Venmo Review: How Does It Work and How Safe Is It?

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Venmo makes it easy to send money to someone else in a snap using your mobile device. Using the PayPal-owned app, you can send payments to split rent, restaurant tabs, cab fares and more.

It’s also got stiff competition from several other p2p payment apps on the market today. We’ll explain how sending money via Venmo works — and how to do it safely — in this review. Fees and pricing in this piece are accurate as the date of publishing.

What is Venmo?

Venmo was created in 2009 by two former college roommates looking for an easier way to exchange money. In 2013, PayPal bought the app and expanded the product offering. Now you can use it to pay back friends, and select merchants accept it as a payment option.

Although it’s a go-to P2P payment option for many, Venmo has had its fair share of bad press because of its limited user protections. In this post, we’ll dig into app safety concerns, how to protect yourself from scams and how it stacks up against other P2P payment apps.

How Venmo works

To get started, you have to sign up for an account. You can do this through the app website or through the mobile app. One unique feature that sets it apart is the social media news feed, which shows the transactions of you and your friends. If you prefer not to broadcast transactions, you have the option to turn off posting.

How to send money

There’s no need to add money to your Venmo balance to start sending money. Instead, you link a bank account, credit card or debit card to your account. Money comes from your funding source, unless you have sufficient funds in your Venmo balance to cover the entire payment. You transfer money using someone’s email address or phone number. If the recipient doesn’t have a Venmo account, they’re considered a “new user.” The “new user” needs to create an account to accept the money. You can cancel the payment if the receiver doesn’t want to accept money.

How to receive money

If you have a Venmo account, money will appear in your account balance when someone sends you money. You can leave money in your balance or transfer cash to another account. You cannot transfer cash to a credit card; you have to transfer to an eligible debit card or bank account.

How long it takes to transfer money to a bank or debit card
There are two ways to get money from your balance — via instant transfer or standard transfer.

  • Instant transfers go to your eligible Visa or Mastercard debit card account within 30 minutes. The fee for instant transfer is $0.25.
  • Standard transfers go to your verified checking account through the ACH network. This transfer can take one to three business days but is completely free.

Venmo fees and fine print

You can use the app for free, for the most part. There are only two fees to worry about. You’ll get hit with a 3% fee if you use a credit card to transfer money to someone. Fortunately, the credit card fee doesn’t apply when you make credit card purchases at authorized merchants. There’s also the $0.25 fee for instant transfer if you want to get money from your Venmo balance right away — of course, this is an optional fee.

How Venmo makes money

One way the company makes money is to charge merchants a percentage when customers use it as a shopping payment option. There’s also the 3% fee when users make P2P payments with their credit card, and the $0.25 fee for instant bank transfers from your balance.

Sending and receiving limits

Until your identity has been verified by Venmo, you have a maximum of up to $299.99 per week to make purchases and payments, and only $999.99 per week can be sent to you bank account. However, once confirmed, you can send a maximum of $4,999.99 weekly in combined payments to friends and authorized merchants. You’ll be able to transfer a maximum of $19,999.99 per week to you bank account, and at most $2,999.99 at any one time.

Other limitations

You must be physically in the U.S. with a U.S. mobile phone to use the app. You need a U.S. bank account to deposit funds from your balance, and a U.S. credit card, debit card or bank account to send funds.

Venmo safety

P2P payment apps are generally safe to use when you’re sending and receiving money from people you trust. Venmo protects your information with data encryption. If you lose your phone, you can log out of the app on the website to minimize the risk of fraudulent transactions.

Fraud protection: What Venmo does and does not cover

Venmo offers 100% protection for unauthorized transactions with some limitations. Unauthorized transactions are characterized as transactions “that you did not authorize and that did not benefit you.”

An example of this is if someone gains access to your account with your password and starts transferring funds. However, you do not qualify for protection if you willingly give someone access to your account and they make transactions without your permission.

Other errors that could qualify for Venmo protection include:

  • If you send an amount and the company debits a different amount
  • If you receive a payment and an incorrect amount is deposited into your account
  • If a transaction doesn’t appear properly on your statement
  • If there’s a math error made by the company

In order to qualify for 100% protection, you must report the unauthorized transaction within 60 days of its appearance on your account. Venmo suggests you regularly review your statements and report unauthorized transactions promptly.

