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Frugal Find: Venmo

   Posted On: September 5, 2014  |    Posted In: Millennials  |     Posted by: Broke Millennial®

“Lucas Likes to Dance” “Lucas Does Laundry” “Lucas Rides the Subway”

New York City dwellers probably know where I’m going with this (assuming you actually do take the subway, but if you can afford cabs everywhere then you probably aren’t reading this blog).

An odd ad started popping up all over New York City transportation in early 2014. These simple posters featured a declarative sentence, a mid-twenties Asian man (apparently named Lucas) with the shadow of a goatee,  giving a dead-pan look at the camera and in tiny writing on the lower left hand corner the cryptic word, “Venmo.”


Like most New Yorkers, I found the ads strange, then annoying and, eventually, borderline enraging when I stepped into a car completely plastered with Lucas‘ face. That was, until I started using Venmo.

IMG_0088 (1)

Getting on the Venmo train

My younger sister (who, at the time was still in college) introduced me to the world of Venmo. She owed me money for our parents’ Christmas presents and didn’t want to deal with going to an ATM.

“Can you just download Venmo?” she dramatically sighed in that way only a younger sibling can.

“What’s Venmo?” I inquired, always the technological Luddite (totally just got snapchat last week).

“It’s an app that you link your bank account to and then you can transfer someone money,” she explained. [Think of it as Chase Quickpay, but it doesn’t matter which bank you have.

“Um, I don’t really like the sound of linking my bank account to some app,” I retorted.

[Insert eye roll here]

“Fine. But it makes it way easier to pay people back or get paid,” she fired the final shot before we changed the subject.

Fast-forward a few weeks and I started seeing Lucas and Venmo’s ads everywhere. I finally caved and did some research.

How to use Venmo

From the mouth of Venmo (or fingers of the people who write copy on their website): “Venmo uses bank-grade security systems and data encryption to protect you and prevent against any unauthorized transactions or access to your personal or financial information.”

You download the app, or signup via their website. You can link a bank account, debit card or credit card to your account in order to make transactions. Most Venmo transactions are free. Those linked to your bank account or using your existing Venmo balance are free. Most debit cards (unsure which ones aren’t) are free, but there is a 3% fee for using a credit card.

Once you’re in the app, you can pay or request payment from friends. The app will access your contacts (made me a bit uneasy at first) and assess who already has Venmo. It will make it easy for you to type in a contact’s name and pay via Venmo. You can also pay to an email address.

Once you’re paid, you can “cash out” so the money is sent to your bank account. Or you can just leave the money there to use on future Venmo transactions.


One (sort of) flaw

My only worry about Venmo is small a security issue, which you never want to have when you’re talking about protecting your finances. I trust the app and feel it’s just as secure as using the app associated with my bank. My concern is what happens if my phone is ever compromised.  Transactions don’t require a password, and your app will constantly stay logged on (unless you log out). So, if someone were to ever steal my phone and get by my passcode, he could theoretically send a significant amount of money from my checking account to any account he wanted (but it seems that would make a petty thief pretty easy to track). Now, I could log out of Venmo and need to log in each time I use it to appease my concerns. The company also addresses these concerns on their site stating:

“Venmo uses bank-grade security systems and data encryption to protect you and prevent against any unauthorized transactions or access to your personal or financial information. Furthermore, we guarantee all user funds against any unauthorized transactions.” And “If you have lost your phone, or feel that someone besides you is using your account, Venmo allows you to disable a device from accessing your Venmo account. By revoking access, your account will be logged off of that device. Access revocation can be found under ‘Passwords & Authorizations’ here.”

IMG_0086As an iPhone user, I could also remotely wipe my phone and clear all the data off it, so a thief wouldn’t have access to any of my personal information.

I also find it annoying that people can see your transactions on their homepage, unless you change that setting in privacy. People tend to make snarky remarks about what they’re paying friends for, so the homepage is populated with things like “Players gonna play play play play” or “Xanax & Rangas”. This part can be amusing, but I’m too private to want people to be able to see my information.

Ultimately, I’m a huge fan

Tiny security concern aside, that’s mostly chalked up to me being hyper-paranoid, I’m a huge fan of Venmo. These days, so few people carry cash (I feel like I’m a dying breed), that it makes splitting bills insanely easy. It also makes it hard for your friends to avoid paying you back with the, “oh man, totally forgot to bring your money” excuse. For roommates, it’s also a quick way to pay each other for split bills, in my case that’s the utilities. So, I’m going to continue to sing their praises, until there is a major breach of Venmo data (which could be accompanied by a PayPal breach because PayPal owns Venmo).

What other apps do you use to make your financial life easier?

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25 responses to “Frugal Find: Venmo

  1. This sounds like square cash (I’ve been using it for a while) only more user friendly. Anymore, I don’t really worry about linking bank accounts. Ultimately my money is protected, I’ve made sure of that…but you’re right about needing to remotely wipe your phone if it’s stolen and that all of your transactions can show up on the other person’s phone. Still, I’ll have to give it a try

    1. Check it out for sure. Makes like pretty easy. I’m glad Venmo doesn’t have to be linked through social media (otherwise, I wouldn’t sign up), but I don’t like the homepage of feed of Venmo being somewhat modeled after Facebook and Twitter homepages/feeds. Just don’t really care what other people are paying each other for! And I private my own interactions.

    1. Could they Venmo you for freelance?! Paypal fees are really annoying. I’m sure there will be a good solution for freelances in the coming years though.

  2. I like Venmo, and like you I had to be hit over the head by my younger sister about using it. The other day I was out to lunch with my sister and her boyfriend and it was funny how I watched him pay and then she took out her phone to Venmo him, to which he told her to put her phone away because he had it covered. Sweet moment. :-)

  3. Thanks for sharing this – I’ve actually never heard of it before, but I tend to be behind the times with apps and all that, too. It sounds pretty convenient, aside from security concerns and others being able to see transactions. I’m with you on the privacy!

    1. You can switch it up though, so you’re transactions aren’t made public. Then you can read other people’s silly stuff without showing yours.

  4. I’d never heard of Venmo, but I’m old. :) It actually sounds like a great app because it can be such a pain splitting bills, etc. I don’t carry much cash and when a group dines out, it can really be a pain splitting the bill. Or paying babysitters etc. I’ll have to check it out! Have a great weekend, Erin!

    1. I’m shocked you haven’t heard of Snapchat just from rumblings about it’s networth and Facebook trying to buy them for $3B.

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