What Is Venmo?

Venmo is a mobile app that lets you send money to friends and family.
Chanelle BessetteJul 20, 2021

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What is Venmo?

Venmo is a mobile app for peer-to-peer, or P2P, money transfers with a social media twist: You can send or request money with emoji-studded text messages, which show up in a Facebook-style feed. Don’t worry, though — the dollar amounts of transfers always remain private, and you can change the visibility of your payments so that they can be public for anyone to see, shown to friends only or kept private.

» See more transfer options: Top peer-to-peer payment apps

How does Venmo work?

Transfers and purchases. Venmo lets you send money to and request money from anyone who has a Venmo account. The app can help with the awkward chore of reimbursing family or friends for dinner out or other shared expenses, but it’s not intended for buying or selling goods among strangers. Venmo can also be used for web purchases with certain merchants, usually on websites with a payment button similar to PayPal’s.

Mobile only. Venmo payments are made on its highly rated Android and iOS smartphone apps as well as via iMessage or with Siri voice command. You can sign in at Venmo’s website on a desktop or mobile device to view transactions, but not to pay or request money.

U.S. customers only. Venmo, which is owned by PayPal, requires both the sender and recipient to be in the U.S.

Funding the account

Pay with plastic or a bank account. To send money on Venmo, you need to link the app to a U.S. bank account, debit card, prepaid debit card or credit card. If you receive money and want to withdraw it from Venmo, you’ll need to link a bank account.

Link a checking, not a savings, account. Savings accounts have traditionally had a limit of six online withdrawals or transfers per month (see more about this limit), although some banks lifted such restrictions after federal regulations changed in 2020.

Venmo fees

It’s possible to avoid fees when using Venmo. But the service charges two fees for specific options:

  • 3% per transaction for peer-to-peer payments funded by credit card. Peer-to-peer payments funded by bank account, debit card or prepaid debit card are free. And purchases from merchants with a Venmo payment option also are free, even with a credit card.

  • 1.5% per transaction, with a 25-cent minimum, for instant transfers as of Aug. 2, 2021 (1% per transaction, or a minimum of 25 cents, before then). This fee is charged when you cash out from a Venmo balance to a debit card. These transfers are delivered within half an hour. There’s no fee if you use the standard “cash-out” transfer to a bank account, though delivery takes one to three business days.

Receiving money

Like PayPal, Venmo stores your money in an in-app balance, which can fund your future payments (if there’s enough money) or be cashed out to your bank account. Otherwise, the money sits there, and that’s not ideal. A Venmo app balance isn't federally insured like bank accounts are, so you could lose it in the event of Venmo going out of business. Money in a Venmo account also doesn’t earn interest.

How much you can send

Under $5,000 per week. To get started on Venmo, you need to download the mobile app, create a login and confirm your phone number, email address and bank account information. Your initial transfer maximum per week is $299.99 until you verify more of your identity. When you submit your Social Security number, ZIP code and birthdate, you become “verified” and can send up to $4,999.99 per week in one or multiple transactions. (Venmo increased this limit, previously $2,999.999, in 2020 during the COVID-19 crisis.)

The maximum you can transfer from Venmo to a bank account starts at $999.99 per transaction, but once you’re verified, the limit goes up to $19,999 per week.

Service and security

Customer service is available by phone weekdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time. Otherwise, you can also email or chat with the support team on the mobile app.

Security features on the app include PIN- and fingerprint-based login options and two-factor authentication. If your phone is lost or stolen and you don’t have these safeguards set up, you can disallow access to your account by logging on to Venmo’s website and changing your permission settings.

Venmo’s parent company, PayPal, reached a settlement in 2018 with the Federal Trade Commission over complaints that customers’ access to funds was delayed without notification, and that Venmo had misled users about how to maintain privacy settings for their transactions.

Social media and privacy settings

Venmo offers social media features, including a feed of payments involving people you’re connected to on Venmo. However, you can adjust your privacy settings so transactions are "private" (visible to sender and recipient) or visible to "friends" (sender, recipients and Venmo connections). Audience settings for past transactions can be altered retroactively.

Venmo debit and credit cards

Venmo offers a debit card that works for U.S. purchases anywhere that accepts Mastercard. This card isn’t available to everyone, but you can add your name to the waitlist on Venmo’s app. (If you have the itch to see what mobile checking is available right now, see our list of the best options for mobile banking.)

The optional Venmo credit card allows users to earn cash back in different spending categories, with those rewards deposited into your Venmo account. See NerdWallet’s review of the Venmo credit card.

Former NerdWallet writer Caren Weiner Campbell contributed to this article. 

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