Interestingly enough, instances of people hacking into accounts to transfer funds without your knowledge isn’t the fraud that’s thrown the app into the spotlight.

Early in 2018, the Federal Trade Commission settled a case with Venmo, which concluded that the company didn’t properly disclose to users that money credited to their balance were still under review and could be reversed or frozen. This led to scam transactions where fraudsters would use shady funds to buy items using the app. The seller would hand over the product when money showed up in their account balance only for the transaction to be reversed after review. The buyer would get a free product out of the deal and the seller would leave empty-handed.

In one scenario, a seller handed a pair of $13,550 Zebra Yeezys over to a buyer, only for the five-figure transaction to disappear. The FTC settlement required that the company update terms and properly disclose transaction review practices.

How use Venmo safely

To avoid getting scammed by someone through Venmo, you must only initiate transactions with people you trust.

Do not sell items on this app. You don’t know where the money is coming from to fund the buyer’s account, and if they’ve stolen a credit or debit card, the transaction can be reversed and you will not get the money.

You should also be weary of buying a product unless it’s from an authorized merchant. Do not buy items like concert tickets, clothing or electronics through the app unless you know the person. There are no buyer protections if you send money and the product ends up being faulty. Venmo does allow you to make purchases from certain approved merchants. If approved, the Venmo payment option will appear when you checkout.

Venmo vs. other person-to-person payment networks

Here’s how the app stacks up against the competition as far as transfer speed, fees and security.

Venmo vs. Paypal

 

Transfer speed

Faster transfer?

Credit card fees

Other fees

Fraud protection?

Venmo

1 to 3 days

$0.25 per instant transfer

3% fee, except for authorized merchants

None

Unauthorized transfers covered protection if verifiable and reported within 60 days; Authorized merchant payments may be eligible for protection

PayPal

1 to 4 days

$0.25 per instant transfer

2.9% + $0.30 fee in the U.S.

Sellers pay a 2.9% + $0.30 per sale

Yes, when payments are made for goods and services

PayPal owns Venmo, so there’s a good chance you’re wondering what the difference is between the two. The PayPal process is similar to Venmo. When using PayPal, the money you transfer to someone is taken from your PayPal balance or the bank account, debit card or credit card linked to the account.

Unlike Venmo, however, PayPal is a service that can be used around the world, and there are protections for buyers who do business with independent sellers.

Fees. At PayPal, there’s a 2.9% transaction fee and a $0.30 fixed fee for U.S. credit card and certain debit card transactions. The cost may be a bit higher when sending money outside of the country; you can review the full fee table here. Accepting cash from friends and family is free. Like Venmo, PayPal has the $0.25 instant transfer option for eligible accounts.

Network reach. PayPal can be used internationally, whereas Venmo can only be used stateside.

Payment types. The payment options — sending from account balance, bank account, debit card or credit card — are the same with both PayPal and Venmo.

Speed. PayPal and Venmo have the same transfer speeds. There’s the 30-minute instant transfer for eligible accounts, while regular ACH transfers from your PayPal or Venmo balance can take one to three days.

Safety. The Buyer and Seller Protections are what makes the big difference here. PayPal lets you file disputes when you sell or buy products from independent sellers. PayPal is a safer platform to use when performing one-off sales transactions. You can review the protections in detail here.

Venmo vs. Zelle

 

Transfer speed

Faster transfer?

Credit card fees

Other fees

Fraud protection?

Venmo

1 to 3 days

$0.25 per instant transfer

3% fee, except for authorized merchants

None

Unauthorized transfers covered protection if verifiable and reported within 60 days; Authorized merchant payments may be eligible for protection

Zelle

1 to 3 days for non-enrollees

Free transfers within minutes for current enrollees

None

None

There is no buyer or seller protection program; Users are protected from unauthorized activity

Zelle is an online P2P payment banking feature offered by a network of major banks and credit unions, including Ally, Bank of America, Citibank, Citizens Bank and Wells Fargo. The sleek interface and instant transfer capabilities of Zelle is the bank network’s answer to P2P services like Venmo.

Read our full Zelle review here

Fees. Zelle has no fees. However, Zelle says you should check to make sure your bank doesn’t charge any fees to use the service.

Network reach. At time of publishing, more than 100 banks and credit unions are part of the Zelle network. You can see if your financial institution participates here.

