Food Accounts for Residents

Unlike most universities, UW-Madison does not offer prepaid meal plans. Instead, all food purchases in University Housing are entirely à la carte. That means you have the flexibility to eat what you want, when you want it, without restrictions or minimum purchases. You can decide how much you spend, choosing meals that fit your taste and budget.

We even let residents take food back to their rooms, although the beautiful seating areas and opportunities to eat with friends in our dining facilities might be too tempting to leave.

As an added benefit to living in the residence halls during the Academic Year, and because some overhead costs of Housing dining operations are included in residents’ quarterly bills, residents who use their Wiscard in Housing dining locations receive a 30% discount on prepared food and a 20% discount on pre-packaged food. (These discounts do not apply to Summer Term residents.)

In addition, all enrolled UW-Madison students are exempt from sales tax on food purchases when paying with Wiscard, saving you an additional 5.5% at most campus dining locations.


The Wiscard, your student ID, also serves as your primary way to pay for food in our dining markets, coffee shops, and convenience stores.

You can deposit funds onto your Wiscard online, by mail, by phone, or in person. Your purchases will be deducted from your Wiscard account at the register, and your account balance will be shown on the receipt. Residents spend an average of about $650 per semester on food, but you can spend as much or as little as you'd like.

Your Wiscard account can also be used to purchase other things on campus, such as laundry services, printing, textbooks, school supplies, course packets, and food at some other on-campus locations. If you plan to purchase textbooks, school supplies, or course packets, with your Wiscard, we recommend an additional $800 - $900 per semester to cover these expenses.


The Wiscard account automatically carries forward from semester to semester as long as students, faculty, and staff are enrolled or have a valid appointment at UW-Madison, or until a Close Account and Refund Form is submitted to the Wiscard Office. Any existing balance is automatically carried forward for future use.

Lost Wiscards

Losing a Wiscard should be handled with the same urgency as losing a credit or debit card. Immediately suspend the Wiscard, which will disable it at most locations across campus and not allow anyone else to use it. Wiscard users may also contact the Wiscard Office at 608-262-3258 to deactivate the card.

Contacting other campus organizations about the loss of a Wiscard, including the UW-Madison Police Department, Libraries, and Recreational Sports is strongly recommended. Deactivating a Wiscard will disable Housing residents’ access to their hall and floor. Residence hall desks may issue a loaner key/card to provide Housing residents temporary access to their hall, floor, and Housing dining locations for a period of four days.

A new Wiscard can be obtained at the Wiscard Office for a $25 charge. Housing residents must then have their building access restored at their hall’s desk.

Cash & Credit Card

Housing residents can also pay with cash or a credit card at Housing dining locations. However, these payment methods do not qualify for the 30% discount on prepared food and 20% discount on pre-packaged food for Housing residents. They also do not qualify for the student sales tax exemption.