FAQs/Pre-Paid Cards/Libraries

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Copyright © 2007-2008 Userful Corporation. All rights reserved.
(Updated 2008.07.21)

Q: How can libraries use Pre-Paid Cards?

Also answered by this FAQ:
  • What do we need to know to get started?
  • What are the benefits in using Pre-Paid Cards?

A: It's easy to get started. Read on...


Figure 1: Examples of Pre-Paid Cards front and back.

Userful's new Pre-Paid Cards give libraries a simple and professional way to give tourists and other visitors computer access while reducing staff burden, and generating revenue to offset the cost of the public computers.

Visitors from out of town are often unable to use computers which require a valid library card to log in. Userful's Pre-Paid Cards give your library an easy way to grant temporary access to these visitors, and charge a competitive rate similar to a local Internet cafe.


Q: How does it work?
Figure 2: Click on "Usage Pricing"
Figure 3: Specify the price per minute.
  • A: You sell the cards (similar to pre-paid phone cards) in $5 and $10 denominations to visitors without library cards.
    • Go to the "Payments" section of Userful Manager and you can set how much you charge per minute or hour. This is only done once for all of your cards.
    • The visitor enters the number of the card (instead of a library barcode number) to log in. Userful Desktop's count down clock will keep track of how much time the guest has left and how much money remains on the card.
    • Userful supplies the cards, tracks usage, provides reports, informs visitors of the status of their account and automatically suspends computing when a card runs out. We also provide a dedicated toll-free number and email address printed on the back of each card for inquiries from patrons regarding their account balance.