Payment types. You need the recipient’s mobile number or email to send money through Zelle. The transfer happens from bank account to bank account when both parties have the Zelle feature through their bank. If the person receiving money doesn’t have Zelle, they can sign up upon receipt of funds and deposit the money using an eligible debit card.

Speed. Zelle and Venmo are comparable in terms of speed. They both have instant transfer capabilities and it can take as long as one to three days to withdrawal depending on whether or not the recipient is enrolled in the app.

Safety. Neither Zelle or Venmo offer protections for buying and selling — both services even implicitly say you shouldn’t be using either app for transactions with people you don’t know (unless, in Venmo’s case, it’s with an approved merchant). Like Venmo, Zelle does offer some coverage for unauthorized purchases.

Venmo vs. Google Pay Send

 

Transfer speed

Faster transfer?

Credit card fees

Other fees

Fraud protection?

Venmo

1 to 3 days

$0.25 per instant transfer

3% fee, except for authorized merchants

None

Unauthorized transfers covered protection if verifiable and reported within 60 days; Authorized merchant payments may be eligible for protection

Google Pay Send

2 to 3 days

Instant when using a debit card

Cannot use credit cards or prepaid cards

None

100% Fraud Protection covers unauthorized purchases from your account

Google Pay Send is a P2P payment app that’s part of Google Pay. Google Pay was rebranded back in February, and now combines all of the features of Android Pay and Google Wallet in one place. You can use Google Pay Send to send money to friends and family using their name, email address or phone number.

Fees. This service has no fees.

Network reach. Like Venmo, you can use Google Pay Send on desktop or through mobile.

Payment types. Credit card, prepaid card and PayPal accounts cannot be used with Google Pay Send. You have to use a debit card or bank account. Although there’s a 3% fee, Venmo does let you use a credit card.

Speed. Google Pay Send debit card transfers can happen within minutes similar to Venmo’s instant transfer feature. However, it could take up to 24 hours depending on your bank. Bank account transfers can take up to three business days.

Safety. Google Pay offers 100% coverage for unauthorized transactions made on your account, which is pretty much the same protection as Venmo. You have to report the unauthorized purchases on your account within 120 days. When using this app, you’re still dissuaded from sending or receiving money from people you don’t know. This app is for person-to-person transactions with people you trust.

Venmo vs. Popmoney

 

Transfer speed

Faster transfer?

Credit card fees

Other fees

Fraud protection?

Venmo

1 to 3 days

$0.25 per instant transfer

3% fee, except for authorized merchants

None

Unauthorized transfers covered protection if verifiable and reported within 60 days; Authorized merchant payments may be eligible for protection

Popmoney

1 to 3 days

No

Does not accept credit cards

Free to receive money or pay a request;
$0.95 to send or request funds

Varies by state; limited liability for unauthorized purchases if you notify Popmoney of lost or stolen password immediately

Popmoney is a P2P payment feature offered by participating banks like Zelle. Cash gets deposited directly into your bank account. You can send money with Popmoney using someone’s email address, phone number or bank account information.

Fees. Venmo is free, whereas Popmoney costs $0.95 to send or request money. When requesting money, you do have the option to transfer the fee to the person sending.

Network reach. About 2,500 financial institutions offer Popmoney; check if your bank or credit union participates here. You don’t need to have Popmoney through your bank to use the system. You can transfer money through the Popmoney website as well.

Payment types. You can use an eligible bank account or debit card.

Speed. Popmoney doesn’t have an instant transfer option, so Venmo could get money moved faster. You’ll have to wait one to three days for the bank transfer to occur.

Safety. Popmoney is another P2P payment service that doesn’t provide customers much coverage. Popmoney is solely for P2P payments, and it’s likely most convenient to use when both the sender and receiver have a bank account from a participating financial institution.

Venmo vs. Square Cash App

 

Transfer speed

Faster transfer?

Credit card fees

Other fees

Fraud protection?

Venmo

1 to 3 days

$0.25 per instant transfer

3% fee, except for authorized merchant

None

Unauthorized transfers covered protection if verifiable and reported within 60 days; Authorized merchant payments may be eligible for protection

Square Cash App

1 to 3 days

1.5% fee for instant deposit

3% fee

Sellers pay a 2.75% fee for each swipe

Coverage for unauthorized transactions made from your account; Chargeback protection for sellers who sign up for the Point of Sale app

Square Cash, otherwise known as the Cash app, was built by Square, Inc. and is edging on Venmo in terms of popularity. The Cash app may even be favored for those who value privacy and dislike the news feed aspect of Venmo. Like Venmo, money can be sent using your Cash app account balance, debit card or credit card.

