Splitting the tab after a group meal

50 Ways to Pay Your Lover (P2P Payments Comparison)

Mobile P2P payments in the US from 2013 to 2018 (copyright Statista.com)
2014 US P2P payments forecast through 2018 (copyright Statista.com)

With new services and mobile apps using P2P payments (and apologies to Paul Simon), paying your lover or your friends has never been easier. But be careful – sending digital cash can ruin your relationships in many ways.

You just whip out the Zelle, Giselle.
Make a new PayPal, Sal.
Or try Circle Pay, Ray.
Just Venmo me, it’s free.

P2P Payments

Person-to-Person or Peer-to-Peer (P2P) payments make it easy to transfer cash digitally.  A survey by The Manifest noted that the largest group of P2P users, millennials, often split a restaurant tab among a group of friends using P2P payments. Many pay rent or purchase products using P2P payment services like Venmo, Cash App, or Zelle.  As with “Google it,” the phrase “Just Venmo me” is synonymous with sending digital cash. According to pymnts.com, P2P payments are growing quickly.  Statista.com reported a 2014 forecast of double digit growth from 2015 to 2018 (see figure right), but Payments.com reported triple-digit actual growth for Bank of America, one of the banks partnered with Zelle to integrate the service into their mobile apps and websites.

Fast and Free

P2P payments are nearly instant when transferred to a bank account or through a debit card.  However, some services and some banks don’t process transactions as quickly.  Most services allow you to send cash to your friend’s mobile number or email address, so you don’t have to exchange bank account or debit card information or use checks.  Market leader PayPal lets you send payments via Android Pay, Facebook, and Samsung Pay, as well as messenging tools like Skype, Slack, and more.  There is some evidence that P2P services are one of the major reasons for the declining use of checks.

It’s usually free to transfer from a bank or debit card, but the services use different ways of making money.  Some make money on the interest from the money in transit by delaying the payment.  Others sell ads that are displayed in their apps.  Some offer the ability to send cash from a credit card, which can cost the sender a cash advance fee and potentially higher interest rates. So it’s important to know the costs.

Hey Google, Alexa or Siri, Send Cash to…

Voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google Assistant, and Samsung’s Bixby make sending payments even easier.  The growth of voice payments mirrors that of P2P payments themselves.  Siri can send payments through Apple Pay, Cash App, PayPal and Venmo, not to mention banks in Canada, Germany and UK.  Google Assistant integrates with Google Pay.  Amazon is reportedly developing its own P2P service which would surely work with Alexa, but Alexa can already send cash through large banks like Ally, Capitol One, TD Bank and USAA.  Companies are working to address concerns around voice authentication, but early adopters like USAA are using Daon’s IdentityX tool to provide multiple biometric authentication methods (face and voice recognition).

Only for Those You Trust

Users enjoy not needing to carry cash or exchanging bank account or debit card information.  But there’s a dark side to all this P2P payments joy: scams.  Many forget that sending cash digitally is still sending cash.  Once you give it away, it’s impossible to get back, even if you used an FDIC-insured bank, like those who back Zelle. That’s why most P2P payments providers make it clear that you should only send cash to those you trust.  Sellers suffer when buyers reverse P2P payments after receiving the goods. Buyers often get no help after paying for concert tickets on Craiglist but not receiving them. The Better Business Bureau, Facebook, the FTC, and many others provide guides to avoid being scammed using P2P payment services.

Check the Terms and Default Settings

Venmo’s User Agreement states:

VENMO SHOULD ONLY BE USED TO PAY OR ACCEPT PAYMENT FROM PEOPLE YOU KNOW AND TRUST. DO NOT USE VENMO TO TRANSACT WITH PEOPLE YOU DON’T KNOW, ESPECIALLY IF THE PAYMENT INVOLVES THE PURCHASE OR SALE OF A GOOD OR SERVICE. THIS IS CONSIDERED A PROBHIBITED BUSINESS TRANSACTION AND IS NOT PERMITTED UNDER THIS AGREEMENT.

