Traveling with a group — friends, extended family — makes for some of the best summer vacations. It can also make for some of the most complicated vacations when it comes to splitting the costs of dinners, museum admissions, rental homes and cars.
Digital wallets and peer-to-peer payment apps, however, are aiming to make it easy by allowing users to pay one another back without the need for cash or checks. Existing tools and those on the horizon — Apple, for instance, announced that with the upcoming iOS 11 upgrade, users will be able to make peer-to-peer payments through iPhone messages — are becoming a part of everyday life.
Yet using them is not as simple as downloading an app. There are a number of factors to consider, including that, in many cases, you are sharing your bank account information with a third party. Most of the tools are available only to users in the United States with U.S. bank accounts, although many of them differ in terms of functionality, security and privacy, and how long it takes to receive your money. Below, a guide.
Google’s payment service allows users to send and receive money through its Wallet app, via Gmail or on the web at wallet.google.com. To sign up, you need a Google account and a debit card. There is no charge for sending or receiving money. How quickly you receive money depends on whether your default payment method is a debit card (from minutes to 24 hours) or a bank account (up to three days). Google Wallet encrypts your financial information, but you can (and should) add a PIN to the app. Wallet also includes fraud protection that covers all verified unauthorized Google Wallet transactions in the United States.
Bottom line: Wallet’s protection against unauthorized transactions, plus the ability to set up a user PIN, make it a top choice for those who prioritize security.
In between posting photos of your dog and liking your sister’s latest video, you can pay your friends back for your share of that Airbnb rental. This year, Facebook introduced group payments through Messenger (it was previously available between two people). You can send or receive money if you add a debit card issued by a U.S. bank to your account. To pay or request money, open a group conversation, click on the dollar sign icon, select the people you want to send money to or request it from, enter the amount and hit “Request.” There is no fee to send or receive money. (It can take as long as five business days for your bank to make the money available.) For added security, select the option to require a password before sending money.
Bottom line: This service is best for regular users of the social network: You have to have a Facebook account, as does anyone you wish to pay.
With PayPal.Me you receive a personalized link that friends and family can use to send money (they must also have PayPal accounts). To get a link, create a PayPal account. If your PayPal.Me link is set up for “Friends & family,” you can receive money from people free of charge as long as they’re in the same country. The fees applied to sending money to people in other countries vary. Sending money to friends and family in the United States is free if you use your PayPal balance or bank account. If you use a credit or debit card, the fee is 2.9 percent of the transaction plus 30 cents. Your confidential information is encrypted.
Bottom line: This app is one of the few that allow you to send money to people in other countries. That said, if you want the money you receive (from anywhere) deposited into your bank account, there’s an added step that not all other payment apps require: You must transfer it to your bank from your PayPal account.
Square Cash, by Square, the credit card processing company, allows you to exchange money with friends and family in the United States. For personal payments sent from a credit card, the sender is charged a 3 percent fee; there is no fee for payments that are drawn from a bank account. Standard deposits appear the next business day (if you want funds instantly deposited to a bank account, there is a 1 percent fee). Alternatively, you can have your funds added to a free Visa debit card that is sent to you. Information is encrypted, and users can protect their accounts with fingerprint scanning or a passcode.
Bottom line: A sound option, particularly for those who prefer that the funds they receive end up on a debit card instead of in a bank (or for those who don’t have a bank account).
Owned by PayPal, Venmo is often associated with millennials, who use it to send money to one another and chronicle how and with whom they spent it in the app’s public feed (alongside coffee and pizza emojis). You can sign up through Facebook or with an email address, and then link your account to your bank or debit card. Sending money using a Venmo balance, bank account, debit or prepaid card is free. A 3 percent fee applies when you use a credit card. Your financial information is encrypted, and you can set up a PIN to use with its mobile app.
Bottom line: If you think privacy is overrated and like organizing your bills with beer emojis, this method is for you. (Note: Like PayPal, Venmo does not automatically deposit the funds into your bank account; you must transfer them through the app — an added step that not all payment apps require.)
This service is offered through the apps and websites of certain banks, including Chase, Bank of America and Capital One (a list of participating banks and credit unions can be found at zellepay.com/participating-banks-and-credit-unions). To use it, you must have a bank account in the United States. You will usually receive the money a few minutes after it is sent. (If your recipient does not have Zelle through his or her bank or credit union, transactions could take between one and three days.) Soon Zelle will be available as a stand-alone app as well.
Bottom line: Zelle will likely be your best bet if you care less about emojis and more about getting the money you’re owed deposited into your bank account — fast.