Venmo API: Should You Use It?

Venmo API: Should You Use It?

Anyone who runs a business winds up with their own little setup of apps and platforms and systems. The Bank of America CashPro platform might not be right for everyone, but for those for whom it’s perfect, it’s perfect. And obviously, we’ve all got our own favorite point of sale systems.

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There’s no point trying to convince a business owner that this or that POS is better than the one that they’re using right now. They like what they like. That’s how it is with software. It’s like a handy tool, a screwdriver that just feels snug in your hand, a hammer that has just the right weight to it.

We forget that so much of what makes an app great is that intuitive connection we have with it, just as we do with any tool. Which app is “best” isn’t really a concern that any serious business owner has. There is no objective best, there’s just what works for you. So what Venmo provides, it isn’t something that you can’t get anywhere else, it’s about as good as any leading app but it isn’t necessarily the very best in its field. but those who swear by it swear by it.

Sometimes it’s hard to explain exactly what it is that allows an app like Venmo to click with certain users. The people who built the app couldn’t tell you anymore than we can. So much of the design of an app comes down to simple trial and error: We don’t know why customers like the blue layout better than the gray one, but they do. Developers tend to follow the numbers, and sometimes the reasoning behind the science is a little… ambiguous. Something’s working, we just don’t know what.

Anyways, this is all to say that you might hate Venmo.

Or you might love it.

The best we can do is try to explain why, exactly, it’s worth a try.

Venmo API: What Is It?

Venmo is a P2P platform with a lot of limitations. That may not be a very nice way to put it, but it’s true. It’s like Paypal or Stripe except that:

  • You cannot make sales in person. Venmo is great for online shopping, but there are as yet no features to allow Venmo users to do any sort of mobile-to-mobile transfers without going online, finding the eShop, putting the item in your shopping cart and on and on. Essentially, it’s worth experimenting with Venmo if you’re running an eCommerce business, but don’t think it’s going to be the thing that sets your bait shop or gas station apart. You’re not going to be running people through check out swiping their Venmo cards, it’s just going to require extra steps to try and apply Venmo to a brick and mortar shop.
  • It’s not any good for subscription based services. At present, there’s no way to make recurring charges with Venmo. So even for an eCommerce shop, it comes up lacking. This is a problem when you consider the fact that more and more online services are subscription based, these days. More and more apps use a monthly subscription fee rather than a one-time expensive licensing charge. More and more entertainment and streaming sites use a monthly subscription setup rather than selling individual videos, albums or shows.
  • You can’t make peer to peer transfers between two Venmo users. This one sounds kind of ridiculous, right? Look, this app has a whole lot of limitations for any number of reasons. Don’t ask us to explain it. While we’re on the subject, you can’t make in-app purchases exclusively with Venmo, either.
  • It’s US only.
  • When you first create account, your transactions are limited to $299.99, just under three hundred bucks, until your identity is verified, so you’ll have to get a scan of your photo ID on their servers and wait for them to approve you. These aren’t the only issues with Venmo, either.

Scams And Cons On Venmo API

The Better Business Bureau has reported a number of complaints regarding Venmo because of the ease of canceling a transaction on the platform. The transactions do not go through immediately as they often do with Paypal debit and Stripe and other services. This means that you can make a purchase, wait until you’re pretty sure someone has shipped the item to you, and then cancel the transaction, essentially getting the product for free unless the seller wants to come after you with lawyers or police, which is more trouble than most people will go through for anything less than a few hundred bucks. The problem is especially pointed on Craigslist, where a lot of what’s going on is already operating on, more or less, the honor system. If Craigslist has to ban you for some reason, it’s not hard to start another account with an IP-disguiser.

The transfers take three full business days to go through. That means that if you do it over the weekend it could take the better part of a week to actually go through from one account to another. Even beyond consideration of scammers and so on, this can be a problem when you’re doing your accounting at the end of the week and you think that you have a little more money in your account than you do.

Does Venmo API Have Fees?

