Woman chatting on Facebook Messenger
@eddieespinal/Twenty20

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Peer-to-peer money transfer has come a long way since the days of cash and IOUs. Today, there are seemingly more ways to settle up with friends than there are reasons.

One of the simplest ways to send and receive? Facebook Messenger.

The social network’s standalone messaging app has made peer-to-peer payments available since 2015, and the biggest draw is easy to understand: 1 billion+ users. It’s safe to say that most people in your network are on Facebook, whether they’re compulsive checkers or once-in-a-whilers. The sheer number of accounts makes for the largest pre-existing network that any mobile payment service could hope for.

But does the service live up to the namesake’s popularity? Here’s what to consider.

The setup

Facebook Messenger is an intuitive service from top to bottom, making it easy to connect a debit card whether you’re on a desktop or a mobile device.

For desktop users

Navigate to the dropdown arrow in the top-right corner of your Facebook homepage. Click Settings, then navigate to the Payments tab on the left rail of the ensuing menu. Toggle to the Account Settings tab then Add Credit or Debit Card to link your payment method.

For mobile users

Tap the Profile icon indicated by your profile picture, then navigate to the Payments tab of the ensuing menu. Click Add Credit or Debit Card to link your payment method.

Note: Add a Credit or Debit Card is a bit of a misnomer — while Facebook as a whole may accept credit cards for online games, fundraisers or marketplace purchases, Facebook Messenger is compatible only with debit cards. Make sure you link a debit card to your account, and save the rewards cards for more worthy endeavors.

Sending money

Once you’re all set up, sending money is easy as starting a conversation. Choose the contact you’d like to pay and open up a new message window. Select the $ icon — it should be readily visible on desktop or mobile interfaces — and punch in the dollar amount. Hit Send and money should almost instantly transfer from your debit card’s associated checking account.

Receiving is a breeze. And while your incoming funds should appear within moments, the official language from Facebook itself states:

…money is transferred right away to your account, but your bank may take up to 5 business days to post it to your account.

Facebook Messenger vs. the rest

Given its function, Facebook Messenger’s money transfer potential begs a comparison to the more traditional names in mobile payment. And given Facebook’s size, a specific comparison to industry behemoths like Square Cash, Venmo and PayPal.

Social integration is perhaps the biggest (and most obvious) differentiator. While Venmo does give you the ability to heart and comment on friends’ transactions, Facebook Messenger extends a more practical social tie-in: instant gratification. Whether you’re planning a family party or a getaway with friends, Facebook lets you transfer cash in the same text box where you hatched the idea — an especially handy feature when dealing with group payments.

Another perk is Facebook’s express funding. Venmo, Square Cash and PayPal utilize a digital purse that temporarily stockpiles funds until users choose to cash out. With Facebook Messenger, there are no layovers. All incoming transfers head directly to your bank account, which means there’s no way to lose track of an overlooked account balance.

Moreover, some argue that Facebook’s no-fee structure is a headline feature The social network’s ad revenue and data sales provide more than enough revenue to keep its money transfer service afloat. That said, Venmo, Square Cash and PayPal also offer no-fee transfers for debit-linked accounts. Only their users’ credit-linked accounts will incur service fees.

Facebook Messenger security

At their first money transfer, Facebook Messenger users receive a promotional message boasting the service’s “Industry-leading security — password protection, anti-fraud team and more.”

For those hesitant to trust their financial info to a company that’s had its share of security slip-ups, the message might ring a bit hollow.

Rest assured, however, that Facebook Messenger’s security measures match the industry standard. For starters, Facebook retains your payment information in a secured database entirely separate from your actual account to create an added layer of insulation. This, combined with Facebook’s multiple layers of encryption, safeguards your transactions as well as any mobile payment service out there.

The drawbacks

Unfortunately, Facebook Messenger has no specific compatibility for businesses. Venmo and Square Cash have both adapted their models to accommodate for business transactions, allowing buyers and sellers to tap into their networks for a faster, card-free checkout. Both services allow for multiple accounts for personal and business use.

As of now, Facebook Messenger’s group payment option does not allow bill splitting on a person-by-person basis. Unless everyone in your dinner party had the exact same dish at the exact same price, individual payments are your only option.

Should you use Facebook Messenger?

Ideally, the best mobile payment app is the one that gives you the fewest headaches. For the particularly social media savvy, that could be Facebook Messenger. If you spend more time interacting on Facebook than anywhere else, it only makes sense to have a mobile payment service to match.

It’s not an endorsement of Facebook Messenger so much as an invitation to consider. Square Cash, Venmo and Facebook’s variety of competitors have made huge strides in mobile payment over the past few years alone, and the ubiquity of their services can provide much of the same convenience. Your network, preferences and spending habits should make the decision for you.


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