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Frequently Asked Questions

General Questions

  • I haven't received my Redbird Card, how do I obtain one?

Once you are registered for at least 1 credit hour for the current or future semester you may come to the Redbird Card Office to receive your ID. We will verify your identity (you must present a government issued photo ID), take your photo, and issue the card. It usually takes about 10 minutes.

  • My card doesn't work in the vending machines, but works everywhere else. What's wrong?

There are a few possibilities:

  1. You're trying to use your card in a non-residence hall building and you don't have any Redbird Dollars. Vending machines in the residence halls will accept Flex Dollars, but vending machines in the academic buildings only accept Redbird Dollars.
  2. You have hit the vending limit which shuts off your card to protect against having your accounts cleaned out if the card is stolen. The message you will receive may be generic, such as "Please Try Another Card". You can check on the vending hold at My Illinois State. Once logged in, there will be an option that shows up if your vending hold has been set. You can go in and reset the hold to continue to use your card in the vending machines. Please be aware this cancels the protection if the card is stolen. Once the vending hold has been reset in My Illinois State, you will no longer see that option.
  3. During a Spring semester, your Flex balance won't cover the transaction but you have enough funds in your Flex Rollover. Unfortunately, certain vending machines will not allow a partial payment from Flex and continue the transaction to use the Flex Rollover balance. The easiest way to get around this is to use your remaining Flex balance at a retail dining location (BSC dining locations, Business Bistro, Student Fitness Center Starbucks, or Subway) before trying a residence hall vending machine again.
  • My card won't swipe for payments or to ride Connect Transit buses.  Why?

It is likely you are either a) using an old card or b) your magnetic stripe has been demagnetized.  You must be a current/registered student in order to use your Redbird Card for these services.

Bring the card to the Redbird Card Office and we will verify it is the current card and that the magstripe is working properly.  Demagnetization can be caused by microwaves or magnets (earpod cases & magnetic wallets are common culprits).

  • My card won't work for door access. Why?

There are a few possibilities:

  1. Access has not been requested/granted. 
    a) Students living on campus must check-in to their residence hall in order for access to remain active during the semester. 
    b) Access requests must be made to Facilities ( for staff and students working for a department.  This is not automatic based on employment. 
    c) Students needing access based on a class should automatically import overnight if a class is added after the start of the semester.
  2. Your Redbird Card needs to be updated.  Cards issued prior to July 2020 do not have the technology to be used for electronic door access.  Come to the Redbird Card Office to update to the newest card design/technology.
  3. You are not using your current card.  Only the most recently printed ID will work for door access. 
  4. Your Redbird Card is damaged either externally or internally.  Many factors can cause the internal chip to malfunction, causing the door access to stop working.  Do not bend, fold, expose card to heat or water, or punch a hole in your Redbird Card.  Avoid storing the card near magnets or other NFC chips.
  • What is required to receive my first Redbird Card?

A government issued photo ID (i.e. Driver's License, State ID, Passport, or Military ID) must be presented to obtain your first Redbird Card.

Students: Must be registered for at least 1 credit hour for the current or future semester.

Faculty/Staff: You may receive your Redbird Card once your paperwork is complete & Human Resources has sent your UID number.

  • What information is printed on the Redbird Card?

The front of your card contains your photo, first & last preferred name, and your primary status at the University. The back of your card contains helpful information on how to report your card lost or what to do if you find a lost card, your UID number, barcode, & "Hotline Information" QR Code.

  • I've lost my Redbird Card, how do I receive a replacement?

Come into the Redbird Card Office during business hours. It helps if you have a photo ID, but if all your identification has been lost or stolen, you will still be able to get a new Redbird Card. A new photo will be required at re-issuance. Redbird Cards are replaced for free if the card is four years old or older (must be a current student, current employee, or retiree to receive a replacement ID).

  • Am I required to take a new photo when I replace my card?

