Best Payment Apps

Effortless money exchanges with just a few taps

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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.

The 6 Best Payment Apps of 2021

Best Overall : PayPal

PayPal
Courtesy of PayPal
What We Like
  • Its mobile application is extremely user-friendly

  • It is simple (and free) to set up a PayPal account

  • If you send money to a family member, there are no fees

  • PayPal's strong encryption technology keeps accounts secure

What We Don't Like
  • PayPal charges both shoppers and business owners a fee for using its service

  • PayPal has the ability to freeze your account

  • The Better Business Bureau (PayPal has a "B" rating) reports complaints about PayPal's customer service

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.

Best for Friends : Venmo

Venmo
Courtesy of Venmo
What We Like
  • Venmo is designed to work from your smartphone

  • An easy way to split the bill with friends and family

  • Payments are made and received almost immediately

What We Don't Like
  • You can only send money via the app

  • Users are hit with a 3% fee if they send money using a credit card

  • You have to change your settings (privacy default is public view) if you want actual privacy

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.

Venmo has 60 million active users. 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.

Best With No Frills : Cash App

Square Cash
Courtesy of Square Cash
What We Like
  • Easy to link your bank account via a debt card

  • Offers users a digital wallet

  • You can sell and buy Bitcoin via the app

What We Don't Like
  • Square Cash charges users a fee to send money via a credit card

  • Maximum transfer amount is $7,500

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

Cash App 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.

Best for Banking : Zelle

Zelle
Courtesy of Zelle
What We Like
  • Most large banks like Chase and Wells Fargo offer Zelle

  • You can send money from your laptop or your smartphone

  • Offers same-day transfers

  • There are no fees for sending or receiving money via Zelle

What We Don't Like
  • The recipient of the funds and the sender both must also have Zelle

  • You can only send funds via Zelle from one designated bank account

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.

Best for Google Accounts : Google Pay

Google Pay Logo
 Courtesy of Google Pay
What We Like
  • No fees to use Google Pay

  • Integrates easily with Google products, like Gmail

  • Easy to use from a laptop or smartphone

What We Don't Like
  • It is not as widely accepted as other payment apps

  • Can take 24-hours or longer to receive funds

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.

Best for Social Media : Facebook Messenger

Facebook Messenger
Courtesy of Facebook
What We Like
  • Facebook account users can send money easily to businesses and friends who are on Facebook

  • Your payment information is kept private unlike some other apps that have a public option

  • Easy to use from your Facebook chat experience

What We Don't Like
  • It takes up to five business days to receive payment, once it is accepted

  • You need to have a Facebook profile to use it

  • You have to link your debit card to your Facebook account

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.

Compare Apps

The 6 Best Payment Apps of 2021
Company Fees Domestic or Foreign Transactions Length of Time for Transactions to Post
PayPal No  Domestic and Foreign Typically a day, sometimes longer
Venmo No (yes for credit card usage) Only domestic Usually 30 minutes
Cash App No (yes for credit card usage) Only domestic Within minutes
Zelle No  Only domestic Within minutes
Google Pay No Domestic and some foreign transactions Usually 24-hours. Depends on the transaction
Facebook Messenger No  Domestic and some foreign transactions May take up to 5 days to receive funds

FAQs

What Is a Payment App?

A payment app is a tool to pay for goods and services and send money to vendors, friends, and family. People tend not to carry as much cash nowadays, so a payment app can be a quick way to reimburse a friend for a concert ticket, help a family member out with a bill, or even pay for something at a store without having your wallet with you. It’s like having a digital wallet with you on your phone.

How Does a Payment App Work?

A payment app works like a digital wallet. You link your bank account information and credit cards to the app, and it securely stores it so you can use it to send and receive money directly on the app. You don’t need to have your wallet physically with you, and some apps can even be used internationally. It’s a quick and convenient way to send and receive money and pay for things online and in stores.

How Much Does a Payment App Cost?

Some payment apps are completely free, while others have free aspects like receiving money or sending money between friends and family. Some payment apps may charge fees to receive money quicker than the standard time, currency exchange and processing fees, and credit card fees. These fees vary based on the type, amount, and location of the transaction.

You may be charged between 2.5–3% for credit card processing fees when using some payment apps. If you’re a small business, you can add these fees into the cost of your goods and services or charge an additional fee for customers to pay with a credit card. 

Is a Payment App Worth the Cost?

Free payment apps are worth using because there’s no cost, and they’re convenient and easy to use. However, if you have to pay to use the payment app, it may or may not be worth the cost. If you’re a small business that accepts credit cards, it’s usually worth it because you’re increasing your number of customers by accepting additional payment forms.

If you need to send money internationally or need your funds available the same day, you would need to find out the fees, weigh your options, and then see if it’s worth it to pay a little more for the convenience.

How We Chose the Best Payment Apps

We chose the 6 best payment apps by first reviewing and researching multiple payment apps and then selecting the top choices. We chose the best options based on their reputation, functions, ease of use, what platforms they work on, how you can send and receive money, and more.