New Website enhances student discounts

Article By: Ethan M. Long

Among the websites geared towards college students gaining popularity this year, one website is looking to help college students easily receive discounts and cash back at locations around the country., founded in 2008, currently has 1.1 million students enrolled in their program, which encourages students from any college or university to sign up on their website to start receiving benefits. Bjorn Larsen, founder and company president of Edhance, recently spoke with the Journal at their Cambridge-based office.

“[Edhance] is a revolutionary student discount program,” said Larsen, who pointed out that past student discount programs required students to show store employees their college-issued ID cards. “Merchants didn’t want to verify, you know, look at the cards. They need to train every single employee to understand these cards. There are 65,000 universities and colleges in the US and they all issue different types of cards,” said Larsen.

Larsen decided to take the entire discount system behind the scenes, making it so that once a student signs up on their site with a current credit or debit card, the student will automatically get discounts when they buy from partnered merchants. Students will never have to show college ID cards to employees in order to receive discounts. “We calculate the discount, we charge the merchant, and we send it back to you as a student, and it goes into your Edhance account first, and then when you reach a certain threshold, which can be set to $10 or $25, you get the money right back into your account,” said Larsen.

Current deals on the site include a 3 percent discount on anything bought from the Apple store, which—if bought through Apple’s education program, will give the entire purchase a 13% discount. In addition to computers, students can also receive discounts from national vendors’ online stores, including merchants such as Barnes and Noble, Target, Reebok, and hotel chain Days Inn.

Before being able to start saving money, however, Edhance must first verify a student’s status as a student at the college used during registration.

“We verify that you’re a student once a semester,” said Larsen.

Evan Becker, marketing manager for Edhance, planed strategies to advertise around the city, including campaigns on campuses. “Anything that’s going to grab somebody’s attention, for example, last Friday, this Red Guerilla thing that we did, we walked around campuses at BU and Northeastern with one of our interns dressed in a red guerilla suit. We were taking pictures with people, and basically what they had to do was take a picture with the guerilla, tag themselves on Facebook, and they were registered to win Celtics tickets. It’s, you know, a way to get the word out,” said Becker. In addition to giving away Celtics tickets, Edhance has also held contests for iPods in the past.

“Right now we have a lot of local companies in Boston and in certain other cities across the country, and we also have a lot of large national companies online, right now we’re working on bringing more large national companies offline. So in store, at your big brands, that’s really what our main focus is right now,” said Larsen. Students can also find local discounts at restaurants including Qboda and Café Quattro, which is around the corner from Suffolk University. In addition to restaurants, a whole slew of salons and spas all down Newbury Street are partnered with Edhance.

As far as movies and music go? “We’re talking to all of the big companies, and they’re generally very interested. They really want to get students in the door while they’re young shoppers. They know students don’t have money,” said Larsen.

Edhance is also currently looking to forge a deal with, which helps college students cheaply travel to destinations worldwide.

Some students may be reluctant to put credit or debit card information on the web, but is a PCI compliant company, “which means we are authorized to store credit cards, so we understand that if feels strange for a student to sign up and put in their credit or debit card. We never charge students at all, it’s just how it works, it’s the only way for us to build this program. Even that though that might seem scary, we’re a reputable company, we’ve been around for a while, and we take privacy very seriously,” said Larsen. Students can enter up to five debit or credit cards. continues to bring in some of the country’s top merchants on and offline. Students looking to save money this holiday season, especially in the current economic situation, can very much benefit from the discounts and deals Edhance offers. The website is easy to use, and an iPhone app is currently in development. Savings are only a few clicks away.