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The 5 best payment apps: Venmo isn't your only option

What is the best payment app? PayPal is ZDNet's No. 1 choice. To determine our top pick, as well as four other honorable mentions, we researched and compared the apps based on criteria like the platforms they're available on, whether there are fees for sending money, and if foreign transactions are allowed. We believe a good payment app should help simplify your payments and make spending easy.
lena-borrelli-author.jpg
Written by Lena Borrelli, Contributing Writer on
Reviewed by Elyse Betters Picaro

The world has gone digital, and we officially find ourselves in the Age of the App. With mobile apps so prevalent, it makes sense that they would change the way we make payments, too. 

The days of mailing cashier's checks and money orders are long past, thanks to the development of several key payment apps that simplify the payment process and make receiving money a breeze. But which one is the best to handle your money?

When it comes to your finances, these are the best payment apps to help you make and receive payments. 

PayPal review | best payment app
  • Platforms: Android, iOS
  • Cost: Free with an additional fee for currency conversion

PayPal has been a popular pick for many years, and it remains the best payment app today. Over 400 million users today use the service with easy QR codes to both pay and receive payments. If you have trouble paying your bill in full, there is the option to buy and now then pay over four interest-free payments. Simply choose the Pay in 4 option at checkout to proceed. 

Another unique option is the ability to pay with cryptocurrency. Instead of needing a crypto credit card, you can use PayPal as a taxable transaction at millions of stores, giving you one more option. PayPal is free to use, although there is an additional fee when you need currency conversion. Available via mobile app, PayPal also offers online access. Plus, when you sign up, there is a $5 reward when you spend $10 or more. 

Pros: 

  • Free to pay
  • Built-in security measures
  • Multiple financing options

Cons:

  • Lackluster customer service
  • Drawn-out dispute process
CashApp review | best payment app
  • Platforms: Android, iOS
  • Cost: Free

With Cash App, it is free to both send and receive money, saving you tons of money in transfer fees. Simply create a $cashtag and use it to make payments anywhere. The Cash Card bears the Visa® logo and enables you to make both in-person and online purchases using your Cash App balance. It is compatible with both Apple Pay and Google Pay for easier use. 

Getting cash is also simple. When you deposit $300 each month, you get three free ATM withdrawals per month. One of the best parts about Cash App is that you can receive your paycheck up to two days earlier when you open an account. 

You can also buy bitcoin starting at just $1 in a format that is user-friendly to both novice and experienced investors. There are built-in security measures to help keep your information private, such as verification locks and data encryption. 

Pros:

  • Free to use
  • Simple to use
  • Tax filing tools

Cons:

  • Lacking advanced features
  • International limitations
Stripe review | best payment app
  • Platforms: Android, iOS
  • Cost: 2.9% + 30¢ per successful charge. Customized packages are also available.  

Stripe boasts some pretty impressive stats - 90% of American adults have purchases from a business that uses Stripe. It is easy to see why -- it is available in more than 35 countries and supports over 135 currencies. It is also used by millions of small and large companies, including Instacart, Google, Shopify, and Amazon. 

The app is used not only for sending payments but also for receiving them. There are also integrations for several systems, including Shopify, NetSuite, and WooCommerce. You can embed your own custom checkout using JavaScript with a custom UI toolkit for complete personalization. With extreme care built into its systems, customers can enjoy over 99.99% uptime with additional compliance procedures. 

Pros:

  • Reporting features
  • Instant deposits
  • 24/7 customer service

Cons:

  • Must pay for use
  • Limits apply for in-person purchases
Venmo review | best payment app
  • Platforms: Android, iOS
  • Cost: 3% when sending money from a linked bank account, debit card, or Venmo account

Venmo is popular for sending money between family and friends, thanks to its over 83 million users. Whether it is paying for the family groceries or splitting the rent with a friend, Venmo is super popular for sending and receiving money among acquaintances. You can also invest in crypto directly through the app since it supports multiple types of cryptocurrency. 

For businesses, there is the ability to create a profile so you can receive greater exposure to both existing and new clientele. You also have the option to get a Venmo Credit Card with up to 3% back and a personalized QR code to make receiving and sending payments easy. Rewards categories change on a rotating basis. 

Pros:

  • Compatible with cryptocurrency
  • Simple to use
  • Commonly accepted where PayPal is accepted

Cons:

  • No international transactions
  • Limited website tools
Zelle review | best payment app
  • Platforms: Android, iOS
  • Cost: There are no fees to use Zelle, although your bank or credit union may assess their own fees.

Zelle is an easy way to send money using your bank account. You must use a U.S. bank account, thereby excluding an international clientele. However, for U.S. accounts, Zelle is one of the best payment apps for bank transfers. You simply set up your account using your email address or phone number, then link your bank account. There are no restrictions on the exact bank you have to use as long as you use a U.S. account. 

The Zelle app is available via the Zelle app, or you can send transfers directly through most banking apps. It is compatible with more than 1,000 bank apps. All you need is the email address or the phone number of the recipient, and then you enter the amount you want to send. It could not be simpler. 

Pros:

  • Free to use
  • Built-in security measures
  • No limits for receiving money

Cons:

  • No international accounts
  • Payment limits apply

What is the best payment app?

PayPal is my go-to payment app. It's a popular choice with millions of users and can be used to send money to friends and family or to transact with businesses large and small.

Payment app

Platform

Fee for sending money

Foreign transactions

PayPal

Android, iOS

Fee applies for currency conversion 

Yes

Cash App

Android, iOS

Free

Yes

Stripe

Android, iOS

2.9% + 30¢ per successful charge

Yes

Venmo

Android, iOS

3%    

No

Zelle

Android, iOS

Free

No

Which payment app is right for you?

It can be confusing to pick the best payment app, so here are our expert recommendations to help you find the best payment app for you. 

Choose this payment app...

If you want...

Cash App

A straightforward app  without complications

Paypal

A versatile app that offers flexibility with your payments

Stripe

A payment app worthy of your business' needs

Venmo

To send money to family and friends

Zelle

To use your bank account to make payments

How did we choose these payment apps?

When choosing the best payment app, it is critical that each app meets certain criteria. These are some of the factors we consider while searching for the best payment apps.

  • Security: One of the most important things is to ensure that your money is safely secured within the app. We look for security features like two-factor authentication and fraud detection.
  • Fees: Not all payment apps are free to use, so we consider if there are fees and packages available to offer you an affordable payment app.
  • Transfer speed: Some apps can take weeks to transfer funds, but the best payment apps offer easy, efficient transfers, regardless of whether you are the one sending or receiving the money.
  • Availability: Some apps are only available in the U.S., which can be inconvenient when you have friends and family living abroad. Other apps may limit how much you can send or receive, and additional fees may apply. Be sure to consider your needs when it comes to sending money internationally. 

How do payment apps work?

Payment apps are a simple way to send and receive money using your mobile device. They are generally used by several types of customers, including individuals, contractors, and business owners. You can typically store your credit card or banking information within the app, so it just takes the touch of a button to send money across the country or even the world. 

Are payment apps safe?

Many of the best payment apps incorporate additional security features to keep your most personal details safe from prying eyes. Apps use security measures like Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), digital certificates, and fraud protection against unauthorized transactions. 

Are there alternative payment apps worth considering?

While searching for the best payment app, we found several options that may be worthy of your needs, whether they are personal or professional.

While you are thinking of all things financial, consider our picks for the best credit cards for good credit, best rewards credit cards, and the best international travel cards of 2022. 

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