The 6 Best Payment Apps of 2019

Effortless money exchanges with just a few taps

Image shows a woman looking at her phone and it has a dollar sign on it. There is a speech bubble coming out that says

Image by Theresa Chiechi © The Balance 2019

Back in the 1990s, if you owed a friend $5 you would just pull a crisp bill out of your wallet and hand it over. These days cash may still be king when it comes to small, in person payments, but sending money virtually between friends and family is easier than ever. If you need to send a friend, relative, roommate, or anyone else money for anything ranging from splitting a restaurant check to your share of the rent, these social payment apps have you covered.

01
PayPal

PayPal
Courtesy of PayPal

PayPal is the granddaddy of payment companies, with a history going back to 1998. It made its name as the preferred digital wallet and payment provider for eBay transactions but has since grown to be one of the most dominant names in online payments.

PayPal offers the ability to transfer money to and from any U.S.-based bank account and many foreign accounts. There is no fee to transfer funds to family or friends from a PayPal balance or bank account balance, but PayPal does charge fees to send from a credit card or convert currencies.

02
Venmo

Venmo
Courtesy of Venmo

Venmo is actually owned by PayPal, however, Venmo is a very different app than PayPal. Venmo is an app designed primarily to send money to friends, with an embedded social aspect. And, while you can sign in and access your account on the internet, it is a mobile first experience built primarily for use on the go with your smartphone.

In early 2019 PayPal announced that Venmo had reached 40 million active accounts, processing $161M in payments. That's a lot of restaurant checks split. Venmo can also be used to pay for transactions at many businesses as well. It is free to send money using your linked debit card bank account.

03
Square Cash

Square Cash
Courtesy of Square Cash

Square Cash is mobile credit card processor Square’s answer to the growing popularity of peer-to-peer payments. Square Cash does pretty much the same thing as Venmo, but without the social features. You can send money to, or request from, anyone with a Square Cash account, and funds are drawn from a linked bank account via debit card at no cost.

Cash has a wallet feature, like PayPal, or the ability to send from a linked account without holding funds in your digital wallet. Square recently added the ability to buy and sell Bitcoin to the Cash app as well, which gives it a unique feature compared to other popular payment apps.

04
Zelle

Zelle
Courtesy of Zelle

Zelle offers a unique way to pay friends or family right from your bank. If you have an account at a participating bank, you can send cash with same-day transfers to anyone else with an account at a participating bank. The growing list of participating banks includes titans such as Chase, Bank of America, Citi, U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo and online banking leaders, Ally and Capital One.

You can send without installing the app on your phone, though you can download Zelle’s app and connect to your bank account, too. It is free to send and receive. You can only connect one bank account to your Zelle profile at this time, so if you sign up, make sure it is with your primary account.

05
Google Pay

Google Pay Logo
 Courtesy of Google Pay

Google offers a tool to do almost everything one can do online, and sending money is no exception. Google Pay is unique in its integrations with other Google products, including Gmail. Yes, you can send money to someone by e-mail using Google Pay and Gmail. If you have a Google account, you are essentially already signed up for Google Pay.

Like most Google products, it is well designed and easy to use. It works with the dedicated Google Pay app or through other integrated Google services. There are currently no fees to use Google Pay.

06
Facebook Messenger

Facebook Messenger
Courtesy of Facebook

Facebook already knows everything about you, so why not hand over your debit card and integrate sending money with your chat experience? Because most everyone is already on Facebook, you can send them money without waiting for them to sign up for an account elsewhere. They just need to add a debit card to be paid.

Payment information is private. When you send money, all the recipient sees is the amount, your name and your profile photo. Once a payment is accepted, it shows up in the bank within five business days. It’s as simple as that.