How-To

The Social Side of Venmo: A Deep Dive Into the Fun Extras

You know about Venmo as a way to send and receive cash digitally. But there is another fun social side to the service. Here we take a look.

The mobile payment service Venmo has long been a popular choice with young people, which makes sense when you consider how it was created in the first place. To keep millennials and others coming back, the PayPal subsidiary offers unique social networking tools one wouldn’t expect from a banking product. Here’s a look at the social networking side of Venmo and why the tools are useful regardless of your age.

Hi, Venmo

Venmo launched in 2009 and was founded by Andrew Kortina and Iqram Magdon-Ismail, who met after being randomly selected as freshman roommates at the University of Pennsylvania. Venmo was initially designed so people could send a text to their favorite band to get music in their email. The company soon expanded to let users send and receive payments via text message. Soon, it became a tool for individuals with smartphones to split bills for events like movies, dinner, rent, tickets, and more. Today, the service is used for all sorts of money transfers, including Uber rides, freelance payments, birthday gifts, and much more. And because Venmo doesn’t charge a fee for most transactions, it’s a great way to transfer funds for other reasons as well.

In 2013, PayPal purchased Venmo, which expanded its reach, although it’s still exclusive to those physically located in the United States who have a U.S. mobile number and bank account.

It’s Time for a Social

One of the ways Venmo has set itself apart from other banking services is by offering social networking interaction. At the heart of the interaction are various “news feeds,” which let others know when you make a transaction (and to who), without the payment amount.

Hot tip: You can use Facebook Connect to add your Facebook friends to your Venmo friends list automatically. By doing so, you can easily make payments with these folks, assuming they also use Venmo. Initially, you needed a Facebook account to use Venmo. However, this is no longer the case. As part of the Venmo setup process, you can also quickly add your smartphone contacts.

Different Feeds

There are three news feeds in Venmo, worldwide, friends-only, and personal. The first and second feeds are similar in that you can react to transactions from others using a “like” or comment, just as you can on regular social networking services. Communicating in Venmo isn’t limited to text. You can also use emoji, Snapchat’s Bitmoji, and Holler stickers.

The worldwide Venmo feed is a running list of transactions happening across service. The friends-only feed only includes purchases made by your friends. The personal feed consists of a history of your Venmo transactions, starting with the most recent.

When you tap on another user, whether through the worldwide or friends-only feed, you can learn more information about them. This information includes their full name, Venmo handle, and list of Venmo friends. On the user profile, you can also see their transaction, again not the payment amount, or make a friend request. Naturally, you can also request or send money to the person.

Where’s the Privacy?

I can’t imagine a reason why I need to know when John Smith sends a payment to Jane Smith. Equally, how do I benefit from knowing each time my best friend sends money to his teenage son? Luckily, you can change the Venmo privacy level for your account. Sadly, the default setting is to allow anyone to see your Venmo transactions. The three available privacy settings are:

  • Public, transactions (less the amount) are visible to everyone (default setting)
  • Friends, transactions visible to sender, recipient, and their Venmo friends
  • Private, transactions are only visible to the sender and recipient.

These settings, when changed, only affect future Venmo transactions, although you can make a similar (but separate) change to previous transactions.

Changing Your Privacy Settings

To adjust the privacy settings in the Venmo app:

  1. Tap on the Venmo app on your mobile device. The Venmo app is available on the App Store and Google Play.
  2. Choose the hamburger icon at the top left of the app.
  3. Select Settings.
  4. Tap Privacy.
  5. Change the Default Privacy Setting to Public, Friends, or Private, depending on your choice.
  6. Tap Past Transactions under More.
  7. Change Privacy for Past Transactions to Change to Friends or Change All to Private. You decide.

Your privacy settings only affect whether others see your transactions; they don’t change what you can see about others.  If two users involved in a single transaction have different privacy settings, Venmo applies the more restrictive level. Additionally, users can override their overall privacy settings for any individual purchase.

Venmo transactions privacy setting

Other Privacy Settings

You can block other Venmo users at any time using the app. When you block someone, they can’t access your account anymore or send/request money. To better protect your Venmo account, you can add a passcode or Touch ID/Face ID, when applicable.

Is Venmo For You?

I’ve never been one to place individuals into different groups based on age, sex, or background. In Venmo’s case, I do believe age largely determines whether someone uses the service’s social interaction tools. As a member of Generation X, I find these tools part of overshare culture and unnecessary. However, some of my younger friends find the tools exciting and use them often to communicate with others.

Thankfully, there’s room for everyone since the social tools aren’t required. Coupled with the privacy options and suddenly Venmo becomes a good choice for young and old alike. Sign up for a free account today.


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