Venmo users may also want to change the privacy settings.  By default, Venmo provides information about transactions to the public.  As a result, websites like Vicemo show “who’s buying drugs, booze, and sex on Venmo.”  The Public By Default website uses redacted examples from 5 unsuspecting couples to illustrate how Venmo’s data can be used and how to protect it.

Are P2P Payments Secure?

Many P2P payment users worry about giving direct access to their bank accounts to a 3rd party.  Most P2P payment services use bank-level encryption to protect information.  Many use use a PIN code, fingerprint or two-factor authentication to limit access to the mobile app.  Most confirm transactions with text and / or email messages.  With Apple Pay, senders must confirm each payment before it’s sent.  With PopMoney, receivers must enter a PIN before they receive payments. Since sending cash is final, users worry about making sure the right person receives it.  Choosing a contact from your contact lists helps services like Apple Pay, Circle Pay, and Google Pay Send.  But anyone can spoof your friend to request money on Facebook Message.  It’s easy to type the wrong phone number using Cash App, PopMoney, Venmo, Walmart Moneycard and Zelle.  You can reduce these risks by copying and pasting from contact lists and using transaction limits, notifications and confirmation, and by following MalwareBytes’ “10 tips to secure your mobile payment app.”

And Finally, the List

Here are the 50 ways (including 11 + 39 banks that use Zelle), along with information on how to identify the recipient, methods of payment, processing time, cost, and OPM ratings on security, privacy and fraud protection.  Only PayPal protects against fraud – and only if the purchase was online (e.g. buying concert tickets on Craigslist).

#P2P ServiceRecipient IDPay MethodsProcessing Time (days)Costs (bank or debit / credit)SecurityPrivacyFraud ProtectionApps
1Apple Pay CashiMessagedebit, credit1-3free / 3%StrongStrongNone

n/a

2Circle Paymobile, iMessage, WhatsAppbank, debit0free / n/aStrongStrongNone
Circle Pay
Price: Free
3Facebook MessengerFB messengerdebit, PayPal1-3free / n/aGoodStrongNone
Messenger
Price: Free
4Google Pay Sendemail, mobile, iMessagedebit, credit0-3free / 2.9% + .30Good?"Unauthorized"
Google Pay
Price: Free
Google Pay
Price: Free
5Green Dotmobile, emailGreen Dot, PayPal0free / n/aFairStrongNone
6PayPalemail, PayPal.mebank, debit, credit1-2free / 2.9% + .30GoodStrongOnline purchase
PayPal: Mobile Cash
Price: Free
7PopMoneymobile, emailbank (ACH)1-3$.95 (send or request)Good?None
Popmoney
Price: Free
Popmoney
Price: Free
8Square Cashmobile, email, cashtagdebit, credit1-2free / 3%FairStrongNone
Cash App
Price: Free
Cash App
Price: Free
9Venmomobile, emaildebit, credit0-1free or $.25 / 2.9%FairWeakNone
10Walmart Moneycardmobile, emailMoneycard, PayPal, Green Dot0free / n/a ($5/month)FairStrongNone
Walmart MoneyCard
Price: Free
Walmart MoneyCard
Price: Free
11Zellemobile, emailbank, debit0-1free / n/aFairStrongNone
Zelle
Price: Free
Zelle
Price: Free

Not Included

The list doesn’t include:

  • Expensive and inconvenient services: Walmart Pay / Walmart-2-Walmart
  • Services without sufficient information: Visa Direct
  • Non-US services like:
    • Australia: Beem It
    • Canada: RBC
    • China: Alipay, WeChat Wallet
    • EU: Bunq.me
    • India: WhatsApp, Paytm, Google Tez, FreeCharge, MobiKwik, PayU
    • France: Paylib
    • Germany: N26
    • Russia: SBP
    • UK: Monzo, Near Me, Nearby Friends
  • Services focused on international transfers: Moneygram, OFX, TransferWise, Walmart Express Money Services, Western Union, Xoom

With so many ways to pay your lover and friends, you should be able to find one in the list that fits your needs. Just make sure to check the terms before using P2P payments for something other than sending digital cash to those you trust.

Photo by MattHurst

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