About a year ago, anytime you split the tab somewhere, it seems you’d hear something like, “Just Venmo me.” Sites and apps like Zulily, Door Dash, and eBay accept payments from apps like Venmo, Google/Apple Pay, or PayPal. Even our favorite stores, fast food chains, and gas stations (I’m looking at you, QuikTrip) are accepting mobile payments in some way! If you’re curious about mobile payments and cash apps, read on!
Mobile payments are not quite the same as a “cash app” in that they are usually built into your device; though there will be an app you can use to manage your account(s). If you have a newer Apple device (iPhone, iPad, or Mac), you have access to Apple Pay. If you’re using a newer Android phone, you’ll have access to Google Pay. Both systems work similarly—you set up your account and then choose which accounts you want to give the app access to.
Most commonly, users add their most frequently used card (debit or credit). Apple users can add the cards to their Apple Wallet (along with store cards, plane tickets, and more), which links up with Apple Pay. If you’re using Google Pay, cards are added directly to the app; you can also add your PayPal account or connect it directly to a bank account. Both services allow for contactless payment (where available).
When making purchases at businesses with card terminals that accept NFC (or “tap-to-pay”) payments, you can use your phone instead of a card or cash. To make a payment, you typically need to hover (or tap) your unlocked device over the machine until it displays the “paid” screen and/or the machine beeps. Depending on your settings, the payment may require a fingerprint (biometric) scan or for you to enter your account password.
Cash apps are a little different. Instead of handling mobile, “tap-to-pay” payments, they are used more for digital transactions, most popularly for sending money. Some of the more popular cash apps are Venmo, Facebook Pay, Zelle, and PayPal. Most folks have heard of PayPal and possibly used it in the early days to pay for auction wins on eBay, but it has evolved far beyond that!
To use one of the cash apps, you’ll need to create an account (basic personal information). If you choose to use Facebook Pay, you’ll need to have, at least, a Facebook Messenger account. Next, you’ll choose which accounts you would like the app to access. You can choose to add a debit or credit card, or you can give the app access to a specific bank account (usually a checking account).
Once you have your account set up and access to money for payments, you’re ready to send and receive money. Each app has a different process for sending/receiving money, but for most, you can send money via the email address associated with the account. Payments to friends and family are typically free on all of the apps, but you may be charged a small fee when using the apps to pay for goods and services from businesses.
Receiving money also works slightly differently on each app, but usually falls into one of two options. For apps like PayPal and Venmo, funds you receive stay in the account you created for the app, and you can choose to just keep the funds there for future payments or move them into a bank account. For apps like Facebook Pay, you can choose initially where the funds go (I personally have mine go directly to my PayPal account, which I use to pay for some streaming services) instead of moving them around later.
In addition to sending monies to friends and family, some online businesses accept some of these as payment. PayPal is accepted by thousands of online retailers (and even some Dollar General stores!), and Venmo is starting to be accepted for some as well—most recently Zulily. When you choose to pay this way, you’ll be redirected to the cash app’s website to complete the payment. There is an added level of security doing it this way, as the payments to those retailers show as coming from the cash app instead of your personal information.
There are lots of digital payment options to choose from, so be sure to do some research! If you’d like to learn more about some of these services, the Library has some helpful resources. Lynda.com has some videos to help you use Apple Pay, and you can find some useful reference eBooks in OverDrive.
Consumer Technology Specialist