Venmo

If you are not familiar with Venmo, don’t worry – this payment method has yet to launch in any country other than the United States. It seems unusual that the company is yet to open up its service to the rest of the world, especially when you consider that the company processed over $159 billion in transactions during a single quarter of 2018.

That is a whole lot of money for a payment processor who restricts themselves to one country – what does Venmo offer that their competitors do not? Let’s take a deep dive into Venmo and find out what makes this company tick.

Definition

Venmo was created as a way for friends to split the bill when visiting restaurants, the cinema, or a nightclub. People soon began using it for an entire range of purposes, including things the company’s creators had never even considered. It was clear that the convenience of Venmo was a hit with consumers, but the company’s owners stubbornly refused to allow retails or merchants of any kind to accept payments using the service.

This all changed after PayPal bought out the parent company behind Venmo, which enabled all merchants with the ability to accept transactions via PayPal to accept Venmo payments as well. Unfortunately, in-person purchases are still not allowed using Venmo. Some users have found a way around this using the QR code feature which was intended to be used only for splitting bills.

Venmo is a little different from other online payment services in that there is a social component to it as well. When Venmo was first released, they used Facebook’s “Log in using Facebook” feature rather than a custom login system. This was undoubtedly a deliberate decision, as whenever a user logs in via Facebook a huge amount of information is shared with the site the user is logging in to.

Payment amounts are stripped from the social feed, but if you do download the app, you can see which of your friends are sending other people money – perhaps with a picture of the food they had been sharing, or occasionally the pictures would show things which were much more dubious.

Here’s a reminder folks: Everything you post on the internet is there FOREVER. Even if you manage to have a message or picture removed from one specific website or app, that doesn’t mean it is gone for good!

History

The original version of Venmo was released in 2009, initially focusing on iPhone and Blackberry users. The first Samsung Galaxy S was still a year away from release, and Nokia was still trying to compete with their N97.

Google’s up-and-coming Android operating system was still in its infancy, and most of the popular devices which used it such as the Motorola Droid insisted on including a physical keyboard in addition to the touchscreen.

With the cellphone market so fragmented, Venmo’s prototypes had to use text messages to transfer payments between users. By the time the software was finished, however, Apple’s app store was taking off in a big way and Venmo founders Andrew Kortina and Iqram Magdon-Ismail wasted no time in creating a smartphone application to facilitate their mobile payments.

The result was so impressive that in 2010, the company was able to raise over $1 million in seed money through a funding round led by RRE Ventures. Just two years later, the founders sold the company to Braintree for $26.2 million – this could be described as a major mistake in my view, considering that PayPal paid over $800 million for the company just one year later.

Paypal quickly expanded the scope of the Venmo application, allowing it to be used to make purchases from merchants for the first time. Although face-to-face transactions were technically forbidden, a survey of New York’s takeaway food industry revealed that many of such businesses were allowing customers to make payments using the QR codes intended for use when sending money between friends.

Interestingly, this practice was especially common amongst Chinese takeaways. This could have been because of the similarity between Venmo’s QR transfer service and Chinese mobile payment services such as Alipay and WeChat.

Most recently, PayPal announced that both Venmo and PayPal themselves would now permit customers to make purchases using cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, and Litecoin. The feature was initially rolled out to small numbers of individuals at a time, but it proved so popular that PayPal later decided to add the ability to buy, hold and sell a wide range of cryptocurrencies from within their app.

Today, PayPal is still in the process of adding these features to Venmo’s entire userbase. They previously stated that this roll-out would be completed by May 2021, so it seems likely that the vast majority of Venmo users now have access to a wide range of cryptocurrency-based features.

How to deposit using Venmo

Many casinos do not add Venmo to their list of acceptable deposit methods, however, this is a little deceiving. Provided you have a PayPal account and live in a state which has legalized online gambling, you’ll have no trouble using Venmo to deposit at any casino that accepts PayPal deposits.

If you have not signed up with Venmo yet, this should be your first port of call – creating an account is extremely fast, particularly if you use their “link with Facebook” option. If you do not use Facebook or would, understandably, prefer not to link your social media accounts to a completely unrelated payment service, you’ll have to input a few extra details to get started.

Note that if you do register using Facebook, there is a strong possibility that your shopping history via Venmo will be shared with Facebook because of the link you have created between the two accounts. I don’t like the idea of this at all – I rarely use Facebook anyway but using it to access a financial service is way outside of my comfort zone. It’s up to you what you choose to do at this juncture.

