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How to Use Venmo Responsibly: Dos and Don’ts for New Users

November 9, 2018 | By Emma Frost

We’ve all been there: you’re out with friends and all having such a good time, and when the check inevitably arrives, everyone reaches for it all at once. Some friends like to switch off when it comes to taking the check; others prefer to go Dutch so there’s never any confusion. But if you’ve been out with friends lately, chances are, you’ve heard the term, “Venmo” once or twice. But what is Venmo exactly?

What is Venmo?

Like other peer-to-peer payment methods like Zelle and Paypal, Venmo allows you to send funds from your account to another party with just the click of a button. Just download the app, enter a few key details, and create your own virtual wallet to start getting paid back or getting paid back yourself. It’s that easy – some would even argue it’s too easy for your funds to change hands. Sure, Venmo makes these transcriptions more seamless than ever, but with great power comes great responsibility. Let Venmo take the pressure off splitting the bill without ticking off your friends and family with these easy tips.

Don’t Send Someone a Surprise Charge

Have you ever found yourself blindsided by a surprise expense? What if that unexpected charge was from last week’s Happy Hour? You expect that kind of charge from your credit card company at the end of the month, but there’s something extra frustrating about suddenly getting that bill from someone close to you, be they brother or bestie.

When you get charged out of the blue, it’s understandable to feel a little miffed, especially if you didn’t know to expect it. Using Venmo to pay back your roommate can help you avoid taking out installment loans, but it can also throw a monkey wrench into your budget when you get a request and your bank account is running low. Think about that before sending a surprise charge, and give your friends and family notice that you’re sending a request their way when you’re picking up the check. They’ll be happy to give their part if they know it’s coming, and everyone appreciates a little heads up.

Do Let Them Know What the Charge Is For

One of the things that made Venmo an instant hit was how much it behaves like social media – it’s easy, instant, and ubiquitous. From selfies to status updates, some people just love to share (or overshare, as the case may be) but it’s important to use these powerful tools the right way. You can include information about exactly what the charge is for to avoid any confusion or misunderstandings. Making sure your transactions are clearly labeled for reference will give your friends and family an idea of what the exchange was for later.

Don’t Nickle and Dime Your Friends and Family

No one likes feeling like they’re getting nickeled and dimed – not by the credit card company, the cable company, and especially not by those closest to us! So, why do it? Maybe you have a friend visiting from out of town, or perhaps they’re hosting you. Close friends don’t have to split the cost right down the middle every time; we know they’re good for it! Is that $3.35 for coffee really worth it? It’s okay if money’s tight and their half was $10 or more, but know where to draw the line. Quibbling over quarters will only create unnecessary pressure.

Do Make Your Transactions Private

You know that “oversharing” we mentioned earlier? It’s the blessing and bane of all social media, and Venmo is no exception. It’s fun to see how your friends and family are interacting on Venmo, but sometimes it can be TMI. Between lols and emojis, Venmo is the wild west of social media and peer-to-peer payment. But just like those Facebook overshares, you can tune out what you don’t want to see and make sure no one can see your private. If you’re concerned about privacy, set those to private if you don’t want your transactions broadcasted to all your Venmo friends – especially if you use your Venmo account to split the cost of your Youth Group pizza party or to order Chinese with coworkers.

Treat Venmo Like Real Life

One of the major gripes about Venmo is the same disconnect that exists with all social media and everything that functions like it. But does social media actually make us rude? Sometimes it certainly feels like it! Out of sight, out of mind – it’s almost like not seeing the person you’re talking to in front of you makes you less aware of what you’re doing.

When you use Venmo, or anything that behaves like social media, it’s a good rule of thumb to clear your intention and think carefully about who your message is for, and how they might feel when they receive it. Something as simple as labeling a request as “Fun on Taco Tuesday” instead of “your half of the bill, Rocco’s Tacos” can really change the tone of the transaction. Finances are a fickle and sensitive topic for many, and too many of us have let money come between ourselves and a loved one without ever setting out to do so. Always remember there’s a human being at the other end of your request. Your relationships are far more valuable than any transaction you have through Venmo or any other medium, so always be kind!