Never owe your friends or family money again. Use a mobile app to pay your friends instantly.
An empty wallet is no longer an excuse for not picking up your share of the restaurant tab. Peer-to-peer payment features (P2P) are built into many banking apps as well as Facebook, PayPal, iMessage and other tools that may already be lurking on your phone. And a growing number of other P2P apps are as near as your browser. Like many tech innovations, P2P apps were at first a nerdy oddity. But they’re rapidly moving into the mainstream. Transaction volume in the US alone is projected to reach as high as $86 billion by 2018.
What are P2P payment apps for?
P2P phone apps allow you can send money to somebody across the country, in another country or across the table from you at a restaurant.
Most of these apps are free, quick and easier than finding the right combination of bills or that elusive checkbook. They also keep a record showing what you paid — your half of the rent, gas, a bar tab or another shared expense.
How do I start using a payment app?
To get started with a P2P app, simply install the app on your phone and link it to your bank account or debit card. (Some apps allow for credit cards, but you could find yourself paying cash advance fees.)
Popular P2P payment apps
If you hold an account at a major US bank, you may already know about clearXchange. You can use this app to send and receive money to anyone with US bank account. All you need is the person’s email address or mobile phone number. And you’ll receive an email or text alert anytime somebody sends you payment through clearXchange.
Founded in 2013, Circle isn’t as widely known, but you can use it to send money to anyone in the world with an email address or mobile phone number. You link your Circle account to a debit card or bank account and send the money from a mobile app or a browser. There’s also a Circle for the iMessage app that lets you enclose money with your message.
Facebook also offers friend-to-friend payments. Through the Facebook Messenger app, you can tuck your funds into a message. Both you and your recipient will need to register your debit cards to send and receive money.
By signing up with Google Wallet, you can forget carrying cash and credit cards altogether. You’ll not only be able to make purchases in stores and online, but also send dollars and cents to your loved ones. To send money, both you and your recipient will need to be registered with Google Wallet.
An online payment giant, PayPal’s long been making it easy to pay merchants worldwide. But now with the P2P PayPal.Me, you can share a PayPal links for easy money transferring among friends or groups of friends.
As long as all parties own one of PayPal’s 190 million active accounts, you can request or receive payments by instant message, social media, text or email – all through your personalized PayPal.Me link.
Snapchat partnered with Square to develop Snapcash, a fast, fun way to send money to your friends. With Snapcash, you type an amount you want to send into into a Snapchat message and then tap a green Snapcash button.
If your friend’s Snapchat account is linked to a debit card, it’s money in the bank. If not, they have 24 hours to claim the the money before it bounces back to your account.
Possibly the most versatile P2P payment system is Square Cash, which lets you send money through its app or website, email, iMessage, Apple Watch, Siri or Snapcash. The best part: Your recipient needs only a US bank account.
Venmo isn’t just for paying up. Because it’s also a social media platform, you can use it for checking up — on who your friends are paying, what they’re paying for, and what they have to say about it. (Though you can set your payments to private if you don’t want the world to know.) The only caveat: You and your recipient both need Venmo accounts to begin exchanging money.
Your major US bank
At least two major banks have built payment features into their own banking apps.
Chase’s QuickPay works through the clearXchange network, so you can pay anyone with an account at any member bank, while Wells Fargo’s SurePay allows you to send money to anyone with a US bank account.
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Which app should I use?
To determine which app is best for your situation, first consider the app your friends and family use most often. You don’t necessarily need to all be using the same app — just one that’s compatible.
Look into the apps you may already have through your bank, social media or shopping. Compare how quickly and easily it is to transfer money among loved ones or businesses you deal with most often. And consider the security provisions, unique features, ease of use and other aspects that may appeal to you.
Frequently asked questions
How long does it take to send or receive money through P2P apps?
For most apps, the transfer is nearly instantaneous to your recipient’s P2P account. But it could take up to four days for your cash to pass through the system and into your recipient’s bank account.
Rather than collecting the money in their own account systems, some P2P apps deposit it directly into your friend’s bank account, providing quicker access.
Are P2P payments safe?
As we’ve learned, however, nothing attached the Internet comes is 100% safe.
Protect yourself by only sending money to people you know. Set up notifications that alert you each time there’s a transaction on your account. And use a PIN for each transaction.
How much does it cost to send money through a P2P service?
Most P2P transfers are free, but some providers charge either a flat fee or a percent of each transaction. Confirm how your P2P transactions work to avoid unpleasant surprises.