Money apps let people leave cash behind

PHOENIX - Let's say you owe a buddy $50. You used to have to get in the car, fight traffic to get the ATM, wait in line, then wait to see your friend again before they got paid.

Not anymore.

Cash is still king, but more people are using technology to avoid using it at all.

"Peer to peer payments are kind of a new and innovative tool," said Nerdwallet.com banking expert, Kimberly Palmer. "It also seems like every day there's a new app you can download or a new tool you can use."

She says apps like Venmo, Square Cash, and Zelle can eliminate the need for cash in certain situations.

"Often this comes up when you're all out to dinner and you're trying to settle up the bill and one person owes the other," she said.

Here's how it works: you and your friends download the same payment app to your phones; connect the app to your bank or credit card account; pick who you want to pay, and tap a button to send them the cash.

Sounds convenient but what about security? Some like Venmo use encryption, others claim not to store financial information in the first place.

Palmer says the apps are about as secure as any other banking tool that is used but there are special precautions you need to take.

First, make sure you know who you are sending money to. 

"If you end up sending money to the wrong person with one of these tools, in some cases the policy varies by tool--but you might not be able to get your money back right away," she said.

You should also double check that you are sending the amount of money you intended. The difference between $100 and $1000 could clean out your bank account. Also find out what the dispute process is.

"That is the first question you want to ask, about the security that's on the back end of these tools to protect you from that kind of common error," she said.

Finally, using public WiFi for financial business is always a terrible idea.

Palmer says linking bank accounts to the apps is usually free, but credit cards are typically subject to fees.
 

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