meal for the academic period. The Dining Center is in two sections, one is the traditional “dining hall” set up and the second is the “Center Stage” area. The Center Stage is open to anyone in the community, those with a food plan and those without. The traditional area is set up so that students may swipe, eat a meal, go back for as much as they care to eat. If, however, they leave that area (to sit in Center Stage, for example) they have a 45 minute time limit to go back-and-forth between the areas on one meal “swipe”. There is no time limit as to how long a student may stay in either area. Next, the green containers are for a take-out meal only, they are not to be used to eat in the Dining Center. These are a convenience in place of a meal, not to augment one. Compare it to when you go to an all-you-can-eat buffet, you are welcome to eat as much as you want. You may go back for seconds, thirds, etc. However, you are NOT allowed then to fill a container to go. That is a second meal and would require another swipe. Students who want to take a to-go meal have 20 minutes to fill the container and leave–they are not allowed to eat from the container in the Center. Students with the unlimited plan may simply swipe for another meal.  This may all sound very confusing, but students learn the ins and outs very quickly. 

Board Bucks are dollars included in your student’s meal plan that can exclusively be spent at Emerson food service locations. These include the Center Stage cafe, the Max located in Piano Row, Paramount cafe, the 2 Boylston Place cafe, and the Dining Center. The default meal plan includes $650 in Board Bucks per semester, although the number can change if you and your student opt to switch meal plans. Board Bucks are used by swiping student IDs into the registers much like credit cards. Unused Board Bucks from the fall carry over to the spring semester, however, any remaining Board Bucks at the end of the school year are forfeited.

ECcash is also located on your student’s ID, however there is no default amount pre-loaded. It can be used everywhere the Board Bucks can be used, and has a variety of additional applications. ECcash can be used to operate the laundry machines in the residence halls, print papers using any Emerson printer or the print and copy center, spent at the college bookstore, and works at a variety of off-campus restaurants and stores, including Chipotle, CVS, and Subway, as well as some taxi companies. The full list of businesses that take it can be found here: X ECcash can be placed on a student’s ID here: ECcash Families of returner students beware! The system for ECcash has changed slightly, and the old website, which you may have bookmarked, has been changed to the aforementioned link. Students may assign up to 4 guest users so that others may deposit funds into the ECcash account.

Regular credit/debit cards and cash and cash are also accepted everywhere dining hall meals, Board Bucks, and ECcash are taken. Regarding the latter two, the dollar amount is charged the same, and for the dining center, one would be charged $9 for breakfast, $11 for lunch, and $13 for dinner.

While all of these forms of payment can be confusing at first, each has its own purpose and operation. By learning how to navigate the campus using each, both you and your student will become more at ease making purchases on campus. Questions on this issue may be directed to Business Services at

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