Your days of struggling to split restaurant checks and utility bills, scrounging for change in your car, and desperately searching for an ATM are gone forever — thanks to Venmo.
Opened to the public in March 2012, and available for both iPhone and Android, this free app allows you to send money for free and cash out your balance to your bank account over a 256-bit encrypted connection.
It's easy, safe and can even make you a little bit of cash if you don't mind harassing your friends. Here's how to get started.
Opening your account
You can either connect your Facebook to your Venmo account, or sign up with your name, email address and number.
Once you do, it will ask you to verify your phone, which will bring up a text window. After you send the text, you'll be able to connect your credit or debit card. You can also connect your bank account if you want to deposit the balance you accrue, but it isn't required.
Then, Venmo will allow you to connect with contacts who've already downloaded the app, and you can invite your friends to join. This is where you can make money if you're willing to inundate a few friends with invitations.
If a friend you invited to join Venmo downloads the app, you'll get a notification. Once she makes her first transaction, you'll receive five dollars credited toward your Venmo balance. There's no limitation to what you can do with that money.
Using your account
Sending and receiving money on Venmo is fairly straightforward. In the top-right corner of your screen, you'll find a pen and paper icon. Tap it to pull up the payment and request form, and fill out the amount and details as necessary. A sliding button at the top of the screen will allow you to choose between a payment and a charge.
You can also send a group of people a charge or payment, if it's for the same amount of money. This is perfect for situations like evenly splitting the cost of a check among a group of people at the restaurant, or if you made and lost the same bet with a few different people.
One word of caution: You'll have to input your own decimals, so if you want to send someone a $15.25 payment, make sure you type 1-5-.-2-5, or else $1,525 might be charged to your card if your friend is desperate or shady enough to accept it.
Whether you receive a payment or a charge, you will have to approve any transaction sent your way. Venmo will not deposit money into your balance, nor withdraw money from your balance or charge your credit card without your approval. If someone who owes you money is slow to pay you back, you can send a reminder to spur some action.
However, you can "Trust" certain, well, trustworthy friends on Venmo, which will automatically process any charges sent between you and said friend. Just go to your friends list, find the person you want to Trust, send a request, and if he or she accepts it, you'll set up a obstacle-free pipeline between your accounts.
But what about fees? Unlike PayPal, you'll never be charged for receiving money. If you're sending money through a credit card to another user, you'll be charged 3% of the money you send. You won't be charged for sending money from your Venmo balance, your bank account and most debit cards.
Socializing on Venmo
Along with its simple payment and request system, Venmo connects users to a mini-social network built around the app's transactions. From the app's homescreen, you'll be able to scroll through three continuously updating tickers of charges: one of charges happening near you, one of charges your friends made and one of all of your charges.
The amount of money exchanged will be hidden, but you'll be able to see the memo attached to the payment and to whom the payment was sent.
Users can also "like" charges, just so your friends can let you know how much they approve of your late-night pizza run or that you actually paid your rent on time this month.
Don't want your friends keeping tabs on your transactions? Just make the payment or charge private, and no one will know any better.
Attaching your credit card and bank account to an app might sound risky, especially in a post-Heartbleed world, but Venmo goes through extensive processes to secure your sensitive data.
The company claims on its website that it uses "bank-grade security systems and data encryption" to protect you from unauthorized charges and theft of your personal information. It also guarantees all user funds against unauthorized transactions, and routinely has its security measures audited.
Venmo also allows you to stop a device from using your account if your phone was lost, stolen or if you suspect someone else is using your account.
Any combination of money and friends can get contentious, and Venmo is no exception. Here are a few tips to preserve your fiscal solvency and your relationships.
- If someone hasn't paid a charge you sent them, even after you sent a reminder, talk to them personally instead of inundating them with more reminders on the app. The former is more direct and successful, while the latter is inefficient and passive-aggressive.
- While you can theoretically take care of major payments on Venmo, it might be best to handle those the old-fashioned way. Don't complicate anything contractually binding with an app that's only been public for two years, when checks have been around for ages.
- Before you send someone a charge, agree on an amount beforehand. If you want to change it, talk to the person before you do. It's bad business to operate in bad faith — especially with your friends.
Tags: ANDROID, APPS, APPS AND SOFTWARE, BUSINESS, IPHONE, MOBILE, STARTUPS, Tech, VENMO, WORK & PLAY