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What is Venmo? Everything you need to know

What is Venmo
(Image credit: Venmo)

I realized Venmo hit a tipping point a few years ago when the street musician in the park by my office — instead of having a hat on the ground to collect bills — had a sign with his Venmo address. Today, the financial platform has more than 60 million users across the U.S., and its meteoric rise has made it the person-to-person payment app of choice for not just Millennials but all generations.

Like any good tech startup, Venmo was created by a pair of college roommates trying to make their own lives easier. In this case, one of them owed the other money and thought, Wouldn’t it be great if I could pay you back through my phone instead of dealing with cash? And that, in a nutshell, is what Venmo is all about.

Venmo is an app that allows you to pay and request money from your friends. Think splitting a lunch bill or cab fare or the rent. It’s super simple to use, and on top of that it’s social — Venmo features a stream showing everyone’s transactions — and even kind of fun, with the use of emojis to indicate what a payment is for.

(Image credit: Venmo)

Also like any good tech startup, Venmo has expanded on its initial use. Today, you can use it to shop at any website that takes PayPal (which acquired Venmo in 2013), and you can even get a physical Venmo Mastercard Debit Card to pay for things in person or get cash from your Venmo account at an ATM. Venmo’s newest product is a Visa-branded Venmo Credit Card, currently only available to select customers. 

From how to open a Venmo account to how to use the app to how it’s different from its sister PayPal, here’s everything you need to know if you’ve ever wondered what is Venmo.

What is Venmo?

Venmo is a mobile payment service that provides a way to pay friends and others when you don’t want to deal with cash. Venmo account holders can transfer funds to other Venmo account holders quickly and easily through a mobile app.

Venmo is also a way to pay for things online at authorized websites or in person with a Venmo Debit Card or new Venmo Credit Card. 

What is Venmo

(Image credit: Venmo)

How does Venmo work?

To use Venmo, you must first set up an account, which you can do by downloading the Venmo mobile app (available for iOS and Android) or at venmo.com. In addition to the usual name, address, and phone info, you will be asked to enter your bank account information. You must link a bank account to your Venmo account in order to use Venmo. (Note: Venmo is only available in the United States and only compatible with U.S.-based banks.)

Once you are signed up, it’s fast and easy to pay someone or request money from someone: Using the app (you can’t pay or request money through the website), find the Pay or Request button on the home screen—it will either say “Pay or Request,” or it will look like a pencil and a square. You then enter as many people — by username, phone number, or email — as you’d like to pay or charge, the amount, and a note. Emojis will pop up as you type certain words in your note, and you can choose to use them or not.

(Image credit: Venmo)

All Venmo users are also assigned a personal QR code, and you can scan someone else’s to find them or show yours to a person or merchant to be scanned. However you’ve entered the info, once you’re ready to make the transaction, tap “Request” or “Pay” depending on the action you want to take. If you are paying someone, they will receive an email to click on to accept the payment, and then you will receive an email confirmation.

If you are requesting money, the other person will receive an email for the request, and you’ll receive an email notifying you that you’ve been paid. If you are making a payment and don’t have enough money in your Venmo account, Venmo will automatically take the difference from your linked bank account. On the other hand, if you have a lot of money in your Venmo account and want to transfer it to your bank account, on the app, simply go to the menu and click on “Transfer balance.” On venmo.com, click on “Transfer money” on the homepage.

What are the fees for using Venmo?

Venmo costs nothing to set up, nothing to send or receive money, and there are no monthly fees. So how does Venmo make money, you ask? Well, it didn’t for a long time. But Venmo is facilitating more and more transactions between its users and businesses, and when it does that, it charges the business a small percentage of the sale, similar to a credit card company. This is how Venmo makes most of its money.

(Image credit: Venmo)

There is also a lot of potential money to be made using the data Venmo collects, though that has yet to be sorted out. Note that there are, in fact, some fees, but they are easily avoidable. For example, there’s a 3% fee for sending money using a linked credit card and a 1% (max $10) fee for moving money between your bank account and your Venmo account instantly (it normally takes one to three days).

