Articles

Which Peer-to-Peer Payment Apps Offer the Most Features?

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Picking up the tab can cost you, a recent MarketWatch story warned. Not only money, but friends.

One in five Americans with credit cards have picked up a tab for a group of friends, often to accumulate card company incentives (cash-back rewards, travel “miles” and bonuses). In a survey of more than 1,000 such adults, more than 40% said someone in the party did not pay them back

An unintended loss of funds and friendships.

Today, there are too many reliable, easy channels for a peer-to-peer money transfer to trust the old excuse, “I need to find an ATM.” From Venmo to Apple Wallet, smartphones and tablets today very nearly serve as wallets, and are just as likely to be on a person or in their handbag.

Whether chipping in for pizza or paying the balance on a home improvement project, there is, as we say, an app for that.

At Windstream, we celebrate the breakthrough in peer-to-peer payment apps and platforms, but navigating their utility, their ubiquity and the fine print is a learning curve.

Here’s our guide to the most prominent peer-to-peer payment apps.

Venmo

Venmo is the most social-media inspired payment platform. Friends’ accounts appear like Twitter handles, and the homepage is a news river of friends’ transactions gleaned from your Facebook account and your phone contacts. Users can “like” or comment on friends’ transactions, a feature more unsettling for baby boomers than digital natives, but the amount of the transaction isn’t shown, and if that doesn’t work for you still, you can go dark. 

How to pay someone with Venmo is no more complicated than making an online purchase. While you can confirm or verify (see below) a bank account, all you need to do is link a debit card (enter the digits). Paying someone then becomes a debit card transaction.

Receiving a peer-to-peer money transfer is the reverse. Funds come into a checking account by way of a debit card. If you use the platform enough, you might skip it and use the money directly from Venmo later.  

  • FEES - Venmo is free if an account is verified or a debit card linked to it, or if funds exist in Venmo. Using a credit card may carry a 3% fee.
  • LIMITS - A person whose bank account is verified or card linked may send up to $3,000 or more in a single transfer; for those without, the cap is $300.
  • TIME TO CLEAR - 1-2 days
  • FEATURES - Among the apps to send and receive money, Venmo is the most social media-modeled, and perhaps the most popular platform.

To verify a bank account, you may give the platform your username and password for online banking at your institution. If you won’t do that, you can “manually” verify an account by giving Venmo your account and routing numbers (as would appear on a paper check), and reporting back to the platform the two “microtransfer” deposits made. 

PayPal

PayPal, cofounded by Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, is the oldest and perhaps most familiar digital payment platform for many Americans. It was closely associated with eBay as far back as the early 2000’s. It owns Venmo.

Among peer-to-peer money transfer portals, it is the most like a consumer banking institution. The transfer limit is $10,000, and you can also send money internationally to anyone with an email or mobile phone number, in the process exchanging USD for more than 20 other global currencies including the euro and yuan. 

Its greatest strength is the institutional experience and trust that comes from more than two decades of online transactions. Its greatest weakness is its fees.

  • FEES - Free after PayPal has confirmed (verified) your account through a “microtransfer” reporting process. Otherwise each transaction carries a 2.9% fee on top of a flat $0.30 fee when using a debit or credit card. Outside of the U.S., there is a fee ranging from 0.5% to 2% for confirmed transfers or PayPal account savings, and a 3.4% or higher fee for debit and credit card-enabled transactions.
  • LIMITS - $10,000 per transaction
  • TIME TO CLEAR - 3-4 days
  • FEATURES - There’s no cap on transfers over a period of time for confirmed accounts, making it attractive for commercial players and business accounts.

