Snapcash, Venmo, Google Wallet and PayPal: Compare P2P money-transferring options

You may use your card for everything, but it’s not always the most elegant solution. Ever dined out with a large group only to find the restaurant won’t split the bill? Or been the one to cover the bill only to learn how easily people forget their promises to pay you back?

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Fortunately, a growing number of apps promise to replicate the process of handing a friend some cash for your share and save bill-footers the hassle of hounding their friends. Some of them even let you use credit cards.

We tried out four popular person-to-person (P2P) money-transferring services (Snapchat’s Snapcash, Venmo, Google Wallet and PayPal). Read on to decide which is best for you.

Note: Want to send money to someone who doesn’t have these services yet? No problem. Most will let you send the money to an email address or phone number. To get the money, the recipient will follow the prompts to download the service.


Snapcash

How to sign up: Snapcash is integrated into Snapchat (thanks to a partnership with Square). So if you have Snapchat, you have Snapcash.

In the “Settings” menu, find “Snapcash:”

Where to find Snapcash within snapchat

Then just fill in the required fields for linking your card.

How to send money: With a Snapchat conversation open, just type in a dollar sign followed by the amount of money you’d like to send to that friend. For example, if you want to send a dollar, type in “$1” like so:

Sending snapcash

Because it wouldn’t be Snapchat without an element of fun, you also have the option of typing in three dollar signs (“$$$”) to use the “Make it rain” feature – you’ll swipe your screen with your fingers to simulate sliding dollar bills off a big stack of cash.

I opted for the basic option, and the moment I tapped the green button, my recipient got a notification in the chat window:

Snapcash payment notification2

My recipient hadn’t set up a Square account and linked a card yet, so the money is in Snapcash limbo until he does. If he doesn’t link a card within 24 hours, I’ll get my dollar back.

Can you use a credit card? No. Debit only.

Fees: Snapcash charges no fees for sending or receiving money.

Pros/Cons:

Pros: Sending money is as easy as texting … or whatever else you use Snapchat for.

Cons: Until the recipient moves the money into a bank account, it’s useless; you can’t accrue a Snapcash balance and use it to pay other friends within the app.

Also, to send more than $250 in a seven-day period, you’ll need to verify your identity and provide your Social Security number.


Venmo

How to sign up: Download the app. If you allow it to do so, Venmo will search your contacts and Facebook profile for other users you know and generate a friends list. Within the “Settings” menu, select “Banks & Cards:”

Setting up Venmo

Then add accounts and cards.

How to send money: From the Home screen, tap the “$” icon and select which friend you’d like to send the money too. Then fill in the amount and what the money is for. I owed my friend a couple bucks for a grocery run, so I filled out the fields accordingly:

Venmo payment screen

My recipient got a notification seconds after I hit “Pay:”

Venmo alert payment received

Can you use a credit card? Yes, for a per-transaction fee.

Fees: None for bank accounts or debit cards; 3 percent fee for credit cards.

Pros/Cons:
Pros: Money sent via Venmo has a life, even if the recipient doesn’t want to deposit it in a bank account. It can stay in Venmo indefinitely and be used to pay other friends.

Cons: Venmo’s default settings are very public:

venmo default settings

That means the people you share money with and the reason you shared the money (if you provide one) will be visible to all your Venmo friends. That’s part of the fun – Venmo bills itself as a social money-sharing app, after all. You might even want to brag you sent someone money for your share of a Vail ski trip or give your friends a laugh: One friend in my feed had sent money to another for “Bad decisions and good memories,” while another had labeled a transaction, “Keep the change, ya filthy animal.” But if you do want to keep things a bit more private, you’ll have to remember to change the settings manually.

You’re also limited to sending only $300 at a time unless you verify your identity.


Google Wallet

How to sign up: Download the app, and sign in using your existing Google account, if you have one. If not, sign up for one. Within the “Settings” menu, select “Credit and debit cards” and link the cards you wish to add. You can adjust the virtual cards’ colors to make them easier to tell apart.

How to send money: You can do this from the home screen:

Sending money with google wallet

Then, select the recipient (you can send to any email address) and fill in the amount. Tap on the card name to the right to change which card you’re using and to display fee information:

Google Wallet transfer screen

As soon as I completed the transaction, my recipient’s phone dinged – an email had arrived, notifying him that he had yet another $1 from me. Recipients can cash out into a bank account, or keep the money in their Google Wallet balance.

Can you use a credit card? Yes, for a per-transaction fee.

Fees: None for debit cards. For credit cards, it’s either 3 percent or $0.30, whichever is higher.

Pros/cons:
Pros: Google requires you to set a PIN, which must be used before each transfer (it’s the only app we tested that had this as a default security setting). If you give the app use of your camera, you can also photograph your cards to add them to your wallet instead of manually entering all those numbers. The transaction minimum is rather high at $10,000.

For those who would rather not transfer their Google Wallet balance into a bank account, there are plenty of uses for that money (including on Google Play and in store).

Cons: Google Wallet has the highest hurdle for recipients to claim their money. Even for small transactions, recipients must verify their identity, including the last four digits of their Social Security number:
Google Wallet confirm identity


PayPal

How to sign up: Download the app, and sign into an existing PayPal account if you have one. Create an account if you don’t. Select the “Wallet” icon at the bottom of the screen to add cards and bank accounts. Virtual versions of the cards (and truncated account numbers) will appear in your PayPal wallet.

How to send money: Tap the “Transfer” icon at the bottom of the screen. Fill in the recipient (email address or phone number) and amount. On the next screen, select your various cards from your wallet to see the fees required:
Paypal fee for sending money

The money then rolls right into the recipient’s PayPal balance.

Can you use a credit card? Yes, for a per-transaction fee.

Fees: No fee if you use a bank account or PayPal balance. A fee of 3 percent plus $0.30 per debit or credit card transaction will be charged to the sender.

Pros/cons:
Pros: PayPal is old and familiar, compared to the other options above, so your intended recipient may be more likely to have it. Like Google Wallet, it allows you to photograph your cards instead of manually entering them. You can send up to $10,000 in a single transaction, if your account is verified (limits vary – and are lower – if the account is not verified).

The biggest advantage PayPal has is flexibility. Funds in your PayPal account have plenty of uses, even if you don’t want to redeem them into a bank account. You can shop at any of the various online outlets that take PayPal, donate to charity, pay other people and even pay in select stores and restaurants.

Cons: Unlike the other apps above, PayPal charges a fee for transferring money with a debit card.

Protect your privacy and security

All of these apps will ask for access to at least some of the following: Your phone’s camera, your contacts and your social media profiles. Giving that access can create a fuller, more streamlined experience, but read carefully before you simply tap “Accept” or “OK.” Venmo, for example, asked incessantly if it could post to my Facebook profile. Take time to read each app’s privacy policy carefully.

Also take advantage of security settings. If you can, set up passwords or PINs for each app (even though not all of them require it), and set a password for your device as well.

 
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