The University Smart Card adapts to the digital era

Over twenty years have passed since Banco Santander issued its first University Smart Card (USC) in 1995 for the University of Cantabria, Spain.

Nowadays, Santander issues 9.1, million USCs in 279 universities over 11 countries. These cards, are not only used to provide university credentials but also allow users to borrow books, access different university locations, provide electronic signatures, access academic records, use the card as an electronic wallet, receive discounts from shops, pay for public transport or use it as a debit card, amongst other options.

In line with the philosophy and objectives of Banco Santander, the University
Smart Card is undergoing a huge technological development to become a state-of-the-art card used in universities. One of the biggest innovations, is the development of the USC app available for Android and iPhone and a pilot development in wearables (smartwatch and bracelet).
Students have changed and also have changed their needs. The penetration of smartphones is growing and growing and it has become the most used device. Therefore, Santander has developed the USC app to allow access to services on and off campus anytime and anywhere with the aim of creating a digital ecosystem that makes student life easier.


The USC app consists of several modules that can be selected by each university according to their needs and can be easily integrated in existing university apps. The core service is the credential, but as it happened with the card there are many more services that enrich the app.


In order to make the app relevant for students, Santander has asked them about the services that they wish to have. Thanks to these surveys, Santander discovered that discounts was the most valued service. And with the aim of satisfying their wishes and needs, they have recently included a new discount service in the USC app for a couple of Spanish universities. They plan to start the expansion into other countries such as: Poland, Brazil or Chile in the beginning of 2017.

Having said this, Santander still has a long way to go and the future is yet to come. The expansion of the USC app in all universities, the expansion of the digital onboarding and of the scope of digital services for university students are some of the steps that must be addressed in the immediate future. As Abraham Lincoln said once: “The best way to predict your future is to create it”.

About Us

The mission of the association is to assist the institutions of higher education in the Member States of the European Union and other European Countries to implement and operate campus card programmes by facilitating information exchange, by developing European standards where appropriate and by acting as a forum for interaction between the institutions and other agencies with an interest in campus card applications in Higher Education.

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