What the Heck is a WisCard?

Your WisCard is a fancy name for your student ID card. It has a picture of you, your name, and your campus ID number on the front, and the back looks just like the back of a debit card. In fact, your WisCard is basically a university debit card. Money can be loaded on to it and used for a variety of different things on campus.You can load money online, by snail mail, or in person. It’s so easy to do, I’ve seen students do it on their smart phone while they are in line!


You probably won’t look as fly as Bucky. Sorry.

Your WisCard is an essential part of your life on campus, especially your first year. The title question really should be, “What isn’t your WisCard?” But let’s stick with the plan, “What the heck is a WisCard?”

1. Your Meal Plan 

UW-Madison doesn’t have a meal plan where you pay a certain amount of money before you come to campus and it earns you a certain amount of “meal swipes” throughout the year. Instead there is a ‘a la cart’ or pay-as-you-go system.

This is how it works. If you live in the dorms and have money on your WisCard you can buy food at the housing dining facilities with a 30% reduced rate on everything you purchase. (P.S. If you don’t live in the dorms, you can still get a 5% reduced rate.) I really liked this method better because it could adapt to my daily schedule easily.

For example, if I was running late to a 7:45am exam, but I couldn’t make it through without something in my stomach, I could run through a dining facility and buy an apple and a granola bar. I would only be paying for an apple and a granola bar. Plus, I could come back 50 minutes later (after acing the exam, duh) and buy a bigger breakfast if I needed. I wouldn’t have to wait until 11am for my “lunch swipe” to kick in having wasted my “breakfast swipe” on the apple/granola bar combo. Or even worse, I wouldn’t have to risk trying to cook on my own.


Basically, if you want to eat 15 tiny meals a day, go for it. If you want to eat 3 meals and 2 snacks a day, no one is stopping you.

You can use your WisCard at the Wisconsin Unions, but the reduced rate is 5% no matter if you live in the dorms or not.

2. Your Laundry Card

If you live in the dorms, you use your WisCard to pay for your laundry. No need to collect quarters or begrudgingly trade in your last fiver. The laundry rooms have a device that looks like the debit card scanners at most stores. You can swipe your WisCard type, in the number of the washer you are using, and your done!

In case you were wondering, washing is $2.25, and drying is free! Which trust me, you’ll come to appreciate in the Wisconsin winters when you don’t have to walk to class with wet hat and mittens.

With University Housing’s online service, Laundry Alert, you can stalk the washing and drying units to see which ones are empty and make sure you don’t waste a trip when all the units are full. Laundry Alert will also text you when your clothes are done! So feel free to get absorbed in your homework nap without worrying about leaving your clothes in too long.


3. Your Printing Card

The dorms and most of the 42 libraries on campus have computers students can access that are hooked up to printers. You can print off of them for the small fee of 7 cents for a black and white page and 60 cents for a color page. You guessed it, you can pay for it right off of your WisCard.

Because these printers are so convenient I have never had my own printer during my time as a student. I hate paying for ink, and I also hate getting the stupid thing to work.


I avoid both of those by using the university printers. As this is 2015, most professors are using online drop boxes, so you don’t have to print too often. However, there are a few that will want things handed in as hard copy. Again, the university printers save the day.

4. Your All-Access Pass

There are some libraries where students need to show their WisCard to get in. Namely, Memorial Library and College Library (after midnight).


You may also need your WisCard to prove your identity at midterms and exams for some of the bigger classes. Make sure you have it with you when shopping or eating out too! Most places offer student discounts, and it never hurts to ask.

5. Your Debit Card

If you have a checking account at the UW Credit Union you can  attach your checking account to your WisCard. This effectively levels it up to a WisCard-debit card hybrid.


Rest assured if you lose it you can cancel it online.

See more information about the UW Credit Union program here.

Still Curious?

If you are longing to learn more about the mysteries of the WisCard search no further. Check out a list of FAQs on the WisCard website.