FAQs for Admins

Q: Why should we use Pre-Paid Cards?
  • A: Pre-Paid Cards let you:
    • Reduce the staff time required to support visitors.
    • Raise money for new initiatives
    • Ensure everyone who can get a library card does and your membership reflects the number of library users in your community
Q: How does it work?
  • A: Pre-Paid Internet cards work similarly to phone cards. You purchase batches of printed plastic credit-card sized cards from Userful, each with a unique number and sell them to your visitors. The visitor scratches off the card to reveal their unique access code, enters this code it instead of their library barcode when logging into Userful Desktop. The user is allocated time based on the remaining value on the card and the price per hour you've setup in Userful Manager. Userful keeps track of the remaining value on the card; once the value runs out, no more computer use.
Q: How do I get cards, what are their denominations and how much do they cost us?
  • A: Cards come in batches of 50 and this is the minimum order. Batches can either have a face value of $5 or $10. Userful provides free shipping on orders of 200 or more cards. Libraries receive a 60% discount of face value.
    • The standard package (100x$5 + 100x$10) of 200 cards has a retail value of $1,500 but costs just $600 (yielding $900 in proceeds to the library).
    • The Starter Pack (50x$5 + 50x$10) of 100 cards has a retail value of $750 but costs just $300 + $15 shipping (yielding $435 in proceeds to the library).
Q: Are cards refillable?
  • A: No. Once the value has been depleted the card should be disposed of.
Q: How much fund raising could our Library achieve annually by selling these cards?
  • A: That depends on the number of visitors asking for Internet access and the rates you charge. If you service a large metropolitan area, or an area frequented by tourists, the total amount raised could add up to thousands of dollars per year.
Q: Can we print our own cards, get cards with our own logo, or get cards with a different face value?
  • A: Yes, however there is an extra cost involved. Part of the service Userful provides is to manage account balances (and address end user questions about their cards and account balance). Userful's Pre-Paid Cards contain special security features and tracking codes to ensure maximum protection and support for your end users, hence we currently do not support self-printing of cards. Userful can get custom cards printed for you using your logo based on a minimum order of 1,000 cards of a single denomination with a $250 customization fee and a 4-week lead time after receipt and approval of artwork.
Q: Who supports the users and resolves issues around card value?
  • A: The back of each card includes our toll free phone number, email address and a special website. Patrons can use this contact information to directly resolve any questions or issues they have regarding the their remaining balance. This ensures you can sell these cards with confidence and provide this value added service to your patrons with minimal disruption or training of staff.
Q: What about taxes?
  • A: You are responsible for charging and reporting any applicable taxes when selling the cards to patrons. Userful will also, of course, charge you the applicable federal/provincial/state taxes on our sale to you of the discounted cards.
Q: What kind of reports and notifications will I receive to help me manage these cards?
  • A: Revenue reports are integrated directly into your Userful Manager usage reports. You can see details such as how many new cards were used, and the number of uninitiated cards remaining in your inventory. By visiting http://manage.userful.com/prepaid/ you (or the patrons themselves) can check the remaining balance of time on their card. You can also login and view reports on all activities on all of your Pre-Paid Cards.
Q: How do we add Pre-Paid Card functionality to our computers?
  • A: Simply choose the price you want to charge per minute, order cards, and contact Userful support once the cards arrive to do a quick check and ensure everything is working correctly.
Q: How will Pre-Paid Cards interact with our current patron login system?
  • A: You may need to have ILS integration to ensure that you're limiting use to patrons with a library card or guests with a prepaid card. If you are currently allowing anonymous access there is no incentive for out of town visitors to purchase cards and no opportunity for them to enter the card numbers. You will need to alert Userful so we can make the changes required to check if a Pre-Paid Card has been entered at the login. There is no charge for this extra integration service.
Q: How do the card numbers work?
  • A: The back of each Pre-Paid Card is printed with both an Access Code/Username/Barcode and a Password/PIN. The Access Code is often referred to as the Pre-Paid Card number. This number is generated using a special algorithm to prevent people from guessing new card numbers. The Password/PIN is purely optional (users don't need to type it in) however, having it there it reduces confusion ensuring that you don't need to change how your Userful Desktops prompt users to enter their credentials. You must have authentication enabled in order to use Pre-Paid Cards.
Q: How much do we charge per minute?
  • A: You control the price per minute through Userful Manager. The minimum settings currently allowed are one minute and $0.01/minute (this pre-set minimum may increase periodically). Using these settings $10 would buy 16 hours and 40 minutes. More expensive Kiosks charge as much as $15/hour for the services provided by Userful Desktop, we recommend that you charge $2.50/hour such that a $10 card buys 4 hours of Internet access, however you can determine the rate you feel is appropriate for your library community.
Q: How do I set the pricing?
  • A: Click on the "Set Pricing" section of the main Userful Manager screen. Here you can choose the price you want to charge per minute, and as well as advanced pricing which allows you to set and enforce minimum charges.
Q: If one card is about to expire must a user logoff before starting another?
  • A: At present there is no means of starting on a new card without logging off between sessions.
Q: Will the same session time limits and restrictions apply to visitors using these cards?
  • A: Since the card users have their own session profiles the library can decide on the specific limitations to impose. Of course users will be logged out as soon as the time paid for on their card is exceeded.
Q: Where will buyers be able to use cards purchased in our library?
  • A: Only the Userful Desktop systems registered to your branches and locations. Cards issued by you will not work at other libraries in other cities and vice versa.
Q: Will these sessions appear in my usage reports?
  • A: Yes. If you wish to keep these sessions separate you can set up a separate "Pre-Paid Cards" sessions profile, in which case the usage data can be either viewed separately or together with your normal library usage in the usage reports.
Q: What if we are using Pre-Book or usage tracker?
  • A: Pre-Paid Cards work seamlessly alongside both centralized time management systems. The only time you need to be concerned is if you are using Pre-Book's advanced booking feature (which allows patrons to reserve computer time in advance). In this situation, to avoid the potential double booking a computer, do not allow advance bookings of those machines which offer Pre-Paid Card access.
Q: Can the cards be used to pay for printing charges?
  • A: Currently charging for printing should be done through your existing print payment systems. We are planning a feature which could give your library the ability to enable printing charges to be deducted directly from the visitor card's remaining balance. Let us know if this feature would be of interest to you.
Q: Can the pay-per-use cards be used on our Windows Pre-Book machines?
  • A: No. Currently Pre-Paid Cards will only work on your Userful Desktops.
Q: How do we promote the visitor card system within the library?
  • A: We suggest putting up signs and sending out an email to all library public service staff to let them know the new service is available and how the cards are sold.
Q: How was the revenue split for the Pre-Paid Cards determined?
  • A: The cost of the Pre-Paid Cards includes three things:
    1. Cost of manufacturing and distributing the physical cards.
    2. Cost of supporting any card balance related issues for end users: Each card includes a toll free number and email address staffed and operated by Userful which users can contact directly should they have issues with their balance or have lost time due to a technical issue or failure.
    3. Cost of the add-on software module: Pre-Paid Cards is a separate software module (not included in your base Userful Desktop support purchase). Instead of charging a per-seat annual fee for this module, Userful opted for a usage based pricing model (based on revenue sharing) which ensures you only pay for what you use.
Q: Are there any agreements I need to sign to get started?
  • A: Contact your account manager to review a copy of the terms and conditions relating to the Pre-Paid Cards.

FAQs for Visitor Card Users