At a Glance:
- Free Transfers
- Link to Bank
- Link to Credit Card
- Separate Account
Use it if: You want an easy way to send and receive transactions, especially if your friends and other people you know are primarily using it. It’s well optimized for mobile, and paying or requesting funds from someone is incredibly intuitive and simple. There are also the social features, which can feel voyeuristic if you aren’t expecting them. You can set the default to keep your transactions private, but this requires going into a different menu entirely. Most transactions are free, though you’ll pay a small fine for using a credit card.
When you use Venmo, you can immediately tell that it was built for mobile. Requesting or sending money takes seconds and only a couple taps. The team behind the app was clearly aware of how important it is to do one thing and do it well, rather than trying to weigh down the money transfer system with too many pointless bells and whistles.
And yet, the app has one odd giant bell/whistle that doesn’t seem to add much: its social timeline.
The social aspect, superficially, is what makes Venmo stand out compared to other money transfer apps, like its parent company’s flagship product, Paypal. Whenever you open the app, you can see what your Facebook friends have been paying for, according to the notes they added. Which also means they can see your payments. Personally, it feels sort of weird. When we think of the activities we’d like to share with our friends, “how we’re spending our money” ranks somewhere between “Googling which of these moles might be infected” and “which Youtube videos we stayed up way too late watching.” You can set any transaction to be private, but the app will default to broadcasting it unless you change that default in a menu.
None of this affects the actual performance of the app, which is great. You should absolutely use it, especially because your friends are likely already using it (be sure to set a PIN lock so no one grabs your phone and steals all your money). We just find it baffling that the social aspect exists at all. It feels like someone knew that “Paypal meets Facebook” would sound better in a pitch meeting than “Paypal optimized for mobile.” We suppose it can be fun coming up with goofy notes, but why tie that to something as personal as payment?
We were curious if anyone likes the social aspect, so we Googled it, and apparently, the CEO says the social features are the app’s “secret sauce,” because people will open the app just to check what their friends have been paying for. Maybe it’s a tween thing.
At the end of the day, it probably comes down to what your circle of friends is using. Just set the transactions to private or make sure your emoji game is pro level.