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7 Popular Digital Money Apps Explained

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by Ellen Blake

Apps make it easy to send money to loved ones.

It’s true that apps are an easy way to send money and I appreciate the convenience. And though I use them, primarily Venmo, I may be one of the last humans who also still writes checks. Not alot, but there’s something about sending a card with a handwritten check for a nephew’s birthday or grandchild’s wedding that seems special. I can’t imagine sending a gift of money with Venmo or a digital check sent directly from the bank; it seems cold. That being said, I use apps when I want to quickly send small amounts of money to people, especially during Covid-19 when I am unable to pay them in person.

Is it safe to send money digitally to family and friends?

Safety and security are always concerns when dealing with money. Here are some tips to protect your transactions:

  • Research the security of your payment site before using
  • Make sure your bank and personal information is encrypted
  • Use a strong password when you set up your account.
  • Only send to or receive money from people you know 
  • Keep records so you can properly manage any issues that arise
  • Verify the recipient received the money sent and is able to access it

What is the best digital payment option?

With an abundance of digital payment options available these days, how do you know which is the best one for you? Some money transfer tools are free to use, but some charge fees. And some are quick to process transfers while other solutions take a bit longer.  Here are some popular apps you can use to send money fast to family and friends. 

digital money apps

7 Popular Digital Payment Apps

Venmo

Fees: Free unless using a credit card for which there is a 3% fee 

Transaction limits: $4,999.99 weekly for person-to-person transactions after identity confirmation

Transfer time: Instant

Venmo is one of the most recognized and easy to use wallet apps. Available on iOS and Android, Venmo makes instant payments to family and friends and isn’t tied to specific banks. With a mobile phone number or email address, an account is quick to set up. This payment system allows users to sync their phone and Facebook contacts if desired and users can either add funds to their Venmo account or link an external payment method like a bank account or credit card. 

Both parties need a Venmo account to send or request money. Once set up, users input the contact name and a reason for the payment, and indicate the transfer amount. When you receive money, you need to manually request it be transferred into your bank account unless you want it to stay in the Venmo account to use for future transactions.

Zelle

Fees: None

Transaction limits: $500 weekly, may be subject to bank limits

Transfer time: Instant

Zelle is an increasingly popular way to send and receive money with people you know and trust. Fast and free, you can find this tool in the banking app of hundreds of banks and credit unions nationwide. Zelle makes it easy to send money straight from your banking app even if your recipient has a different U.S.based bank or credit union. Zelle payments are processed quickly and the recipient receives a notification explaining what they need to do to receive their payment.

PayPal

Fees: None for U.S. transfers funded by PayPal balance or a linked bank account for friends and family. (Note: Fees apply for U.S. transfers funded with a credit or debit card or PayPal Credit as also for international transfers.)

Transaction limits: $10,000 to $60,000 limit per single transaction for verified accounts; limits may vary by currency

Transfer time: Instant money transfer, though eChecks may take up to six days

PayPal is well known as an app people use to shop, but it’s also a great way to send money to loved ones when needed. Accounts are free to setup and easy to use. Simply sign up, then link a bank account or payment card. You need only the receiver’s email address or phone number. Senders can either transfer money into their PayPal account or send money directly from their linked account or card. You can access PayPal online or via the PayPal mobile app on either IOS or Android. This tool tracks all of your transactions for easy account management.

Cash App

Fees: 3% when sent from a credit card, 1% or 1.5% for instant deposits

Transaction limits: $7,500 total in any seven-day period

Transfer time: Instant for Cash App to Cash App payments

Cash App, created by Square, offers another way to easily send money to other people. To initiate the process, simply open the app, enter the transfer amount and the receiver’s email address or phone number, add a reason for the payment and tap “Pay.” Sending funds requires a credit card or linked bank account. In some cases, the app requires additional identification if you send more than $250, either in one transaction or multiple transactions, over a seven-day period.

digital payment apps

Apple Pay

Fees: None

Transaction limits: $10,000 maximum over a seven-day period, subject to bank limits

Transfer time: Instant for Apple Pay users

Apple Pay users, can send money to family and friends inside Messages or via Siri on your iPhone, iPad or Apple Watch. No extra app is necessary to download to access this service, but you need to link a debit card to Apple Pay to use the service. Users must be 18 years or older and U.S. citizens to send or receive money through Apple Pay. Money sent to people goes into their Apple Cash account, where they can use it directly or transfer to a bank account or Visa debit card. Apple Pay does not work for Android users or with some older Apple devices.

Facebook Messenger

Fees: None

Transaction limits: Subject to bank limits

Transfer time: Three to five business days

A lot of people don’t know Facebook Messenger offers another way to send money to family and friends. Simply start a message with the individual to whom you want to send money. Then, click the plus sign and then the dollar sign, and finally, enter the amount to send. Once done, click “Pay” to send the money. Facebook users can send money through the Messenger app or they can log in to their online accounts. Both parties need an active Facebook account and a debit card or PayPal account connected to their Facebook account. Facebook Messenger accepts Visa or Mastercard debit cards from a U.S. bank. This app requires you must also be at least 18 years old and live in the U.S.

Google Pay

Fees: None

Transaction limits: $10,000 per single transaction, $10,000 every seven days, $3,000 every 24 hours for Florida residents

Transfer time: Instant from Google Pay balance or debit card, five to 10 days from a bank account

Android Pay and Google Wallet together now make up what is known as Google Pay. You can use an existing Google account, if you have one, to set up Google Pay. This tool uses a linked debit card or bank account to send money, and is currently available in the U.S. and India only.

The bottom Line

It’s nice to have quick and easy options to send money to friends and family as we move to a primarily cashless society. The above apps are considered safe, but make sure you are comfortable with whichever service you choose before using. In today’s world, where everyone wants everything immediately, digital money apps offer an amazing convenience to send or receive money. 

As for me, I plan to continue to write checks for gifts to send in cards, but otherwise the digital apps are a good option!

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