September 30, 2020

What is Venmo? How does it work? Fees, safety, limits, and more explained

Here's everything to know about the popular money transfer app Venmo, from basics to fees and limits.

What is Venmo featured image

Venmo is a company that most Americans have heard of at some point, even if they’ve never used it themselves. It can be a hugely convenient way to handle simple money transactions, but it isn’t quite the same as a bank account or debit card. So what is Venmo and how does it work? Here’s everything you need to know about the money transfer app, from fees and transfer limits to concerns about safety and more.


What is Venmo?

What is Venmo app home screen

Venmo is an app for Android and iOS that enables quick and simple transfers between private individuals. It’s primarily for friends, and it’s typically marketed as a way to split bills, reimburse friends for cab rides, or pay roommates your half of the rent. Like PayPal, Venmo is tied to a bank account or debit/credit card, although there is an in-app balance as well.

What makes Venmo unique is its focus on social interactions. Each payment has a message attached that’s publicly published with the dollar amount removed. This works much like other social media feeds like Twitter or Facebook.


Who owns Venmo?

Venmo was purchased by Braintree in 2012, which itself was purchased by PayPal in 2013. PayPal’s ownership of Venmo has lead to a variety of new features being added to the platform, although in some regards they are competing in the same space.


How does Venmo work?

Venmo is a mobile-only platform, so in order to use it you need to download the app from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store. You then need to create an account and, if you want to send money, link a US bank account or credit/debit card. Venmo does not currently work with bank accounts outside of the United States.

The service essentially works as an intermediary and transfers money from your Venmo account to another person’s account. It may take a few hours to a few days for the funds to appear in the other user’s account. If you have enough funds in your account, the money will be deducted from there, otherwise it will transfer the full amount from your preferred payment method (bank account, debit card, or credit card).


Is Venmo free? How does it make money?

Venmo app on phone 2

It’s free to create a Venmo account and transfer funds as long as you link a bank account or debit card. If you link a credit card, there is a 3% fee on each transaction which originates from the credit card company itself. Venmo simply passes this fee onto its customers.

Venmo makes money from a few sources, one of which being instant transfers. This service allows you to send money from the app to a US bank account or debit card and have the money arrive within 30 minutes. This service costs 1% of the transfer value, with a minimum fee of $.25 and a maximum fee of $10. If you don’t want to pay, you can still transfer money for free with a 1-3 business day wait time.

The company also makes money from vendors, which pay a small percentage of each transaction that goes through the service. This is standard practice, and as a customer you won’t pay any extra fees. The app is currently accepted at over two million retailers within the United States.


Is there a limit on transfers?

Yes, there is a limit to how much you can transfer to other users with Venmo each week. For new, unverified users, the limit is $299.99 per week. Once you’ve verified your identity by sending in certain identification like Social Security number, ZIP code, and birthday, the limit jumps to $4,999.99 per week. You can spend an additional $2,000 per week on authorized vendors, so the overall limit is $6,999.99.

For the purposes of Venmo transfer limits, the start of the week is rolling and starts at the time of the transaction. This means that every transaction counts against your limit for exactly one week, regardless of when in the week it was made.

There are also Venmo limits on how much money you can transfer to a bank account. Those limits are $999.99 for unverified users and $19,999.99 for verified users per week, following the same rules above. However, the largest amount you can transfer at one time is $2,999.99.


Is Venmo safe?

Is venmo safe security settings

In general, Venmo is safe to use for simple money transfers to friends or buying goods at an authorized vendor. The company encrypts your data and keeps it stored in secure locations, so the likelihood of a security breach is low. However, like all services related to finance, you should take extra precaution.

The Venmo app has a few extra security measures to keep your account safe, such as a PIN requirement for each transfer. If you lose your phone or suspect someone is using it without your knowledge, you can also log out of your account remotely on the official website.

That said, Venmo itself states that the service is intended for use between friends, so you should never transfer money to someone you don’t know. You will not be able to get your money back from a bad actor if you willingly transfer them funds. Additionally, be careful what you write with your transfers, as comments can be shared publicly. You can change this in the settings, but the default setting is public to all.

Venmo hasn’t always been as safe as it is today, and in 2016 the FTC intervened to get the company to clean up its act. Previous claims of “bank-level� security were found to be untrue, and the notification system Venmo used for transfers allowed scammers to easily pull one over on users. Thankfully, these issues have been fixed today, and the platform is safe to use for all.


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