“Just Venmo me.”

These are three words I got very used to hearing throughout my college years. When someone would forget their wallet or decide to split a meal with another person, repaying became infinitely easier as long as both parties had a mobile payment app. It took time for me to hop on the mobile payment app train but once I realized how useful they were and how rarely I had cash on hand, I soon found myself on board. 

Although I didn’t have too much familiarity with mobile payment apps prior to college, the introduction of mobile payment apps didn’t exactly phase me. Maybe that’s because it seemed as though every person my age embraced and appreciated the simplicity of it all. Still, I’m curious to know how mobile payment apps became accepted by people in each generation. Seeing as the conversation around our world eventually going cashless has been happening for a while now and most people don’t seem to want that.

Payment x Technology

In a study done in 2016, it was projected that 70 percent of all mobile users in the United States would have made a mobile payment by 2017, a large difference from 14 percent in 2014. More than a couple of years have passed since this study and I can’t imagine how much that percentage has probably increased by.

The existence of mobile payment apps isn’t something that came completely out of left field considering human beings have relied on payment systems since the beginning of time. In modern times, keeping track of various credit cards, debit cards, and cash can become tiresome. People are always looking for ways to make life easier and mobile payment apps provide the ease people are looking for. 

The introduction of smartphones is also something to take into account. The iPhone kicked things off but now there are countless other devices on the market equipped with the ability to download apps and facilitate e-payments. Now that people are used to completing everything on their smartphones, it may be cause for concern, but it is not surprising that people are taking care of financial matters on their phones as well. 

Popular Mobile Payment Apps

Venmo, Cash App, and Zelle are the payment apps I hear about most often but there are numerous others. Venmo first came onto the scene in 2010 and since then its popularity has only grown. Millennials and Gen-Zers alike speak about the app often and have even turned the word Venmo into a verb, that’s when an app knows it has made it. The company itself was first started by Magdon-Ismail and Andrew Kortina then it was acquired by Braintree, then PayPal acquired Braintree in 2013. It wasn’t until 2015 that Venmo truly took off after strong marketing from PayPal.

Cash App came out in 2013 and was started by Square. It was created to compete with Venmo and since going public in 2015 it has, “grown into one of the largest payment processing companies in the United States”. Although it took time for me to start hearing Cash App being mentioned in casual conversation. The past few years it has started to be used by practically everyone. 

Zelle is an app I’ve only used once and probably won’t use again, but it’s still worth mentioning. I remember vividly the commercials Zelle used to air when the app was first coming out. They used catchy songs to reel people in and hopefully get you to stray away from Venmo or Cash App. Zelle is a bit different from other mobile payment apps as it allows the user to easily transfer money from bank account to bank account. A process that’s normally long and frustrating, Zelle focuses on simplifying that process and it seems to have worked since with its usage seeing a 57% increase between 2018 and 2019.

The Future of Mobile Apps

There has been a lot of talk about the United States possibly going cashless post-COVID-19. Since people aren’t going out as much and don’t want to pass money to each other for fear of catching the virus, cashless transactions have seen a rise. It was even advised by the World Health Organization to turn to cashless transactions during this time. 

This is a positive sign for those companies who own apps like Venmo, Cash App, and Zelle as the money they’re bringing in is probably at an all-time high. It’s still unknown exactly how this could affect banks, certain jobs, and the way we all take care of our finances. 

Going cashless might be a win for mobile payment apps but that doesn’t mean it’s a win for the world as a whole. 

Carol Wright

By Carol Wright

Editorial Fellow