Fees. There are some fees to watch out for here. The standard deposit is always free. The instant deposit fee is 1.5% and the credit card fee is 3%. It could be significantly more expensive to do the instant deposit with the Cash App compared to Venmo.

Network reach. The Cash app isn’t available in U.S. territories, only in the 50 states. You can’t use the app abroad or on military bases.

Payment types. Cash app users can make payments with a debit card, credit card or their Cash app balance.

Speed. The speed of deposit here is the same for Cash app and Venmo.

Safety. The security of the Cash app is on par with other P2P payment apps. There’s authentication security steps in place to verify your identity when transfering money. There’s also a bit of coverage for unauthorized payments from your account, as long as you notify them promptly. However, this is another P2P app that you shouldn’t be using to buy and sell products, because there aren’t buyer or seller protections. Sellers should consider signing up for Square Point of Sale instead. The Square Point of Sale app is free (you get charged per transaction) and there’s chargeback coverage of up to $250 per month.

Venmo vs. Circle Pay

 

Transfer speed

Faster transfer?

Credit card fees

Other fees

Fraud protection?

Venmo

1 to 3 days

$0.25 per instant transfer

3% fee, except for authorized merchants

None

Unauthorized transfers covered protection if verifiable and reported within 60 days; Authorized merchant payments may be eligible for protection

Circle Pay

1 to 4 days

Instant when using a linked debit card

Does not accept credit cards

None

Certain unauthorized transactions may be eligible for reimbursement must report within 60 days

Founded in 2013, Circle Pay is a payment app that can be used internationally. Money can be transferred in U.S. dollars, British pounds and euros without fees or a markup. In addition to the payment app, Circle offers Circle Invest and Circle Trade, for investing and trading cryptocurrencies.

Fees. There’s no fee to use Circle Pay. However, your credit card company may charge a fee for a cash advance if you use it to transfer money. Credit cards can no longer be newly linked to Circle Pay, but you can still use an existing credit card previously linked to your account.

Network reach. Circle Pay is one of few apps you can use to send money internationally. The exchange rate is a factor to consider whenever making transfers — however, when looking just at fees alone, Circle Pay could be cheaper than PayPal.

Payment types. You can use a debit card or bank account to make payments. Circle Pay no longer accepts credit cards.

Speed. Transfering money out of your Circle Pay account can happen instantly when you use a debit card. It can take one to four business days for your bank account transactions to go through and possibly longer during holidays.

Safety. Circle Pay has encryption and other security measures to protect your account. Circle Pay may reimburse you for unauthorized transactions from your account. You have to notify Circle Pay of the unauthorized transactions within 60 days.

Venmo vs. Facebook Messenger

 

Transfer speed

Faster transfer?

Credit card fees

Other fees

Fraud protection?

Venmo

1 to 3 days

$0.25 per instant transfer

3% fee, except for authorized merchants

None

Unauthorized transfers covered protection if verifiable and reported within 60 days; Authorized merchant payments may be eligible for protection

Facebook Messenger

Up to 5 days

No

Does not accept credit cards

None

Facebook is not liable for payments via Messenger

Facebook Messenger offers P2P payment capabilities right in the app. The feature rolled out in 2015 and is easy to use. You hit the dollar sign within the app and type in the amount you want to send.

Fees. Sending money through Facebook Messenger is free.

Network reach. The Facebook Messenger payment app is used primarily in the U.S., but you can also use it in France and the U.K. However, you can’t send money from one country to another — it has to be within the same country.

Payment types. Money can be sent using a debit card or PayPal account.

Speed. Venmo definitely has the speed in this head-to-head comparison. Facebook Messenger can take up to five days depending on your bank when Venmo transfers can happen instantly for a very small fee.

Safety. Facebook is meant to be solely peer-to-peer transfer. It shouldn’t be used for commercial use; if it is, Facebook could turn off your payment app. Facebook makes it clear that they take no responsibility for your transactions. All disputes are between you and the sender or recipient.

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Taylor Gordon
Taylor Gordon |

Taylor Gordon is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Taylor here