A mobile payment app is an application used to send and receive money. There are many reasons you may require such an app. For example, you may want to send money to a family member or friend. Such a service is known as a peer-to-peer (P2P) transfer. Alternatively, you can use a mobile payment app to pay for goods and services.
In some cases, the brick-and-mortar or online stores at which you shop may only accept payments made by a specific app. Similarly, your friend or family member will need to download the app you are using to send them money, or they will not receive your funds.
Mobile payment apps have existed for several years, and more keep appearing. Most of the apps are free to use, making them quite appealing. However, choosing the best mobile payment apps from all available options can be difficult. Not all apps offer the same quality of service, and their fee structures vary. The following five mobile payment apps are among the best available as of 2018.
In 2018, Consumer Reports rated Apple Pay the best of six tested mobile payment apps. It scored 76 out of 100 on the rating scale. Apple Pay scored particularly high in terms of security. It requires confirmation before funds are transferred. Additionally, Apple Pay has a built-in feature allowing remote service suspension. The feature allows an Apple Pay user to prevent fraudulent usage if the mobile device is lost or stolen. Other helpful features of Apple Pay include:
- Collection of less personal data than other apps.
- Strict policy against sharing or selling personal data.
- Ability to pay from multiple sources, including credit cards.
- Loyalty program.
- Ability to make online, in-store and P2P payments when sending funds to qualifying stores or devices.
- Ability to use funds to make purchases through Apple Pay or transfer funds to a bank account.
PayPal began as an online digital wallet used to make purchases primarily on eBay, which purchased it in 2002. Eventually, the PayPal mobile payment app was developed for mobile devices as well.
Today, the PayPal app offers the ability to transfer money anywhere in the United States. Some foreign transactions are also permitted. The PayPal app also offers a diverse range of additional features and functions more like a banking app than a dedicated mobile payment app. Such features include:
- Lines of credit.
- Cash withdrawal capability.
- Ability to use PayPal account funds to pay for in-store purchases.
The PayPal mobile payment app is also popular because of the long-standing reputation of the company. It was founded in 1998. Since its founding, PayPal has developed recognition and popularity world-wide. Many of its services are also available for free. However, a small fee is charged for payments made using credit or debit cards through the app.
In 2013, PayPal purchased a company called Braintree, which owned the Venmo app. Rather than merging the PayPal and Venmo apps or eliminating one, PayPal has continued to develop both. Unlike the PayPal app, the Venmo app is designed specifically for P2P transactions between friends, families and acquaintances. It is not widely used for online or in-store purchases. However, the function is available at participating locations.
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Venmo ranked second and received a Consumer Reports score of 69 when rated against Apple Pay and other mobile payment apps in 2018. It is highly ranked for its broad accessibility. The Venmo app also has a unique design incorporating messages with payments. Other features include:
- Ability to send money using only a phone number or email address.
- Phone contact syncing.
- Facebook contact syncing.
- Free use, except for a percentage charge for credit card transactions.
- Ability to easily transfer received funds to any bank account.
- Social aspect allowing users to message each other.
The drawback of Venmo is there is no system in place for refunding fraudulent or erroneous charges. Accidentally sending funds to an unknown person leaves the user at the mercy of the recipient. If the recipient chooses to keep the funds, they are irretrievable. Venmo users must carefully confirm the identity of the recipient prior to payment.
Google Pay is a mobile wallet service offered by Google. In 2018, the Google Pay Send mobile payment app was incorporated directly into Google Pay. A Google Pay user may now enjoy the functionality of mobile payments with the other features of the mobile wallet app. Google Pay allows the user to make purchases with each of the following:
- Gift cards.
- Loyalty cards.
- Credit or debit cards
As of 2018, Google Pay only allows transactions in the United Kingdom or United States. The app is compatible with multiple Android devices, including several Android watches and cellphones. Google Pay also offers a loyalty program allowing users to accumulate rewards for repeated usage.
Zelle is a mobile payment app used by multiple credit unions and banks. It also offers a P2P service, allowing a user to transfer funds to any trusted recipient, such as a friend or family member. The Zelle app allows the user to transfer funds almost instantly using an email address or phone number. Zelle also offers a standalone service, as well as a built-in service incorporated into several mobile banking apps.
In early 2018, the standalone Zelle mobile payment app received a mediocre security ranking from Consumer Reports due to its lack of security confirmation when transferring funds. At the time, a user typing an incorrect email address or phone number had no protection. In September, Zelle implemented a new transaction confirmation screen. The screen requires the user to review the transaction before sending funds, and drastically increases the security of the app. However, funds are still non-refundable once the user sends them.
A Zelle user may send funds to any recipient using the Zelle app. However, the recipient cannot retrieve the funds until he or she creates a Zelle account. Funds are transferred to any existing Zelle user in the same day and typically within a few minutes. However, if the recipient has to create a Zelle account before retrieving funds, the process may take up to three days.
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