Effective 11/1/19 a new photo is required each time a new card is printed.

  • Do I need another card besides the Redbird Card?

No, there is only one identification card on the Illinois State University campus. This card will be used as your regular ID, as admittance into building and events, as your meal card (if you have a meal plan), to access the optional Redbird Dollars Account, etc.

If you are both a student and staff you will only receive one card. This will be based on your primary association with the campus (i.e. full-time staff taking classes on tuition waiver receives Faculty/Staff or full-time student working as a student employee on campus receives Student).

Retirees will continue to use their Emeritus/Retired ID even as a returning staff member, extra-help employee, or student.

  • I'm an incoming student taking only online classes, how do I get my Redbird Card?

If you will not be on campus at all this semester, you may not need your Redbird Card. If you find that you need your card during the semester, please contact the Card Office. Otherwise, you can plan to pick up your card if you come to campus in a future semester.

  • When will my card work for services & purchases?

Students: If you are a new student, your card will be active when the system switches to the semester in which you are registered (see below).

As long as you continue to register for classes each semester, your card will stay active. Cards will stay active through summer if registered for spring semester and the following fall semester at the time of the switch. For riding the Connect Transit buses, please allow a day or two after the semester starts or after you register for classes, whichever comes last, for the card to start working. For purchases, see "When will the funds on my card be available?" below (card must be active). Your card will stop working for these services once you are no longer registered for classes (withdrawn, graduated, etc).

  • Fall Semester - Begins the Monday before classes start
  • Spring Semester - Begins the day the University re-opens after winter break (usually January 2nd)
  • Summer Semester - Begins the Monday after spring semester ends

Faculty/Staff: Your card should activate on or before your start date with the University.

  • Are there any discounts available with the Redbird Card?

Yes. For students, there are various businesses around the Bloomington-Normal area that offer student discounts. Currently, we are not aware of a comprehensive list.

For Faculty/Staff, please refer to the ISU Civil Service website for the most current list.

  • Does the Redbird Card cost anything?

There is a $15 replacement fee for lost/stolen Redbird Cards. Broken or damaged Redbird Cards & preferred name changes are replaced for $5 (you must turn in your current Redbird Card at the time of replacement).

The instances below will result in no replacement fee being charged:

  • First Redbird Card
  • Those students or employees with a Redbird Card issued prior to July 2020
  • Individuals with legal name changes
  • Damaged or lost cards that are four years old or older
  • Status change (for example, from undergraduate student to graduate student or student to employee)
  • The cardholder skipped a semester or more of classes (not including the summer semester)
  • Do I need to obtain a new Redbird Card every year?

No. You receive a Redbird Card your first semester at Illinois State which will be used year to year if you retain the same status (i.e. Undergraduate Student or Graduate Student).

Account Questions


  • Can I get cash from my Redbird Account?

No, the Redbird Card is not a bank debit card. The funds can only be spent at on-campus locations, including the two Redbird Spirit Shop locations (Bone Student Center & North Street) as well as Potbelly (609 N Main). Cash withdrawals are not given.

  • Will I receive a statement?

You may view all of your most recent transactions (about 30 days worth) on My Illinois State. Once logged in, you will see the plan balances displayed. You can select any plan to see recent transactions.

Statements will not be mailed out. However, a statement may be obtained anytime, free of charge, from the Redbird Card Office in the Bone Student Center.

  • How can I check the balance(s) in my account?

You can view your balance(s) through My Illinois State. Once logged in, you will see the plan balance(s) displayed.

Your balance will be shown on the register's display screen after each purchase. Please be aware that some students have more than one account. The balance remaining reflects the current balance of the account used for the transaction. The current balance of your Redbird Account may be viewed at any of the cash-to-card machines located on campus. Current account balances may also be obtained from the Redbird Card Office in the Bone Student Center.

Note - Print Allowance balances cannot be viewed by Redbird Card Office as they're not loaded on the Redbird Card.  Print Allowance balances can be viewed on My Print Center.

