Millennials say 'Venmo me' to fuel mobile-payment surge

  • Article by: JING CAO , Bloomberg News
  • Updated: August 18, 2014 - 9:49 PM

A mobile payment system targeted to millennials is growing in popularity.

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Screen grab from Venmo homepage.

– First, they ditched land telephone lines. Then they cut the cable-TV cord. Now, millennials are chucking their checkbooks and cash.

Take Sanket Karuri, 23, who calls himself the “friend who never has cash at those cash-only places.”

Instead, he uses his smartphone to split restaurant checks and pay rent, using eBay’s mobile-payment tool called Venmo. Like many of his peers, he’s taken to using the application’s name as a verb — telling friends to “Venmo me” — the way predecessors turned “google” and “tweet” into action words.

Millennials, people born from the early 1980s to the early 2000s, have been flocking to these technologies, drawn by their ease of use and social features. Venmo, based in New York, alone handled $314 million in mobile payments in the first quarter of this year, up 62 percent from the prior quarter. Another tool gaining in popularity is Fiserv’s Popmoney.

After downloading a mobile-payment app onto a smartphone, users can connect them to bank and credit-card accounts, and then link up with friends to send and receive money on the go.

The broader mobile-wallet market, which in recent years drew entrants such as Google, initially was slow to catch on with a wide audience. The rising use of peer-to-peer applications among 20-somethings is improving the prospects for adoption of all kinds of smartphone-based payments.

“I couldn’t have predicted then just how much it would infiltrate my financial life as it has, but now I live and die by it,” said Karuri, who uses the application to pay peers for everything from rent to drinks. “Especially in New York, you’re mostly going out with lots of friends, and there’s a lot of splitting bills — Venmo has taken over that game.”

Online and mobile peer-to-peer transfers can be used anytime when people previously might have written a check or used cash, such as for rent, utilities or bills for dining out. About half of peer-to-peer payment users use the apps to split restaurant checks, according to a July Nielsen report. Gifts and entertainment, such as paying each other for concert tickets, are also popular.

 

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