Purdue Dining and Catering offers several different payment methods to its patrons: meal swipes, dining dollars, Boiler Express, and cash/credit options. Below you will find an explanation of each option, culminating in a cost-effectiveness evaluation.
Meal Swipes: During academic semesters (including Maymester and summer school), students have the ability to purchase a meal plan, providing them with meal swipes. There are several different types of meal plans, which are covered in this blog. Meal swipes allow the student to swipe his or her student ID card and enter the dining court quickly. They are prepaid via the meal plans, which range in total pricing from $2,998-$5,398. Depending on the meal plan purchased, a student can have anywhere from 8 to unlimited meal swipes per week. Students holding one of the unlimited meal plans are given 16 meals per year with which they can swipe in friends or parents. Students on the 8 or 13 meal plans cannot bring in friends or parents, as the swipes are exclusive to the intended cardholder.
Dining Dollars: The second most popular student option. Dining dollars come pre-loaded on the student’s meal plan. Some meal plans are sold without dining dollars, so be aware of the dining dollar total presented with the meal plan you select. Dining dollars can only be re-loaded if you purchase the Boiler Flex Unlimited plans. Dining dollars are a great option, as they allow the student to bring in guests. The student will be asked whether or not their guest is a fellow student. Student pricing is slightly cheaper, as it is tax-free. The guest will be asked to produce a student ID to verify their status. A student dinner with dining dollars costs $9.60.
BoilerExpress: a third, slightly more expensive option. BoilerExpress accounts are helpful for off-campus students, employees of the university, or the student who has run out of dining dollars. Their pricing is a little steeper, coming in at $11.40 for a student dinner. Students can use their BoilerExpress accounts to bring in friends and parents in a manner similar to dining dollars. Employees can use BoilerExpress accounts to purchase meals at a discounted rate. BoilerExpress accounts are also valuable in their potential for refunded money. Unspent dining dollars expire at the end of the academic year; unspent BoilerExpress money can be refunded to a student as long as the account total is in excess of $10. It’s important to note that any deposit in a BoilerExpress account results in a convenience fee of $3, so when depositing, be sure to think ahead to future costs.
Cash & Card: Finally, anyone can purchase entry to Purdue’s buffet-style dining via cash or credit card. This is the most expensive of the options, costing $11.90 for a student dinner, and $12.73 for a non-student guest. Students can, again, show their IDs for tax exempt pricing, and if a family chooses to eat at a dining hall, children aged 3-10 will receive a discounted price. Purdue Dining accepts Visa and MasterCard.
Ideally, an incoming student will select the most appropriate meal plan and feed his or herself primarily using meal swipes. This is the most cost-effective option, assuming the student is not overpaying for unused swipes. If a student runs out of swipes for the week, the next best option is to pay using dining dollars. If the student does not have dining dollars, they can use BoilerExpress, or lastly, pay using cash or a credit card. It is important to make sure you know how many meals you have left per week! You can ask the employee who swipes you in to let you know how many meals you have remaining. If you choose to buy a meal using dining dollars or BoilerExpress, be sure to ask for your receipt, as it will have your current account totals printed on it. Being aware of your options when it comes to the dining halls can save you more money than you would expect!