How to Zap Money to Friends and Dinner Dates

on September 28, 2017

New apps make it easier to split the check at dinner when eating out with a group of friends. One person pays the bill with cash or a credit card, and the others use their smartphones to zap their share of the cost to him or her. This helps eliminate excuses from friends who conveniently forgot to bring some cash with them.


Some of these money movement apps are free and some charge a transaction fee for some payment methods.

  • Zelle does not charge any fees to send and receive money between bank accounts. One cannot, however, link a credit card. Zelle is embedded in the banking apps and online banking websites for participating banks. Participating banks include Bank of America, Chase, Citi, TD Bank, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo, among others. 
  • Venmo is free for debit cards, bank accounts and prepaid cards, but charges a 3 percent fee for using a credit card to send money. Receiving money is free. Venmo is owned by PayPal.
  • Apple Pay Cash via will allow iPhone and Apple Watch users to send and receive money for free using Apple Messages and Apple Wallet as part of iOS 11.
  • Facebook Messenger charges no fees to send and receive money but only can link to debit cards.
  • Google Wallet charges no fees to send and receive money but only can link to debit cards.
  • Square Cash can be used to send and receive money for free. Money can be stored in the app, transferred to a bank account or spent using a free linked debit card.
  • Snapcash sends and receives money for free via Snapchat, but can link only to debit cards.

Most of these apps let you use a cell phone number or email address as a unique identifier for the recipient, even if they don’t already use the app. The recipient is notified by text or email message when money is sent to them and can transfer it using the app’s web site.


Potential Problems


There are no federal laws protecting users against theft using these apps, unlike the protections for credit cards and debit cards. To the extent that the money is transferred from a credit card or debit card, as opposed to being stored in the app, users retain the underlying protections against fraud.


Some apps go further. Google says that it covers 100 percent of verified unauthorized Google Wallet transactions in the U.S. Some of the banks that participate in Zelle likewise provide guarantees against fraudulent transactions.


There also is a security concern if your smartphone is stolen. Some apps require a password or pin to authorize sending money. Some require the verification code from your debit card each time you send money. None require fingerprint authentication yet, except if your smartphone is locked. All allow you to disable the app remotely by logging into the app’s website.


It can take a few days to get set up with these apps, partly because of security restrictions. Once set up, however, some apps allow money to be transferred almost instantaneously. It depends on whether the money is being transferred bank to bank via ACH or through credit card transactions. Zelle, for example, bypasses ACH if both people have accounts at participating banks, which can speed up the money movement.


Some of the apps scan transaction data for targeted advertising opportunities unless you opt out. It is important to review privacy policies and settings before you use the apps to send and receive money.

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