Square Cash

Square, the company that made credit card transactions as likely for a street vendor as any mall tenant, brings you Square Cash, the personal payment service. It recently partnered with Snapchat, clearly positioning itself as an alternative to Venmo (and allowing users to make transactions over chat, like Facebook Messenger). Like other apps to send and receive money, all you need is an email and a checking account debit card. Where Venmo uses a Twitter-like handle, Square Cash uses “$cashtags.” Square Cash is basically account-less — it facilitates an exchange by way of your debit card, basically turning the recipient into a kind of merchant, who may or may not have a Square Cash account herself. 

  • FEES - Free for consumers, but for the business version of the service it’s a hefty 3% per transaction (comparable to American Express, well north of Visa and Mastercard).
  • LIMITS - $250 weekly for unconfirmed accounts, $2,500 for confirmed ones
  • TIME TO CLEAR - instantly for confirmed accounts, 1-2 days upon first linking a card. 
  • FEATURES - Square Cash first came online in 2013, making it one of the older peer-to-peer payment apps. In 2018, it adapted to accept bitcoin trading.

Facebook Messenger

For as popular as Facebook is, its free personal payment service in Messenger is comparatively under-used. Consider that, like other peer-to-peer payment apps, once you link a checking account debit card to Messenger you can send money by touching a small “$” icon in the app, enter an amount and send. Now consider that in the 2010s the most downloaded app on all smart phones was Facebook, followed closely by Facebook Messenger. The only hitch — the recipient must also have Facebook Messenger. Is that a tall order?

Two in every three Americans of all ages used Facebook by the end of 2018, joining another 2 billion globally. While the social network has taken some public relations hits in recent years, its ubiquity positions itself well for competing with peer-to-peer payment apps.

  • FEES - Free for consumers with a linked debit card.
  • LIMITS - Up to $3,000 in a single transfer, $10,000 over a week. 
  • TIME TO CLEAR - 1-3 days upon first linking a card. 
  • FEATURES - Facebook Messenger is available on all platforms including Blackberry phones. It has added PIN-number authentication for security concerns, and all Facebook users can add login approvals requiring authentication for access from new devices.

Apple Cash (formerly Pay Cash) / Google Pay (formerly Wallet)

Is it worth mentioning that both Apple and Android (Google’s mobile operating platform) offer personal payment services? Hmm, probably. These function in much the same way as previously described — establish an Apple or Google account, confirm a bank account, and send money to anyone with an email address. Here, though, you can make commercial transactions with participating merchants. You can also send money by text message! 

Apple Cash and Google Pay are aiming higher than peer-to-peer payment apps, as their names imply. Eventually they want their digital platforms to stand in for plastic cards and cash through contactless payment technology (a.k.a. “tap and pay” with Bluetooth technology). Already you can keep a balance and use it to make purchases and ATM withdrawals. 

  • FEES - Free for consumers under suggested conditions. 
  • LIMITS - Up to $10,000 in a single transfer. 
  • TIME TO CLEAR - 1-3 days 
  • FEATURES - Google Wallet really demands users link a verified bank account, otherwise the fee is 2.9% per debit card transaction (and credit cards are prohibited). Apple Cash doesn’t attach fees to support a debit card transaction. Meanwhile, Apple Cash requires authentication by Face ID, Touch ID or secure passcode. For either platform, voice-enabled AI (Siri and Google Assistant) can be guided to make a transaction.  

Finally, most major banks have their own transaction platforms meant to stand in for writing a check. Among them, Zelle has emerged as a leading provider for a number of the nation’s largest consumer banks, including U.S. Bank, Chase, Wells Fargo and Ally. (Bank of America uses clearXchange.) For Zelle and others, both the sender and recipient must enroll in Zelle through their bank account or with the Zelle app. Zelle transfers are free, though it recommends double-checking the bank’s own fine print.

Not only can Zelle users pay others, they can request payment as well. This may go a long way toward soothing the hard feelings created when friends loan friends money.  

In every case, peer-to-peer payment apps are mobile because we split the tab at dinner when we’re out. We need an anytime, anywhere solution to peer-to-peer money transfers. But of course, that solution arrives over the internet.