Verifying your identity

Next, you will need to get your Venmo account verified. Even if you have an existing Venmo account, there is a chance you may not have completed the verification process in the past. Verification begins by sending a four-digit code to your mobile phone, after which you need to link your bank account to Venmo to make payments.

Venmo has an excellent system that is capable of logging into your online banking account and completing this entire procedure automatically. Once again, if you are uncomfortable with giving your online banking details to another company – and perhaps Facebook – then there is a manual option. This works the old-fashioned way by depositing a small amount into your account and then asking you to verify the reference shown on your statement. Depending on your bank, the transaction may appear immediately, or you might have to wait a day or two for the reference to become visible in your online banking.

Making your first deposit using Venmo

With everything set up and your account verified, making a deposit should be quick and easy. One thing that I found surprising was that you can make a deposit to an online casino and have the funds available for play instantly, however, if you just want to add some money to your Venmo account for whatever reason the deposit can take several days. I went back and had another look at this, and it turns out that I didn’t notice I had chosen to pay 1% for an instant deposit when adding money to my casino balance, but I failed to spot this option when trying to simply add money to my Venmo account. 1% is quite reasonable compared to some of the other deposit options available to US players, and of course, you can always choose to wait 2-3 business days instead if you would rather not pay the 1% fee.

How to make a withdrawal using Venmo

With a fully verified Venmo account, making a withdrawal from an online casino is extremely fast and very straightforward. The same 1% fee is an option when making withdrawals too, so if you want to get your hands on your winnings straight away then this option might be acceptable to you.

For me, the problem is that not only do you have to pay 1% when withdrawing from the casino to Venmo, you then have to pay another 1% when transferring your funds to your bank account, if you aren’t willing to wait several days. With 1% fees charged at each step of both depositing and withdrawing, you are looking at a total of 4% if you choose the instant option at every stage of the process.

If you are depositing substantial amounts of money, you’ll be pleased to know that Venmo does cap their 1% fee at 10$. Unfortunately, a 10$ cap means that you will need to be depositing and withdrawing amounts over $1,000 before it saves you any money. It is unlikely that the majority of players will be depositing amounts as high as this, which makes the cap all but worthless for all but those with extremely deep pockets.

If you can afford to deposit $1,000 at an online casino then you are unlikely to be bothered by the prospect of paying $40 for the privilege of not having to wait either to play or spend your winnings.

Venmo Mastercard

Whilst Venmo is not a traditional e-wallet, they have followed in the footsteps of companies such as Skrill and Neteller by offering a Debit Mastercard linked to your Venmo balance. Venmo is currently quite generous with this feature and will send you a card for free upon request. If your card is lost or stolen, Venmo will not charge you to order a replacement card either.

You can withdraw cash from your Venmo card if you wish, although a fee of $2.50 will be charged if the machine is not part of the MoneyPass network. You can find your nearest MoneyPass ATM at www.moneypass.com, and if you are fortunate enough to have one of these machines nearby you can access the cash in your Venmo account without paying a cent.

If there is no ATM nearby, the Venmo Mastercard supports over-the-counter cash withdrawals too. Any withdrawal made in this way will be subject to a $3.00 charge.

Topping up your Venmo card using your bank account is completely free of charge. An additional feature that I could imagine finding useful is the ability to split payments across multiple cards – something that the Point-of-Sale terminals in most shops are unable to provide.

By setting a default payment method in the Venmo app, you will be able to make purchases that exceed the balance of your Venmo account. You can choose another debit or credit card as your backup funding source, or even your bank account. If your balance is insufficient to complete your purchase at the checkout, Venmo will automatically use funds from your backup funding source to make up the difference. This is an excellent feature and one that I wish was more common amongst e-wallet providers and companies who offer pre-paid Debit cards.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Venmo Safe? I’ve never heard of it until now, but it sounds like it could be ideal for me.

Like all modern websites and mobile apps which have been created by competent software engineers, Venmo uses multiple layers of security on both its website, mobile applications and the back end.

The back end of a website or application is the private part of the ecosystem. This is where Venmo staff will log in and view usage statistics, generate reports, monitor the number of users, and so forth.

The back end of many websites includes a Content Management System (CMS) which allows Venmo to quickly add and edit pieces of their website without requiring any programming knowledge.

