Just when you thought PayPal-owned Venmo had the corner on fast and easy payments, Square dropped a new function in its Cash app — pay by text.
With this update, people can send or request money from anyone in their address book just by using their phone number in addition to their email address. The resulting request will show up in a text message with a link to a payment page, where the person can pay.
Some of you may be yawning. Pay by text isn’t anything new, you say. It’s true that in some countries, like Kenya, pay by text is a finely tuned network where payments are made sans app with flip phones — buying users everything from life insurance to groceries. In this way, the U.S. is woefully behind.
As far as mobile payments go, Square and eBay (which owns both PayPal and Venmo) are the main game in town. There’s also Google Wallet, which focuses the majority of its business on mobile and online shopping, rather than peer-to-peer transactions. Though you can send cash to your friends via email in Google Wallet, debit and credit card transactions incur a 2.9 percent fee.
Venmo and Square Cash are just about peer-to-peer transactions. Debit card transactions are free on both services, and Venmo enables you to send funds directly from a bank account (Square Cash does not).
From the get-go, Venmo has made the race for best payment app a popularity contest. It started with the Lucas advertisements (He’s just like you!) and followed with its focus on making payment sharing about social engagement through transaction feeds. And transactions are fast and easy on Venmo, as simple as a touch of a button, if you’re registered with the app. The app’s social pull makes people want to register, but it’s exclusionary. If you don’t have it, you don’t get it, OK?
Launched last year, Square Cash has focused more on speed. It enables those who aren’t registered to make payment, directing them to an outside app payment page. Square even makes it easy to request payment without dealing with Square Cash online or in app. “You can send a request from any e-mail address simply by sending to the person, CC’ing firstname.lastname@example.org and putting the dollar amount in the subject line,” said a spokesperson for Square in an email to VentureBeat.
Before this update payments and requests for payment were sent via email. Pay by text is just the next iteration of its desire to be the speedier app.
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