Accepting Topper Tender long, difficult process for businesses

Students have been hoping for more off-campus businesses to begin accepting Topper Tender. Despite their wishes, students do not realize that the process is much more intensive than signing up for it. 

 For example, one restaurant that continues to be on numerous students’ wish lists is Chick-Fil-A. According to Rebekah Nagy, the associate director of auxiliary services, the popular restaurant does not accept Topper Tender.

“I’ve never heard of (Chick-Fil-A accepting Topper Tender). That would be great if they did,” she said. 

Nagy said that Chick-Fil-A had been approached in the past about the possibility to accept Topper Tender, but the restaurant opted not to join.

“Chick-Fil-A would definitely be a place that should use (Topper Tender),” sophomore Megan Birdsell said.

This sentiment is one that many students hold because the restaurant seems like a campus favorite. Sophomore Matt Dechant would love for Chick-Fil-A and other restaurants to be added.

Chick-Fil-A is not the only business St. Edward’s University has approached about joining the Topper Tender program. They regularly approach businesses around Austin, but they often get the same answer as Chick-Fil-A — not at this time.

Students can spend their Topper Tender off-campus at Hea Cafe, Southside Flying Pizza, Cabo Bob’s, CVS Pharmacy, El Gallo, ATX Food Mart, Chili’s and Fit & Fearless.

St. Edward’s does not determine which businesses accept Topper Tender off-campus. Blackboard operates the back end software that manages the ID card system and  a subsidiary of Blackboard operates the off-campus merchant program.

“They are responsible for looking for vendors that are willing to accept Topper Tender at their business, and letting them know how that process works,” Nagy said.

To accept Topper Tender, a business must sign an agreement, purchase some hardware and set up an IP address. 

The number of off-campus vendors fluctuates year to year, especially this year due to an upgrade of the entire system that required businesses to buy new hardware.

“Most (vendors) were on board, but I think we did drop one or two, and had issues with one or two so we are getting it back together,” Nagy said.

For more corporate companies, the process takes longer due to the bureaucracy within the company having to approve new hardware and software. This is why students attempting to use Topper Tender at Chili’s or Chipotle were not able to buy anything. 

“We had issues with Chili’s because the hardware they purchased needed some troubleshooting so we had to take it off,” Nagy said. “We were not aware; a student made us aware that Chili’s wasn’t taking Topper Tender.”

Nagy said Chili’s should accept Topper Tender again soon.

In Chipotle’s case, the university and Blackboard are working to get the hardware updated at the restaurant.

If a vendor has any issues with Topper Tender, it is their responsibility to report issues to Blackboard.

Students can also use Topper Tender on campus at the bookstore, Quick Dip and Outtakes convenience stores, any of the dining halls, coffee shops, copy center and vending machines.

Unlike meal plan, Topper Tender lets students refill their funds. 

However, it is not possible to transfer meal plan dollars to Topper Tender due to strict regulations regarding meal plan.

Another feature that is exclusive to Topper Tender is that funds leftover on it roll over every semester until a student withdraws or graduates from the university. When that occurs, a student may ask for a refund request, but if the balance is below $10 a refund will not be given.

According to Nagy, students are welcome to suggest off-campus merchants that they would like to spend their Topper Tender at by emailing her or coming by the Hilltopper Card office in Main Building room G3.

“It would be super cool if some of the restaurants on South Congress would take Topper Tender as well,” Birdsell said.

Sophomore Jonathan Edwards has a list of places around campus that he would like to see added. He listed Amy’s Ice Cream, Home Slice Pizza, Hopdoddy Burger Bar, Walmart and McDonald’s as retailers that should be added. Other students would like to see P. Terry’s Burger Stand and Whole Foods added.

“These are places that students routinely frequent and there’s a mix of restaurants and stores providing for all the possible needs of the student body,” Edwards said.

Now, just because a student suggests a business for the Topper Tender program does not mean it will accept it.

“Unfortunately, since we don’t have the purchasing power of Bevo Bucks it’s a little bit more difficult for vendors to sign up,” Nagy said.

At the University of Texas at Austin, students are able to use Bevo Bucks, which is UT’s debit card – similar to Topper Tender — at 75 off-campus locations.

“We would love for everyone to take Topper Tender, but most of the stuff near campus are small local businesses so they are less inclined [to join the program],” Nagy said. “I would love for everybody up and down Congress to take (Topper Tender).”