I bring all this up to demonstrate the importance of security for a company like Venmo. Any business which deals with money requires at least one or two dedicated staff members who are devoted to operational security (OPSEC). Such a role would include looking for bugs in other people’s work, keeping up to date with the latest exploits and ensuring the company servers are protected from them, performing backups, and monitoring what the other employees are doing with their computers.

Securing a company’s network, website and multiple mobile applications require a great deal of specialist knowledge, and with PayPal behind them, Venmo did not have to look far to find some of the best OPSEC professionals in the whole of the US.

Whilst Venmo’s systems are 100% secure and trustworthy, always be careful that you are looking at the correct website before you attempt to log in. This is as simple as clicking on the padlock to the left of the address bar, which will show “This site is secure” in green text if you are using a secure and encrypted website.

If you want to be extra sure, choose “View Certificate” to open the encryption certificate in use by the Venmo website. If you are on the correct site, the certificate will show as having been issued to legalbettingonline.com by the cPanel, inc Certification Authority.

Is it legal to use Venmo to participate in online gambling in the United States?

Yes, provided you currently live in one of the states which have already legalized online gambling. New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia were the first states to begin offering legal online gambling.

In these states, all types of online gambling are completely legal – this includes casino games, online poker, and sports betting. Michigan has recently passed legislation to permit online gambling within the state too,

Mississippi has recently legalized online sports betting, but the state legislature declined to legalize the other forms of gambling which had been suggested in the bill. Online gambling bills are currently being considered in several more states – California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, and New York are the most likely to pass laws that will authorize online gambling over the next 12 months.

As an American company operating exclusively within the USA, Venmo must be extremely careful to ensure that their service stays on the right of the law including making sure that Venmo does not enable their customers to break any laws either. Because of this, you may find that Venmo will refuse to allow you to deposit at some casinos.

Whilst this may be frustrating at times, the federal charges which currently apply to illegal online gambling are extremely serious. If Venmo were to begin processing deposits to illegal domestic casinos, they would be in direct contravention of the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act of 2006.

On the bright side, Venmo has done much of the arduous work for you! They have spent the time checking the laws and casinos that operate in all 50 states, so you need not worry if the transaction you are about to make is legal – if it isn’t, Venmo will prevent the deposit from being processed.

Earlier on in this article, it was mentioned that Venmo has a social media aspect too. Having checked it out, I don’t understand it at all… Why would I want to share a note with everyone I know each time I make a financial transaction? Is there any way to turn this off?

Thankfully there is. This feature has been part of Venmo since its humble beginnings when it was purely a person-to-person transfer service. It does seem a little unusual that PayPal is yet to remove this frankly intrusive feature. Setting your account to private instead of public will prevent your payments from being shown in the daily feed.

If PayPal now owns Venmo, and I can use Venmo at any online casino which accepts PayPal, is there any difference between Venmo and PayPal? Why do companies always insist on making so things confusing?

With gambling being such a divisive topic (and especially online gambling), it seems to me that PayPal wants to keep their primary brand “clean”. This is my best guess as to why the Venmo brand is used wherever gambling is involved.

My favorite casino offers Bitcoin and Ethereum deposits in addition to Venmo and several other options. Should I use Venmo, or try one of these other deposit methods instead?

Cryptocurrency has the advantage of being sent directly from you to the casino, which means there are no fees to be paid to an intermediary such as is the case with Venmo. I would not choose Bitcoin right now unless you are intending to deposit a very large sum of money. This is because the cost of purchasing Bitcoin using traditional methods such as your debit card is currently very high. On top of this, the Bitcoin network sets the cost of making a transaction according to how busy it is at the time. Right now, Bitcoin is always very busy, so even making a small purchase of around $100 worth of Bitcoin can cost around $10 or more.

If Ethereum is an option or better still LiteCoin, both of these currencies have much lower market caps and trading volumes compared to Bitcoin. This results of this is a much lower cost for each transaction. I have personally been able to deposit $150 worth of LiteCoin for just 18c recently, and most casinos will not charge you for your first withdrawal at all.

As discussed previously in this article, performing this same procedure using Venmo is much more expensive. Assuming you want to play within minutes of making your deposit and spending your winnings within minutes of making a withdrawal, Venmo will charge up to $4 for this convenience. That is a 22-fold increase over the price of using LiteCoin and using Ethereum is not far behind at around 80c.

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