As much as I love my solo travels, there’s nothing like a girlfriend getaway weekend, a big family trip, or a college buddy reunion to leave me looking like the heart-eyed emoji about travel again. The only aspect that tends to leave me frowning? Settling the bill! As the perpetual organizer of these kinds of outings, I’ve attempted various systems over the years for getting everyone to pay their share of flights, house rentals, dinners, and bottles of champagne for airport arrival mimosas (my trips are pretty epic, guys.)
From envelopes full of cash with notes scrawled on all sides to group Excel sheets to various apps and payment services, I really do feel like I’ve tried to all. And so I was super excited to check out what promised to be the simplest, fastest and most intuitive way yet to send money between travel buddies: Square Cash.
Square Cash is an app built by Square, which is best known for its point of sale systems for the iPad and iPhone. Ever shopped at a Farmer’s Market or a festival and checked out via a few swipes on the vendor’s iPhone? You were probably using Square! Now they’ve created Cash, an app that allows you to pay or request money from anyone, anywhere.
If you’ve ever used other money transfer apps like Paypal or Venmo, Square Cash will feel very familiar to you. But what I love about it is that it’s unbelievably intuitive and simple for those who aren’t super tech savvy and might not be familiar with these kinds of services — we all have that friend who wants to send a check for the flight you bought for them, right? (And by that friend I obviously mean my mom.)
Here are a few of my favorite features:
• iMessage integration: You can send cash to and request money from someone who doesn’t have an account. If you have iMessage on your iPhone or iPad, or even an Apple Watch, you can literally text money from within iMessage! You can even adjust your settings so your phone will detect which of your friends are nearby (if you’re all sitting around splitting a dinner bill to celebrate the first night of vacation, for example) and suggest them as recipients when you go to settle up.
I also love that you can “gift wrap” the money — I often miss friend’s and family’s birthdays and big events when I’m on the road, and I love the idea of texting them some cash along with a whole bunch of emojis conveying that I want them to treat themselves to a round of drinks on me.
• Email integration: Again, without setting us an account, you can email the person that owes you money, enter how much is owed in the subject field, and then CC the email to request@ . Both parties will need to enter their banking information, and the transfer will go through without ever having to create yet another account. Perfect for splitting that family reunion beach house with your relatives who still don’t do smartphones. (You might want to call them and explain the email is coming, though.)
• Virtual debit card: Square Cash allows you to create a “virtual debit card” with your balance, which sounds very nifty but probably isn’t something most users will make use of. I did think of one scenario where this would be super useful though: if you were traveling and your cards were for some reason frozen and didn’t have a backup hidden elsewhere in your luggage like I told you to (get with the program, though!), you could have a friend send funds to your account, and you could then use the “virtual debit card” to book a flight, hotel, or whatever you need.
• Touch ID authentication: You can complete money transfers using the Touch ID feature in later versions of the iPhone (5S and up). Safe, super quick, and feels like you’re in a Bond move. All around win.
• Auto cash out: I LOVE THIS. With Paypal or Venmo, to get cash from the app into your bank account you have to open the app and complete a few steps. With Square Cash, you can enable instant transfers, so the second someone sends you cash it goes straight to your account without any action from you. You do pay, though — instant transfers are available immediately and cost 1% of the total deposit amount. The other option is to initiate the transfer manually like in the other apps, which is free and takes one business day (Paypal can take 3-5 days, for comparison).
Price and Fees
Square Cash is totally free to sign up for and download, and has no fees for the vast majority of transactions. There are two fees you may incur:
• The 1% fee noted above for instant transfers
• A business fee of 2.75% for business transactions — requesting payment for goods and services (perfect for my fellow digital nomads!) It’s a good deal compared to Paypal’s 2.9% plus $0.30USD.
Room for Improvement
The major area for improvement for travelers would be to make Square Cash available across multiple currencies. At the moment, it requires a US debit card or credit card, and a US bank account to deposit money, so not great for splitting a hotel room with your Turkish travel buddy. Obviously, you also need a connection to a data or Wi-Fi network to use the app.
I would love to see the option to turn on auto transfer for free, perhaps taking the standard one business day instead of being instant. I don’t mind waiting, I just want to skip the step.
While your friends don’t need to be Square Cash users in order to send or receive money, it will definitely help if they are comfortable with and familiar with the service. Prompt them by sending a $10 bonus after they send their first $50 — and here, you can get $10 from me after you send YOUR first $50!
It would be my dream to see Square Cash integrate with my other favorite financial tracking apps like Splitwise and TrailWallet, someday!
With big giants like PayPal and Venmo on the scene, Square Cash really has to have some badass featured to stand out from the crowd. And I think they do. Again, it’s the most simple and intuitive app for those who aren’t familiar with electronic payments, it doesn’t require an account from both parties, and it’s integrated into messenger and email, two services most humans use every single day.
To briefly note it’s differences from it’s major competitors, I’d say that Square Cash feels much more private than Venmo — while you can toggle payments there so they don’t show up in the Facebook-like newsfeed, I’m always paranoid that I’ll forget and that my friends will know exactly how much I splurged on pizza for that late night Netflix binge in the hotel.
Also, I hate the fees and interface of Paypal, which can be very confusing and while technically you shouldn’t have to pay a fee to send money between friends, it’s easy to chose the wrong settings and suddenly realize there’s a charge on your receipt.
Looking to transfer money to family and friends quickly and easily and anonymously? Square Cash is a game changer — download and play with it for a few minutes and you might be so grateful you’ll want to buy me a margarita. Don’t worry. I know just how to split the bill.
What’s your favorite way to transfer funds?