Venmo is a subsidiary of PayPal and does much the same task: It's a finance app for exchanging cash between friends or for online shopping. Venmo can be downloaded for free and linked to your bank account or debit card for easy money transfer and management. The app shines when you're synced with friends and family, as it elegantly circumvents the age-old clumsiness of IOUs or split bills at a restaurant. While Venmo is handy and intuitive, a small mistake can lose you money. Customer support for the app is spotty at best, and that can be a real problem when beset by inevitable user errors.
A mobile wallet that remembers your contacts
It's easy to manage money with Venmo, but it's even easier to misplace it.If you're familiar with PayPal, Venmo's layout and purpose will be intuitive. You can use it to shop online anywhere Mastercard is accepted or in mobile apps without the hassle of reaching for your credit card. Since Venmo is not a credit card you won't even have to pay an annual fee, which is a nice added perk. You can use it to buy from your favorite online stores, checking out without needing to open your wallet or hunt through your purse. Millions of retailers on mobile allow for Venmo, making it an easy one-stop shop for all your cashless transactions.
Transactions you make over Venmo are all recorded in the app, which lets you keep close tabs on your finances and purchase history. Similarly, it takes note of unpaid transactions, such as people who owe you money, or vice versa. When everything's squared away you can then transfer money from Venmo directly into your bank account. Unless, that is, something goes wrong. Venmo does monitor account activity in the event that you need to identify an unauthorized transaction, and uses encryption to help protect your account information. Even so, safeguards feel flimsy and Venmo's connection to your account may well cause you issues:
Transferring funds from your Venmo app may freeze your bank account, and then you'll have to rely on the app's poor customer service. It's easy to manage money with Venmo, but it's even easier to misplace it. Venmo offers limited phone support, and should a problem arise with a transfer, you could be waiting 3-5 days for a response. All the while your money is sitting in a frozen account, inaccessible.
The silver lining on this glaring flaw is that, while you may run into problems accessing money in your account, the app's security is formidable and your funds are secure from third parties and hackers. Venmo uses security measures to protect your account information, and you always have the option to pull the plug via the app's security settings, toggling an option to prevent your phone from accessing your account. The app also recommends adding additional layers of security to your Venmo account, such as multifactor authentication or PIN codes.
Where can you run this program?
Venmo can be installed for free on iOS or Android devices. Alternatively, you can access your account online.
Is there a better alternative?
PayPal owns Venmo, so both products work very similarly: The money you transfer to someone is taken from your available balance or bank account, or your linked debit or credit card. The difference between the two apps is that PayPal is more ubiquitous, available internationally and on nearly every paysite with a couple of quick clicks. Venmo, on the other hand, is the better choice if you want to make a small one-time payment to another person. If you're trying to pay rent, purchase movie tickets, or split the bill for a quick pizza order, Venmo is painless, intuitive, and direct. The app also makes transfers faster than PayPal, and dodges the small sales fee.
If you're looking for an overall solid mobile wallet, however, PayPal is still your better alternative. It lets you file disputes when selling or buying products from independent sellers, and offers superior fraud protection. If you don't like PayPal but still harbor concerns about using Venmo, you can benefit from trying an app like Zelle, Circle Pay, or Square Cash App, all of which work in a similar fashion. You can even use the Facebook Messenger app. The UI for these apps is not as catered towards simple direct transactions, however, and is lacking in the more social aspect of splitting funds.
It's in this regard that Venmo stands out from the crowd: When you send or receive payments from other people, you can include a note saying what the payment is for. The note can be something simple like 'group lunch yesterday' or 'February rent,' or you can leave a longer message if you owe money for separate purchases. You can also use Venmo to like and comment on a friend's purchases, putting a particular brand front and center. It's a neat little feature for when you're trying to agree on something like a specific event, hotel room, restaurant, or birthday present.
Venmo is an excellent choice for small friend-to-friend transactions.
If you draw the line there, then it's a fine app. Initiate only transactions with people you trust, and you'll reduce the risk of being scammed. Once you make a connection to a seller you're committed, build a network of sources you trust. Be wary of buying products from unauthorized merchants. This extends to purchasing items such as concert tickets or clothing.
Should you download it?
Yes. While not the best catch-all mobile wallet, Venmo has a place in online transactions. The app is free, so you have nothing to lose in downloading it. It's intuitive to pick up, and will make your next collaborative purchase stress-free. Just triple-check that you trust the source!