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Venmo review: An app that makes it easy—and social—to split the check

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The Venmo mobile payment app boasts a huge user base, a sleek interface, flexible payment options and agility at splitting bills. Owned by PayPal, it’s the peer-to-peer payment app to beat, as long as you don’t mind getting social about the tabs you’re picking up. Our only gripes are that it won’t let you send or receive payments as a guest, and we wish it would let you adjust individual amounts when splitting a check.

If you’d rather not shout your purchases to the sky, check out the other mobile payment apps we reviewed.

Getting started

The easiest way to create a Venmo account is to connect the app to your Facebook account, although there is an option to use your e-mail address. You’ll also have to enter your phone number to receive a verification passcode via SMS.

Once that’s done, Venmo will start bugging you to scan your Facebook friends and address book—understandable, given Venmo’s relentless focus on social. The good news is that Venmo won’t nag your contacts about joining. Instead, it’s simply adding their names and contact info to your list of possible money buddies.

What it looks like

After adding friends (or not—you can always do so later) to your Venmo profile, you’ll jump to the main interface, which is essentially a social feed detailing countless emoji-stamped Venmo transactions, minus the actual amounts.

Venmo social feed Ben Patterson / IDG

Venmo isn’t just about splitting the check; it’s also about sharing your payments with the world.

Atop the feed are three taps: one that shows a feed of global Venmo activity, another tab for friends, and a personal tab on the right. In case you didn’t get it before, Venmo isn’t just about paying your pals—it’s also about sharing your payments with the world, if you choose.

Adding bank cards and accounts

You can add up to six debit or credit cards to your Venmo account on a rolling six-month basis, meaning if you delete your sixth card from your account, you’ll have to wait for the current six-month cycle to expire before you add another one. Debit and credit cards only let you send cash, however; to receive money, you’ll need to add a bank account, too.

Sending and receiving money

At last, time to spend. To send or request cash, just tap the Compose button in the top-right corner of the main Venmo interface, add a name (or names, if you’re questing money from a bunch of lunch pals) from your list of Venmo friends (and given Venmo’s estimated 7 million active monthly users, you’ve probably got plenty), enter an amount, then tap Request or Pay.

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