The good news: Debit transfers are totally free. The bad news: Credit card purchases aren’t. Venmo adds a three percent fee to any credit card purchases.

Venmo Shut Down Developer API Access

Part of the appeal of Venmo was the developer access to API. This was a feature that allowed for greater customization and development. Not quite one hundred percent open source, but with open source features. Venmo appealed to sellers who wanted to create a unique platform for their customers, but without developer API access on the table, that’s a big part of the app’s appeal, gone.

So with all of that out of the way…

Who Would Want To Use Venmo API?

What we’ve said of Venmo maybe doesn’t make it sound that appealing. But, they did almost eighteen billion dollars in transactions in 2016 alone, and almost seven billion in just the first quarter of 2017, about twice what it did in the first quarter of 2016. So, somebody loves it.

Venmo describe their service as a digital wallet. This is a little different than something like Paypal which intends to be an all in one business solution. With Paypal you can run an eShop, you can run a gas station, you can run your cash registers, you can manage your stock investments and pay your bills. Anything you need to do with money, or just about anything you need to do with your money, or anyone else’s, you can do it with Paypal. Stripe is similar, there’s more that it can do than that it can’t do, and Stripe has actually lit a fire at Paypal’s heels, forcing the industry leader to focus on better user interface and customer service.

But Venmo isn’t that, and it’s not trying to be that, so what does it mean, exactly, for it to be a “digital wallet?”

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Well, it was invented for one reason in particular:

Splitting The Check

Venmo is a social app for money. The reason the app was invented in the first place was so that users could split checks at restaurants with their friends. It’s a lot easier than telling the server to go back to the cash register and come back with three bills. You just look at the check, figure out who ordered what, maybe have everyone add a dollar for the tip, and you’re good to go. All of the complications and downsides to the app only came along because people started using it for things besides its initial intention.

The social media aspect of the app is similar to Twitter or Facebook. If you send your friend a few dollars, then that will show up on the news feeds of other users on your friend lists. Of course, the credit card info and so on will be removed from the transaction details, but the point is that the transaction itself will be reported to other people on your network. You can also add emojis like smileys and so on.

The thing about Venmo is that money is going more and more digital. Kids being born today might live their whole lives without ever touching a paper dollar or a metal coin.

How many times have you owed a friend a few bucks but you couldn’t give it to them because they don’t have Paypal and you don’t have any cash on you?

Venmo is intended to be a solution for that. “Here’s the five bucks I owe you” in the form of an app. It’s an easy, convenient and even kinda fun way to exchange money quickly with friends. It’s a way to pitch in a few bucks for mom’s Mother’s Day gift, or help a friend out who needs cab fare.

It’s not great as a business solution because it was never intended as a business solution. As Facebook eventually evolved into a marketing tool, Venmo is slowly growing into a business solution, but that’s not exactly what it is right now, so all of the complaints that we might have over the app, it’s only because that’s not really what it’s for.

All of that being said, there’s plenty of good reasons to be an early adopter of using Venmo for business. But you will need to take into consideration a number of issues like the fact that scammers simply love teh app because of how easy it is to cancel a money transfer before it goes through and so on.

Is Venmo Worth A Download?

Our advice: Download it, but don’t try to lean on it as a cornerstone of your business just yet.

If you want to pay an employee a small bonus without having to figure out how to put it on their paycheck, Venmo is great. If you want to tip a contractor, if you want to transfer funds with a business partner or a financier without going through so much of the red tape, Venmo is great.

But, again, you might hate it. Some people can’t stand Twitter. Some people try to make the jump from Paypal to Stripe, but a week later they’re back on Paypal. Right now, Venmo is the leader at what it does, but the question is whether or not that’s even necessary.

Do you want to have the “Twitter of money” on your phone or do you come from a generation that tends to speak of finances in hushed tones?

To many people, making money transfers an issue of public concern is a bit crass. In any event, it’s up to you to give it a download and see if you like it.

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