Life in a college dorm means sharing everything from class notes to minifridges and bathrooms. But what about sharing expenses with friends or roommates when ordering a pizza?
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To ease the splitting of everyday expenses like movies and meals, many college students turn to peer-to-peer (P2P) payment apps.
These apps help you calculate everyone’s share, then send or receive the money right away — which means nobody has to run to the ATM.
Easy transactions through apps
The most popular P2P apps tend to work in similar ways. Once you’ve downloaded your app of choice, you link it to your bank account, credit card or debit card. When you pay someone, the amount you send is drawn from that source. When someone pays you, that sum is credited to your app balance. You can keep the money there and use it to pay someone in another transaction, or you can send the money to your linked account.
The most popular payments apps include Venmo, PayPal, Square Cash, Popmoney, Zelle and Snapchat’s Snapcash feature.
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In many cases, both sender and recipient have to use the same app, so it pays to go with the one your friends use.
Social butterflies: Try Venmo
For most college students, that app is Venmo. The social media component is at least part of the reason for the app’s popularity: Along with sending and receiving money with Venmo, you can also see a social feed that shows your friends’ emoji-filled messages and paybacks (dollar amounts not included).
The service is free, with one exception: If you’ve chosen to use a credit card as a funding source, there’s a 3% fee on every dollar you send. (Many other platforms charge a comparable fee; for details, check their FAQs.)
Venmo recently began offering group accounts, which are useful for fraternities, sororities, clubs and teams. Some college vendors take Venmo too, such as the maid service offered by Duke’s Campus Enterprises. At the University of Pennsylvania, students use Venmo at food trucks that sell cheesesteaks and burritos on campus.
Food trucks aside, you can’t buy much with Venmo just yet, though that could change soon; Venmo’s owner, the payment platform company PayPal, announced in April that many retailers that already accept PayPal will soon take Venmo as well.
Shoppers or Snapchatters: Try Square Cash
In the meantime, if shopping is your bag, look into Square Cash. It gives you the option of immediately transferring your app balance to a virtual prepaid Visa card; you can then use that card for e-commerce or upload it into Apple Pay to shop at any of the 2 million-plus retailers that accept Apple Pay.
As a bonus, Square Cash powers Snapcash, the P2P function within the photo app Snapchat, so your P2P network can encompass Snapchatters as well.
Bank customers: Try Zelle
Mom, Dad or Grandma may want to slip you a little extra cash via P2P too. If so, they should consider Zelle, a new money transfer platform in the mobile apps of many major banks, including Chase, Capital One, Wells Fargo, Bank of America and USAA. (More banks and credit unions will be joining up later this year.)
Zelle is easy for even technophobes to use: The sender needs to know only the recipient’s email address or phone number. Even better, because Zelle works directly with the banks, all transfers after the first one arrive in your account within minutes.
Using a P2P app is a good option for young adults. It can pay off later, too. Because it records all your transactions, it’s easy to track your spending and figure out a budget — even if you don’t get around to that till next semester.