Bank provides college ID that doubles as ATM card

Sovereign Bank will provide students at two small colleges with smart identification cards that will give them access to school building and services while doubling as a Sovereign ATM card.

Students don’t have to open Sovereign accounts, but as part of the deal signed with Wheelock College in the Fenway neighborhood and Mt. Ida College in Newton, automated teller machines will be installed in student activity centers, Sovereign said Thursday. The two schools will issue Sovereign smart cards—which the bank provides free of charge— more than 2,000 students, faculty and staff.

“Given their hectic schedules, we’re always looking for ways to make our students’ lives simpler and easier,” said Jackie Jenkins-Scott, president of Wheelock College, in a press release

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Banks are always trying to capture the college student customers, most of whom are opening accounts for the first time. Still, Sovereign’s smart card approach is unusual in the United States, where banks typically set up informational tables on campus during the first weeks of schools and target advertising and other promotions at students.

Sovereign is owned by the Spanish bank Banco Santander SA. Santander introduced its first university smart cards in 1996 and has issued more than six million of them worldwide. This is its first entry into the US college market, but the bank is hoping not their last.

“The ability to link their ID cards to a Sovereign account will benefit smart card users by providing greater flexibility, safety and convenience when accessing their money to pay for books, supplies, meals and other needs both on and off campus,” said Eduardo Garrido, director of Santander Universities, the bank division that develops partnerships with colleges and universities. “We look forward to working with other colleges and universities to support their students and staff members in the same way.”