What’s Your Venmo?

Venmo is every college student’s best friend. The mobile payment application offers users a convenient and safe method of exchanging money -- especially helpful for young adults who are constantly on the go. The influence of technology has undeniably changed overall perceptions of mobile payments. A decade ago, there is no doubt, people would have scratched their heads at the idea of paying someone back with their phones. The ease and consistency of Venmo makes it appealing to the younger generation, ensuring the continued dominance of mobile payment systems.

Although Venmo usage is common at colleges across America, it seems especially so on the Hamilton campus. Students take advantage of the convenient food delivery services around Clinton, ordering food from establishments including Fortune Cookies, China Sea, Tony’s, and Ting’s Twist on Thai. Often, a student will order for a large group of friends and ask them to pay back. Paying back in cash is an option, but why take the time to pull out your wallet when you have Venmo downloaded on your phone and can complete a payment in less than five seconds? The convenience of mobile payment is unbeatable; it further ensures the success of Venmo and encourages the creation of even more mobile payment applications.

Concerns about safety and transparency, however, are potential Achilles heels for mobile payment systems. Venmo skeptics abound, and their doubt is understandable. In order to pay someone through Venmo, you have to know the person’s username. If you misspell the username and, as a result, pay a complete stranger $50, there is nothing you can do to get that $50 back (unless the stranger pities you and sends it back). The ability to complete mobile transactions quickly and on the run, however convenient, is never without cause for concern. But our emphasis on convenience is a main reason why safety is mostly an afterthought.

In today’s technologically advanced society, there are no signs that advances in mobile payment systems will halt. History has shown that technological progress not only bolsters prosperity but is also needed to keep up with economic demands. The American railroad system during the early 1900s is a prime example of this. The railroads enriched America’s economy by transporting goods more efficiently from place to place. As a result, demand for railroad construction soared in order to continue such efficient movement of goods. We are seeing the same phenomenon with mobile payments, as evidenced with Venmo and Bitcoin, a form of decentralized electronic cash allowing users to transfer currency to each other. The convenience of doing this without worrying about the usual logistics leads to higher demand for Bitcoin.  

It is only a matter of time before mobile payment dominates the global market. Venmo allows only American dollars, which makes it useful only to those who use the dollar on a regular basis. However, the frequency today of mobile payments will certainly set off a chain reaction internationally that will create more such online systems.