Woman using Square Cash app
@Wandeaw/Twenty20

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Roommate? Podcast fan? Once-and-always pizza party attendee? However you’ve caught wind of it, chances are that someone in your life has mentioned Square Cash, known simply as the Cash App. The mobile payment service is one of the world’s most popular, rivaling companies like Venmo and Zelle in the steady transition to a digitized economy.

From the outside, the Cash App looks and acts like most digital payment methods. Users download the app, link it to a bank account or credit card, then connect with friends, family, merchants and even landlords to send and receive payments. Here’s a look at what’s inside.

The setup

Downloading and activating the Cash App is like anything you’d find in App Store or Google Play. Both Apple and Android users can install the app and have it up and running with as little as an email address and phone number.

But before you hop to it, we’d recommend a quick promo code search. There are plenty of referrals and promotions perched around the web, rewarding users with an automatic credit anywhere between $5 and $15 upon signup. Other offers may pay out an equivalent bonus to select charities.

The Cash App in action

Once you’re all signed up and signed in, you’ll be queried for funding information. That could be your credit card or debit card, a checking account or even a Bitcoin wallet (more on that later). Enter your account and routing info and be sure to review any associated processing fees. Like most digital payments, credit cards carry fees as steep as 3% of any payment.

Here’s where it’s up to you: The Cash App lets you send and receive payments in a flash. No waiting. No endorsing. No paper checks or IOUs. All you have to do is type an amount, search for your contact (or $Cashtag as it’s termed in the app — a simple handle that identifies each user), and press Pay or Request.

The app will hold any funds you receive in your digital purse, though cashing it out is a breeze. When you’re ready, simply choose between standard and instant cash out. The standard option is free and will post the funds to your linked account within 1 to 3 days. The instant option takes a 1.5% fee of your total deposit amount, though it posts immediately.

Cash App security

The Cash App promotes itself as a safe and secure service, and for the most part, they live up to their own campaigning. In testing the Cash App against its competitors, Consumer Reports applauded the app for its data security, a metric determined in part by encryption and authentication techniques.

That said, Square Cash may cling to more personal data than you’d see with other transaction methods. It’s up to you to decide how much you’re willing to share.

Square itself recognizes the inherent privacy and safety concerns that come along with online money transfers, dedicating a full page to educating its user base.

Cash App perks

There’s plenty to like about the Cash App. Beyond the obvious convenience of instant transactions, Square Cash holds exclusive relationships with select merchants that make for something akin to a credit card rewards program.

Here’s how it works: All customers have the option to order a branded debit card free of charge. This card is linked to your account’s available funds and can be used anywhere debit is accepted. Select chains and coffee shops will offer as much as 10% cash back on any purchase when you use your Square Cash Card. That’s a significant discount — even when you stack it up against the major issuers’ loyalty systems.

And for big spenders? Anyone sending more than $250 in a week (or receiving more than $1,000 in 30 days) can verify their identity with their Social Security number. From there, all limits are lifted, and big money transactions become as simple as any other.

Challenges and limitations

While Square Cash has a strong reputation for security and ease of use, there are reported instances of sluggish or unpredictable hold times. If you need to access your funds in a pinch, it may be best to suck up the 1.5% fee to ensure instant delivery.

Square Cash may also run up against the same phenomenon that Google and Uber competitors face: generic trademarking, or more acutely, the process of a brand becoming a verb. Venmo dominates the actual vocabulary of the digital payment market, serving as the inborn phrase for transferring money between two devices.

The numbers would indicate you’re less likely to bump into a stranger with the Cash App as opposed to Venmo. Venmo usership was at one time estimated to be at least twice that of Square Cash, and it’s easy to speculate that part of the separation is due to name recognition alone.

The Bitcoin Bonus

Something that Venmo can’t offer, however, is the unique ability to instantly convert U.S. dollars to Bitcoin, a digital currency that lets you make anonymous transactions online. For speculators and the particularly digitally savvy, Square Cash is the clear choice.

The Cash App lets you buy and sell Bitcoin straight from your phone, offering a simple interface that tracks the cryptocurrency’s day-to-day market price. With the interface now available in all 50 states, buying and selling Bitcoin through the Cash App has never been easier.

Why choose the Cash App?

As with credit cards, it never hurts to diversify your digital wallet within reason. Square Cash, Venmo and their major competitors are reliable, tech-forward solutions to moving money on the fly. Having the Cash App accessible will allow you to transact with its growing user base, many of which could be friends and family.

Exercise the same judgment you would with a credit card or standard bank account, and you’ll get plenty of utility from having it handy.


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