A few things you should know about social payment apps before you sign up for the service.

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What if there was a way to securely transfer money to family and friends and receive confirmation of when it occurred?

There’s an app for that.

What about people who owe you money? Uncle Jack still owes you $50 for cleaning out his garage, and he keeps telling you he doesn’t have the cash. He promises to withdraw the money he owes you the next time he’s at his financial institution.

There’s an app for that, too. In fact, it’s the same one.

Each of these scenarios could be resolved within a matter of minutes with a social payment app, aka peer-to-peer app. Using mobile technology helps you transfer and request money in these and other social situations. For example, you no longer have to worry about manually splitting the bill in a restaurant, carrying cash, or pulling out your credit or debit card to pay for dinner out with friends. At least most of the time.

Features of each app may vary such as how quickly money is transferred, privacy policies, and fees. Some apps perform double duty by working with retailers, both in-store and online. Many retailers are offering consumers these additional, more convenient ways to complete a transaction. And that’s only the beginning.

Here are a few more things you should know about social payment apps before you sign up for the service.

 

How does a social payment app work?

Social payment apps are downloaded to your mobile device. Users then link their bank account or debit card information to the app, so they can make purchases. When another user sends you money, depending on the app it may be able to stay in the social payment account or be transferred to your bank account.

These apps provide consumers a quick way to send or request money from family or friends. They may even be used to make purchases in-store, online, or in-app at retailers around the world.

The social aspect varies amongst the app service providers. Some allow the public to see whom you paid and for what purpose while others hide that option. For example, if you need to give your roommates your portion of the rent, you can use the app to do so and let everyone know about it. The dollar amount of the transaction, however, is not displayed in the app. Usually, app providers charge zero fees for transactions linked straight to your bank account.

 

Who offers social payment services?

Popular social service apps include:

Most apps only require your email address or mobile phone number and your bank account information to get started. Most transactions are completed in minutes. The features available with each service vary by provider. Your financial institution must participate in the service for you to link your account to one of the available apps.

 

Risks of using social payments

Social payment apps are surprisingly safe. Your account information is protected via encryption to make it difficult for online hackers to access your account. However, still protect your phone as if it were a physical wallet that contained cash. Do this by using a strong PIN, password or biometric login to access your phone.

If you send money to the wrong person, the biggest risk is that you may not get it back. So, if it’s the first time you’re sending payment to a person, send a test amount first and wait for them to confirm receipt before sending the full amount.

Conversely, some scammers use social payment platforms to pretend to buy goods using a social payment app then cancel the transaction immediately after they have the item in their hands. Avoid becoming a victim and require cash payment when dealing with strangers.