This post is by a new contributor to Digitizd, Bobby Grasberger. Bobby and I went to school together (and never met), and now live in the same city (and haven’t met). We’ll fix that soon. Look out for more from Bobby in the near future, and follow him on Twitter. (Also, quick aside: Bobby’s opinions are his own, and in no way represent those of the company he works for, R/GA, or its clients.)
Nobody carries cash anymore.
If you do, more power to you – but it’s not ubiquitous enough to count on these days. Credit and debit cards are great for places that accept them, and most stores and organizations do. Most people though, don’t. Every time you want to get paid back by your buddy who didn’t have cash for dinner, pay your roommate for rent or split the check at dinner, you’re trying to pay an individual.
You could use cash or check, but then someone has to either run to the ATM (and pay for crazy fees with no record of where the money is spent) or pay by check (whenever you have your checkbook with you – and hopefully you’ll remember to write the “who, when, why and how much” in your checkbook register). There’s a better way.
Whether it’s 5 bucks for a beer or $795 for the month’s rent, it’s great to be able to charge or pay anyone, anytime, anywhere – and always have a record of every transactions. Here are my 3 favorite ways to do just that:
Square (get paid via credit card)
Square provides a simple way for anyone (even you!) to accept payment via credit card. Whether you have a little shop or traveling band that you want to accept payments by card, or you just want to split the dinner tab with a friend, now you can. Gadgetizd covered Square a little while back, recommending the completely free hardware that allows you to swipe credit cards on your iPhone, iPad or Android device.
All three versions of the Square app are beautifully designed and simple to use. While the apps do leave some features to be desired (like an editable, searchable payment record), they work exactly as advertised. Just enter a price, select the “Credit Card” option and swipe your customer or friend’s card. A signature pad will show up on your screen, and it’s easy to sign with the tip of a finger. You can even email a receipt with one tap.
You have the option to either swipe the person’s card using the free swiping “Square” that plugs directly into your device’s headphone jack, or to type in the credit card information manually. You can even add a photo of the item purchased or use the “Cash” option (just to keep a record of the transaction and quickly calculate change).
Thanks to Square, you can accept credit card payments no matter where – or who – you are. Square accounts are free and come with the hardware to swipe credit cards. For credit card swipe payments, there is a 2.75% + ¢15 transaction fee, which is slightly less than online card-accepting services like Google Checkout and PayPal.
Venmo (get paid instantly from anywhere)
Venmo lets you easily pay or charge money to anyone in the U.S. with a cell phone number. It’s a super-simple and straightforward idea, and similarly simple to use. It’s invite only for now (though it’s easy to get one via Twitter), and it’s easy to setup an account and connect a Credit/Debit card, bank account or both (that’s is how your instant payments will be funded).
Once signed up, you can send a text message reading “Send 1.50 to [cell phone number]” to Venmo and your payment will be instantly available for the recipient – whether they have a Venmo account or not. If the person does not have a Venmo account, they are prompted to simply reply with their email address and then a username. Their account will be created and ready to complete whenever they go to Venmo.com.
One of the great features of Venmo is that you can “Trust” other people to access your money. I “Trust” my girlfriend on my account, meaning if she ever needs money she can instantaneously take it from me. “Trusting” is only for the people you’re closest with, but Venmo will notify you every time someone you trust takes money from your account, and you have 24 hours to reverse every change.
Though the design of the website could be improved, the ease of sending/receiving money and setting up an account via SMS texting is remarkable. PayPal provides a similar SMS-based service (see below), but the simplicity of the Venmo service (and the fact that it’s free!) makes it the best way to transfer money between friends. There are no fees for individuals. It’s currently in the Beta testing phase, but I have 20 invites, so Tweet @Bgrasberger if you want one.
Paypal Mobile – (get paid from anywhere with extra security and fees)
PayPal has always always been dedicated to making transactions between individuals easier. Now with PayPal Mobile, you can pay anybody and get paid by anybody with a PayPal account just by sending a SMS text message, by “Bumping” (literally tapping them against each other) iPhones or through apps for iPhone, Android and Blackberry devices.
Unfortunately, setting up mobile payments from your account at paypal.com is unnecessarily cumbersome, as is PayPal’s version of texting payments. Once PayPal Mobile is setup, you can send a payment just like Venmo: by sending a SMS message reading “Send 4.99 to [phone number] or [email address]” to PayPal. You will then receive an automated phone call that prompts you to approve the payment with your PIN.
Of all the options out there, anyone really concerned about security should use PayPal Mobile. The additional steps in setting up your account and confirmations for each transaction provide extra security you might like. If you have a smart phone, PayPal’s mobile apps do make transactions easier. If you’re with the person you want to pay, the “Bump” feature for iPhone works well to send and receive money (see a full description here). For PayPal payments, there is a 2.9% + ¢30 transaction fee.
No longer, my friends, is “sorry, dude, I don’t have any cash.” an excuse. How do you pay and get paid by your friends?