Since launching in 1998, PayPal has dominated the peer-to-peer (P2P) payments space. In fact, the company is largely responsible for bringing the concept of “peer-to-peer” into the vernacular — long before the rise of Napster, BitTorrent or Bitcoin.
Nearly 20 years later, PayPal continues to maintain a staggering lead with:
- 200-plus million users worldwide
- Billions of transactions annually
- Over 100 currencies supported
Yet, that lead is starting to erode as more competitors crowd into the P2P payment game.
Below are some of the biggest potential contenders.
1. Apple Pay Cash
As with most Apple launches, brand recognition and ease of use are the main selling points behind this new P2P payment technology.
Users can send and receive money directly through Apple’s messaging platform. They can also initiate transfers using Siri’s voice-activated technology.
All of this syncs with the tech giant’s other payment service — Apple Pay. This allows you to use a single unified system for both retail purchases and P2P transfers.
Unlike PayPal, Apple doesn’t charge fees to use its service. The only downside is that Apple Pay Cash is only available on a limited number of devices within the larger iPhone and iPad ecosystem.
Backed by some of the biggest names in finance, Zelle is another relatively recent arrival. This P2P payment network is currently supported by a number of participating banks, including:
- Wells Fargo
- Bank of America
This makes onboarding new customers incredibly easy.
Users simply download the standalone Zelle app or their bank’s branded app. Either way, they can start sending and receiving money instantly. Because Zelle is directly connected to the user’s bank account, settlements clear within minutes — instead of the one to two business days required for PayPal transfers.
Admittedly, PayPal has recently started offering instant withdrawals. However, this pilot project is still in beta — and there is a 25-cent fee per transfer.
Zelle, by contrast, is 100 percent free for all domestic transfers among participating banks.
Venmo is PayPal’s answer to … well … PayPal. Or rather, it’s a reaction to all the recent competition that PayPal’s success has attracted over the years.
How does Venmo stack up to the competition?
At first glance, it doesn’t seem very impressive:
- Settlements still take several days — instead of a few minutes.
- Bank and debit card transfers are free, but credit card payments carry a 3 percent charge.
However, Venmo isn’t strictly a P2P payment option. PayPal is trying to brand this service as a new type of social network:
- Users can connect with friends. They can even add contacts from other social networks such as Facebook.
- Users can send messages and emojis. They can also add notes and annotate recent transactions.
Combining personal finances with social media may seem like an odd fit. Yet, the service is already so popular that people have started to use “Venmo” as a verb (the way we already do when “PayPaling someone” or “Googling something”).