Cash cab teaches financial literacy with free rides and prizes


Dylan Mescher

The Office of Student Financial Success drove a “cash cab” to provide rides to students in exchange for answering trivia questions April 26.

Students tested their financial literacy knowledge while earning free rides across campus during a cash cab event Wednesday afternoon.

During the event, the Office of Student Financial Success offered students a ride in a golf cart to a destination of their choice in exchange for answering trivia questions about personal finance. However, students risked getting “kicked out” in the middle of their journey if they answered three questions incorrectly.

The Office of Student Financial Success hosts events throughout April each year for National Financial Literacy Month.

Clare Andresen, one of the cash cab drivers and a financial aid adviser at Iowa State, said the cash cab has been part of their event lineup for several years.

“It’s just kind of a fun way to promote our office and promote financial literacy on campus,” Andresen said.

The event is based on the early 2000s Cash Cab game show hosted by stand-up comedian Benjamin Bailey. In the original game show, Bailey drove an ordinary-looking cab through New York, offering unsuspecting people the chance to earn money for answering trivia questions.

Iowa State’s rendition of the cash cab offered candy and coupons to Barefoot Outfitters as smaller prizes for students who answered fewer questions correctly. Gift certificates to local businesses, such as Freddy’s and the North Grand Cinema, were offered as larger prizes.

Josh Duarte, a senior studying political science and Spanish, won a gift certificate to a local escape room for correctly answering five out of five questions.

The number of questions students received depended on the length of their ride. Andresen said they would start students off with questions their staff deemed as easier before moving on to tougher topics.

A question many people answered incorrectly was a true-false question on whether or not a person can have a negative net worth.

“That’s one we thought was pretty easy, but a lot of people got wrong,” Andresen said. “We explained that net worth is assets minus debt, so if you have a lot of debts, you could have a negative worth.”

Another common misconception Andresen heard during the event was ‘people who do not earn much money do not need to budget.’

“It’s kinda the opposite,” Andresen said. “Those are the people who need to budget the most just because they have more limited resources.”

Some of Duarte’s questions asked him to define a debit card or to name the form students fill out to receive financial aid. He said he would like to see harder questions in the future but enjoyed the experience.

“You get a free ride, and you get a gift certificate if you get some right,” Duarte said. “I think people are nervous to do it, but it’s really not that bad. It’s pretty fun.”

Andresen said a majority of the students they reached out to turned down their offers. However, she is happy that the people who agreed to participate enjoyed the ride and learned something new.

“The better Iowa State students can manage their money, the less student debt they have to borrow, which is a goal of our office,” Andresen said. “By learning about budgeting and savings, they can do more to be able to pay more of their expenses out of pocket and not have to use student loans.”

A list of additional financial literacy events and resources can be found on the Office of Student Financial Success website.