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Venmo wants you to use its payment service in the real world. Should you?
Venmo is moving from the digital world to the real world. On Monday, it introduced the Venmo card, a new debit card that ties directly to your Venmo account.
With the Venmo card, app users will be able to use their Venmo balance at physical retailers and businesses. If your Venmo balance is low, it will withdraw funds from your linked bank account to complete a purchase. And like a true debit card, it can be used at ATMs to withdraw funds if you need cash. (MoneyPass ATMs are free; use of other ATMs may incur a fee.)
The card is accepted anywhere MasterCard is taken, and purchases show up in your Venmo transaction history—just like your normal Venmo activities do.
Is the Venmo card worth it?
With all this in mind, the Venmo Card has some interesting pros and cons. For one, it’s clearly a middleman. You’ve already got a credit card or bank account tied to your Venmo account. What this card does is encourage you to store your extra funds with Venmo rather than transferring them back to your bank account. While interest rates may be paltry, this does mean that Venmo (and its parent company PayPal) will be making interest off your money instead of you, if you were to put those funds in savings.
It also doesn’t seem to provide any notable extra protections over a normal debit card. If someone were to get a hold of it, they may as well have access to your debit card since Venmo’s cards withdraw money from your linked account to complete purchases (when needed). Venmo does offer a quick in-app way to disable or re-enable the card, however—so in the case you did misplace it, you could render it temporarily worthless until it’s found again. And unlike a normal debit card, Venmo’s card obscures who you actually bank with, which could add a layer of security in the case of attempted fraud.
If you use Venmo frequently or split purchases with friends or roommates using Venmo regularly, the card definitely makes a ton of sense. Since all your transactions are posted in Venmo, this can make the process of splitting up a dinner bill or utility payment a little more swift. Like phone-based mobile payments such as Apple Pay or Android Pay, this card also has wireless payments built-in. Instead of swiping or inserting a chip, you can simply tap to pay.
The card comes in six colors and has a $400 daily withdrawal limit from ATMs.
Venmo has been testing the card out with some beta users and is now making it available in a limited capacity. You can sign up to give it a shot here.
Christina Bonnington is a tech reporter who specializes in consumer gadgets, apps, and the trends shaping the technology industry. Her work has also appeared in Gizmodo, Wired, Refinery29, Slate, Bicycling, and Outside Magazine. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and has a background in electrical engineering.