Modern technology has revolutionized the way in which money changes hands, integrating newer and faster digital payments that allow everything from instantly paying friends to paying bills and even employees online. Cash is decreasing in popularity, as is direct card-usage, as consumers look for faster and safer ways to access cash online. Peer to Peer (P2P) payment apps are one of the most commonly sought out alternatives to payments and have been extremely popular for over a decade.
While PayPal is the most common and popular P2P app available, there are numerous alternatives. The top peer-to-peer payment apps include dedicated apps as well as features built into social media and other tools. Today’s P2P transaction volume exceeds $120 billion per year, encompassing more than 1/5th of the total digital payments market (estimated at $726 billion), making P2P one of the most popular payment methods in the world.
PayPal is one of the oldest and most trusted peer to peer payment app, with 244 million active users as of 2017. The app and online platform enable near-instant payments from sources including credit and debit, bank transfer, eCheck, and any balance on the account, giving users a flexible range of options to choose from. While PayPal has a turbulent history, it is one of the most popular P2P payment apps, is integrated into thousands of websites, and has one of the largest user bases of any similar service.
While technically separate payment services, Facebook and WhatsApp each offer P2P payment options through the respective apps. Facebook Pay allows anyone to connect a credit or debit card, after which they can pay for goods and services or split payments with friends right through Messenger or the online portal. WhatsApp offers a similar service, with payment options geared towards the country’s primary payment solutions (I.E. credit card in the USA and iDeal in the Netherlands). Both are owned and operated by the same company and are part of the same technology.
While Facebook and WhatsApp Pay are relatively new services, they are sure to see largescale adoption simply because of the popularity of the apps. With no real need to log into a new app, many users who don’t currently use P2P payments may also start using it, especially for simple transactions with friends and family.
Zelle is one of the most popular P2P payment apps because it is used by numerous U.S. banks including Bank of America, Capital Morgan, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, US Bank, and many others. Zelle typically licenses P2P payment services to individual banks, enabling them to brand and use the payment platform as their own. Here, Zelle is similar to and the successor to clearXchange, a banking service which launched in 2011 to offer peer-to-peer, business-to-consumer, and government-to-consumer payments.
Zelle requires that individuals sign up through their bank, which differentiates the app from other P2P networks like Square or PayPal. However, with a network of 175+ U.S. banks, the majority of U.S. banking consumers have some access to the app. However, with 27.4 million users, Zelle is still significantly smaller than PayPal.
With 86 + million users, Apple Pay is by far one of the largest of the various “Pay” applications (Android Pay and Samsung Pay are the leading competitors). Apple Pay integrates directly into iOS devices allowing users to add their cards, payment services, tickets, coupons, and more to directly pay for transactions with their phone. Apple Pay also combines P2P payments with digitization of cards and membership cards, making it easier for individuals to go cashless and cardless.
While Apple Pay does allow you to add an account balance, its largest convenience is simply connecting all cards that you already have and allowing you to use them through the app. Instead of inputting the card pin and other transaction data, you simply input your Apple Pay security (typically Face ID or Apple ID), making it extremely convenient to use. Apple Pay’s competitors work almost exactly the same, leading to large-scale adoption by relevant device owners.
Square Cash / Cash App
Square Cash is a peer to peer payment application owned by Square, a credit card processing company. Cash App integrates with most social media and phone-based payment applications including iMessage, Apple Watch, Siri, Snapcash, email, and many others. However, with a user base of just 27 million, it’s relatively small compared to some competitors and is facing stiff competition from built-in payment solutions.
Users can easily integrate their U.S. bank account, purchase alternative currencies such as Bitcoin, and integrate cards.
Venmo was previously one of the largest peer to peer payment applications, and it still remains one of the top options in the U.S. Venmo works using either funds in the user’s account, linked bank accounts, or linked cards (or a combination of all three). It also integrates a social model, giving users the tools to add friends, businesses, and merchants, and make easy transfers between them. The result is a flexible app enabling payments between friends, purchases from merchants who use Venmo and transferring money to and from banks. Unlike nearly all competitors, Venmo requires both the payer and the payee to have a Venmo account.
While there are numerous P2P payment apps, the top peer to peer payment apps for 2019 largely include integrated phone services and social media platforms with P2P payment tools. Because most users are looking for convenience, many are not searching for a dedicated service. Instead, they’d rather have a single payment platform that works easily inside the tools they already own, integrates with as many tools as possible, and is preferably accepted by most merchants. For this reason, tools like Apple Pay and Facebook Pay will continue to rise in popularity, because they are fast, convenient, and extremely easy to access.
At the same time, many consumers are using digital payment solutions directly through their banking apps, taking advantage of universal services like Zelle to make P2P transfers, to use digital cards, or to pay merchants and utilities or services more quickly. As more service-providers accept digital payments, Zelle and its competitors will also continue to rise in popularity.