Popmoney Pros and Cons
It's inexpensive, but not perfect
Popmoney is a payment service that moves money electronically from one bank account to another. It was originally designed for payments between friends and family, and Popmoney for Small Business allows businesses to use the service as well. The service is legitimate—but as with all forms of payment, it’s important to verify you’re not being scammed before you send money.
Here's how Popmoney works and what you can do with it:
Electronic transfers: Popmoney moves funds directly from one bank to another bank using the Automated Clearing House (ACH) network. Unlike other forms of payment (like PayPal or Venmo), you don’t have a Popmoney account that holds any balance—the money is always in the sender or recipient’s bank account. Payments can be made to an individual using their email address or mobile number.
An option for payment: With electronic payments, there’s no need to carry cash or write a check. If you’re out with friends, one person can cover the bill and pay their share electronically (as opposed to everybody getting change for a $20 bill or handing over a stack of credit cards). One person can pay, possibly earn rewards on their credit card, and get reimbursed electronically. If you’re the one receiving payments, you don’t have to cash a check, make change for friends, or hope that people will pay you back eventually.
Personal payments: The ideal use of Popmoney is to send funds to someone you know and trust (or to receive payment). Some businesses have business accounts with Popmoney, and others use a personal account “informally” to accept business payments. Just be aware if you use the personal service for business payments, you might not have all the typical protections in the event of fraud. You might be comfortable paying your landlord or your babysitter with Popmoney, but buying goods online is risky because of the potential for card or identity theft.
Processing time: Payments with Popmoney can take several business days. In most cases, that’s fine. However, there have been online complaints about frozen payments and seemingly endless wait times. Avoid making any time-sensitive payments, especially if it’s your first time using the service. Once you’ve sent and received funds a few times (and successfully set up your accounts), you’ll get a feel for the timing, and you can avoid unpleasant surprises. Most complaints about Popmoney refer to money being locked up for longer than expected such that neither the sender nor the receiver can access the funds (but things get resolved eventually). Payments funded with a debit card are the fastest, and they may be in the receiver’s bank account within one business day.
Availability: Popmoney is automatically included with bank accounts in many banks and credit unions. If your bank already has a relationship with Popmoney, you can send and receive funds while logged into your accounts. If your bank does not currently offer Popmoney, you can still use the service (for sending and receiving) at Popmoney.com.
Cost: Using Popmoney.com or the app, it costs 95 cents to send money. Banks and credit unions have their own fee schedules, so check with them if Popmoney is part of the account offering. At most institutions, transaction costs are around $1 (or free).
No fraud protection
Lag time before funds can be used
Receiving a Payment
When somebody pays you using Popmoney, you’ll get a message (by text or email) explaining that you’ve received a payment. If you’ve never used the service before, you’ll have to provide instructions on where Popmoney should send the money.
Again, if your bank uses Popmoney, the process is simple: Just claim the funds while you’re logged in to your bank account. If not, you’ll need to provide bank account and routing information at Popmoney.com. The site shows a list of participating banks.
Unless you initiated the transaction by requesting money, there should not be a cost to pick up the funds (although your bank or credit union may charge a fee).
Popmoney is a legitimate payment service—that’s often a surprise to people who have never heard of it and receive money or requests from friends.
However, there’s always a chance you’ll get a fake email from your “friend,” which takes you to an impostor website designed to steal your information (and money). If you get an unexpected message, use extra caution—verify with your friend before clicking on anything. Be sure you only access the service at the official Popmoney website or through a secure area in your bank’s website.
Making purchases with Popmoney can be risky. There is no “buyer protection” at Popmoney, so you’re on your own if you don’t get what you expected—or if the goods never arrive at all. Alternatives like credit or debit cards (preferably credit cards for safety) and PayPal offer more protection. Popmoney has been used in scams on popular online auction sites, as has Venmo.
Sharing Account Information
When sending or receiving funds, you don’t need to share your bank account information (routing and account numbers) with anyone—everyone can use email addresses or phone numbers. On the other hand, when you write a check (or endorse one that was written to you), others may be able to see sensitive account information and copy your signature. As a result, Popmoney can offer some privacy.
If your bank uses Popmoney, your account is automatically ready to send and receive payments. However, if you pay somebody who does not use a bank that works with Popmoney, your payee will need to provide their bank account information to Popmoney—and not everyone wants to do that. Likewise, if you’ve received a payment and have a non-Popmoney bank account, you’ll need to provide that information to collect the payment. Again, make sure you only do so at the real Popmoney.com website or app.
The Bottom Line
Popmoney is an inexpensive way to move money. The fee structure is fairly straightforward, and it can even be free, depending on your bank. If it is part of your bank's services, no signup is needed.
Popmoney can be frustrating. If you can’t afford to be without funds for several days or more, use Popmoney with caution because of the unpredictable amount of time the transfer may take. While fees are low, the other inexpensive options (PayPal, Venmo, or Square Cash) may be better alternatives for personal payments.
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