Flex is dollar for dollar money on your CUID. It can be used by all enrolled students, faculty, and staff of Columbia University. It's a bit like having a charge account, since the funds you put on it are charged on your monthly Columbia bill.
How to add money to Flex
Columbia students may add money onto their accounts through Columbia Student Services Online (SSOL) as follows:
- Navigate to Columbia Student Services Online (SSOL).
- Log in to SSOL (Student Services OnLine) with your UNI and password.
- Scroll down on the screen you are redirected to and click “FlexAccount and Dining Dollars,” located under the heading of “Columbia Card”.
- Scroll down on the screen you are redirected to and click "FlexAccount Deposit Request," located in the "FlexAccount" section.
- Enter in the amount you would like to add and click continue.
- The amount you have requested to be deposited will appear on your next Columbia E-Bill.
You can use Flex to buy stuff at:
- most on-campus dining locations, including John Jay Dining Hall, Ferris Booth Commons, and JJ's Place
- vending machines
- residence hall laundry machines
- Columbia Bookstore
- campus copy machines
- Hartley Hospitality Desk
- many off-campus grocery stores, restaurants, drug stores, and others (list of locations)
You should try to use tax-free Dining Dollars at dining locations because Flex transactions are taxable. However, Flex is fantastic for purchasing your books since additions to Flex on SSOL will show up on your Columbia Bill, and therefore most likely be paid by your parents. Flex is also an alternative to cash or credit cards if you don't have one.
At least since Fall 1995, a year after Yale introduced a similar program for its students, Columbia students pushed for the ability to use Flex dollars at local businesses, especially restaurants. In 2003, the Division of Student Affairs even included a questions about off-campus in the Enrolled Students Survey, with a question asking which locations students most desired to have Flex at. Wayne Ting made off-campus flex a central part of his 2004 CCSC election platform, even though he knew it wouldn't come to campus for years.
Off-campus flex wasn't implemented for many years largely because the CUID system had used the owner's Social Security Number in its bar code and magnetic strip, a fact that was announced in fall 2004. This could allow malicious hackers to exploit any weaknesses in the system to harvest SSNs. As of 2004, Columbia was the only Ivy League University still using SSNs with its ID cards.  While security was an important concern, other observers suggested that Columbia was reluctant to consider the program in the past because it would undercut on-campus Dining Services sales.
Off-campus Flex finally became possible once the university's ID replacement project was completed in late 2007. Columbia sub-contracted implementation to BB1, with the off-campus Flex system scheduled to open up at several Morningside Heights locations on April 1, 2008. Some locations had, however, started to accept Flex earlier than this. Nussbaum and Wu accepted Flex as of March 25, 2008.
Problems struck later that month as HamDel rejected Flex, claiming its slow processing time led to longer lines that angered regular customers. As of May 2008 only a handful of businesses accept the off-campus Flex system. It appeared to have some life left when University Hardware adopted the system in late April.
As of 2010, more than 20 local businesses support off-campus Flex, plus campusfood.com, which hosts a variety of area restaurants.
- Three New Haven restaurants enlisted in rejuvenated Flex Dollars program - Yale Yale Bulletin and Calendar News Stories January 20-27, 1997
- Security Hole Means Flex Wont Move Off Campus Yet The Spectator 9-21-04
- CUID's to Come in Late '07 - The Spectator 3-7-07