How do you reach Venmo customer service?

Accidentally pay the wrong person and they kept the money, or need help with something else? Venmo does not have a general customer service phone number, but there are a few ways to reach them. Which route to go depends in part on the topic of your question. 

  1. You can send a message about anything to support@venmo.com or by filling out this contact form, which can be found on the app by opening the menu and clicking Get Help and then Contact Us. To get to the form on venmo.com, click on Help and then click on Contact Us at the bottom of the page.
  2. You can chat about any topic in the Venmo mobile app (M-F, 7:00am-1:00am EST; and Sat-Sun, 9:00am-11:00pm EST). To start a chat, from the menu, click on Get Help → Contact Us. Note there is no chat function on venmo.com. 
  3. For questions related to the Venmo Mastercard Debit Card, send a message through this contact form, email debitcardsupport@venmo.com, chat in the mobile app, or call the phone number on the back of your card. 
  4. For questions related to the Venmo Credit Card (powered by Visa), call Synchrony Bank at the phone number listed on the back of your card. If you lose your card, call Synchrony Bank at 855-878-6462

Is there a Venmo card?

As noted above, there are two Venmo cards, one debit and one credit. The Venmo Debit Card, powered by Mastercard, is connected to your Venmo account and allows you to shop at participating merchants. Like other debit cards, you can also use it at an ATM to get cash from your Venmo account. (Withdrawals are limited to the funds in your Venmo balance up to $400 daily, and there is a $2.50 fee for using an out-of-network ATM.)

How to send money with Venmo

(Image credit: Venmo)

The Venmo Credit Card is a Visa issued by Synchrony Bank that allows you to make contactless payments, split your credit card purchases with friends on Venmo, request new virtual card numbers and earn cash back on your purchases that goes straight into your Venmo account (3% cash back on your top spend category, 2% on the next, and 1% on everything else). The Venmo Credit Card has no annual fee. Note: Not all Venmo account holders are currently eligible to apply for the Venmo Credit Card — if you are eligible, you’ll see a Venmo Credit Card section at the top of the main menu of your Venmo app.)

Is Venmo safe?

Yes. But you need to be vigilant. The transactions themselves are super safe: Like it’s competitors, Venmo uses encryption to help protect your account information and monitor your account activity to help identify unauthorized transactions. For another layer of security, you can add a PIN code to the app.There have been some Venmo-related scams, but a little common sense can avoid them: Don’t send money to strangers or for things that look like pyramid schemes.

(Image credit: Venmo)

There is, however, a privacy concern regarding Venmo’s social feed: A lot of people make a fuss about the fact that Venmo’s default setting is Public, meaning your transactions are visible to everyone on the internet in Venmo’s emoji-filled stream. So if you’re not comfortable having the world know who you had dinner with last night, you must elect to make your transactions either private or visible only to friends.  

What are the Venmo limits?

When you sign up for Venmo, your person-to-person sending limit is $299.99. Once Venmo has confirmed your identity, your weekly rolling person-to-person spending limit is $4,999.99. The overall combined spending limit for person-to-person, authorized merchant payments, and Venmo Debit Card purchases is $6,999.99 per week. Click here for details.

Venmo vs. PayPal vs. Zelle: What's the difference?

PayPal started out as an e-commerce payment platform and added person-to-person payments; Venmo started out as a person-to-person payment platform and added e-commerce capabilities. So you might suspect that each platform is stronger in its original purpose — and you’d be correct.

PayPal works internationally, has a better security track record and higher spending limits, whereas Venmo makes it simpler, faster, and more fun--emojis!--to pay and request money. Zelle, meanwhile, is the big banks’ answer to Venmo and PayPal. The main differences are that Zelle is a function within your bank’s app rather than its own app, the money transfers instantly as opposed to one to three days, and its security is as solid as the steel vaults in the banks behind it.