Listen To The Story

For many people, especially those under 40, paying a friend, or settling a restaurant bill, or squaring up after happy hour isn't done in cash. It's done by peer to peer app.

You've probably heard of PayPal and Venmo, which PayPal owns. Most Venmo users send their payments along with emojis or wacky descriptions. Now, there's some competition from Zelle, the big banks' answer to Venmo.

Rahul Chadha follows peer to peer mobile banking for the research organization eMarketer. His firm says Zelle will overtake Venmo this year.  Chadha spoke with Marketplace's Lizzie O'Leary about the two payment systems.

Rahul Chadha:  One of the main advantages for Zelle is that it is already embedded in the app. Another advantage that Zelle has against Venmo is that it transfers your money automatically. And yet another is that it allays a lot of security concerns that consumers have about using these types of payment functions.

Lizzie O'Leary:  How is that part of it — is it just that they have the security tech of the big banks?

Chadha: They basically have the backing of the banks and they have the brand power of the banks. That's the main issue that helps allay consumer concerns about security. They actually spent a lot of money on marketing this year, and that's one of the points they repeat in their commercials, that your money is safe with us because “we're the banks, you know us already.”

O'Leary: That's an amazing pitch to hear 10 years after the financial crisis — your money is safe with us because we're the banks. One of the things that Venmo has going for it is that — and I can't believe I'm saying this about an app that transfers money — but it's cool. It's fun. People like to use the emoji. Does Zelle have any chance of capturing those millennial customers who like doing this? Or does it matter?

Chadha: I'm not sure that it matters. Venmo obviously holds appeal among millennials. It's maybe not as fun, but it could also be an advantage for Zelle because older consumers who aren't as likely to share their financial information — Zelle would probably appeal to them more than Venmo. And Venmo enables the social media function of its app by default.

O'Leary: Right. That's one of the things that's amazing. Venmo's default is to share "Lizzie paid for" and then pizza emoji, or whatever it is. People seem to be okay with that. Has Venmo seen any bleed of users from privacy concerns? Or just sort of like “hey, why are you making my money-sharing public?”

Chadha: No, I don't think they're losing users. It's a feature that appeals to a certain core age demographic, frankly. It's younger users who are used to sharing all those snippets of their lives. This isn't a radical change for them.

O'Leary: One question I have about Venmo — since part of Zelle's appeal is saying "hey, we're secure," is Venmo secure? What happens to your money, and is there any recourse for a consumer if Venmo get hacked?

Chadha: That's a really good question. One of the other aspects in which Venmo differs from Zelle is that it has what we call a mobile wallet layer. It's basically a feature that captures your money and holds it in a little pot. Zelle transfers money directly from accounts to accounts. So there is no middle ground where your money might be held in purgatory. So if someone were to access your Venmo mobile wallet, there's a chance they could deplete your funds for sure.

But most of the cases of fraud that I've seen relate to people trying to purchase something from a stranger and then finding either this person has just run away with their money or even if you're trying to sell something, sometimes people pay for goods, and then reverse the charges. So, you're kind of stuck with no goods, and the person has absconded with whatever you're trying to sell, and your money.

“I think the best compliment I can give is not to say how much your programs have taught me (a ton), but how much Marketplace has motivated me to go out and teach myself.” – Michael in Arlington, VA

As a nonprofit news organization, what matters to us is the same thing that matters to you: being a source for trustworthy, independent news that makes people smarter about business and the economy. So if Marketplace has helped you understand the economy better, make more informed financial decisions or just encouraged you to think differently, we’re asking you to give a little something back.

Become a Marketplace Investor today – in whatever amount is right for you – and keep public service journalism strong. We’re grateful for your support.

Follow Lizzie O'Leary at @lizzieohreally