  • When will the funds on my card be available?

Redbird Dollars: Funds are available immediately if deposited at the Redbird Card Office, any cash-to-card machine, or at the Cashier's Office. If you mail in a check the funds are available as soon as the check is received and deposited. Funds added through My Illinois State are available within 20 minutes of deposit.

Meal Plan & Flex Dollars: In the fall, Meal Plans & Flex Dollars are loaded the Monday before classes start. For spring, Meal Plans & Flex Dollars are loaded the Friday before classes start. Summer Meal Plans vary depending on the length of your housing contract and/or dining contract.

*Note: If you purchase a Meal Plan after the semester begins, the Meals & Flex will be prorated and will load on a schedule, not immediately after purchase.

  • What happens to the leftover balances at the end of a semester?

Any balance left over in the Redbird Account will remain in the account until you close your account or the balance is cleared via our inactive fee process (see below for more information on closing your account & account maintenance fees).

No refunds will be issued for unused meals. Unused Flex Dollars from the fall semester will roll over into a secondary "rollover" Flex account & Spring Flex Dollars will be loaded on to the primary Flex account if a Meal Plan is retained for the spring semester. No refunds will be issued for Flex Dollars at the end of the spring semester. For more information on the Meal Plan please see the Dining website.

  • What do I do if my Meal Plan or Flex Dollars run out before the end of the semester?

Funds cannot be added to the Meal Plan or Flex Accounts. Instead, funds are added to the Redbird Account. The system will automatically pull funds from the Redbird Account if the Meal Plan or Flex Accounts have a zero balance. The transaction should be seamless to the student; cashiers automatically apply the charge to the correct account.

Redbird Dollars may be used at any location on campus accepting the card. Please be aware there can be multiple accounts on the card (Meal Plans, Flex and Redbird Dollars) and the balances are not added together. For example, if there is $2 left in the Flex Account and $20 is added to the Redbird Dollars and student purchases an item for 50 cents, the balanced displayed will be $1.50. The card system displays the balance of the account from which the funds were removed. The Redbird Dollars balance will not be displayed until funds are removed from the account.

  • Are there any account maintenance or other service charges associated with the account?

No, not while the card is active and you are attending Illinois State University.

After leaving the University, if there is a balance left in the Redbird Account that is unclaimed after one semester, there is a $5 inactive fee charged per month. To avoid this fee, either request a refund when leaving or graduating, or be sure to respond to communication sent to you by the Redbird Card Office asking for address verification for the refund.

  • How do I close my account?

Redbird Account: You may not close your account or withdraw funds except at the end of the spring semester, when you graduate, or when you withdraw from the University. At that time, you should complete a Redbird Account Refund Request Form online. Amounts less than $5 will not be refunded. The funds are processed through Student Accounts. If you owe the University money, the funds will be applied towards what you owe. If not, you will receive a refund within a few weeks.

All other Accounts: For information on closing your Meal Plan or Flex Account please see the Dining website.

  • Will my Redbird Card work as a credit card or an ATM Card?

No. The Redbird Account is intended to be used only for purchases at on-campus locations, Potbelly (Normal), Redbird Spirit Shop on North Street, & Redbird Spirit Shop in the Bone Student Center. Cash withdrawals and off-campus purchases are not available.

  • What is an off-line charge?

Normally the card system software is on-line, which means when your card is swiped, the register sends the amount to the card system software, the funds are deducted from your account immediately, and a balance is sent back to the register. But if there is a power outage, or the system is having other problems and the registers cannot communicate with the card system software, the system will be off-line. When this happens, your transactions are stored and sent to the card system software at a later time.

If you do not have enough funds to cover the transactions that are later sent to the system, a negative is put onto your account in a special "bucket" called Plan 2. When you add more funds to your Redbird Account, this negative in Plan 2 is cleared against what you have added.