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8 best payment apps in 2020 – CNET

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In this era of social distancing, most of us are likely handling cash a lot less. After all, COVID-19 is viral, and who knows where that dollar bill has been? Instead of taking a chance with cold, hard cash, it’s easier and safer to send money and receive payments digitally. 

Founded in 1998, Paypal was one of the first major online payment services to find mainstream adoption in the US. Since then, a handful of other players have emerged — big tech companies including Apple, Google and Samsung; upstarts like Venmo and Cash; and institutional behemoths like Zelle. We’ve rounded up the most popular apps that you can use in the US to pay for goods and services, request contactless payment and move money around. Here’s how they stack up.

Read more: How to choose a rewards credit card

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If you have an iPhone, you can send and receive money directly through the Messages app with Apple Cash. You can use an Apple Cash credit card or debit card to fund a payment.

To initiate a transaction, open the Messages app and select or create a new contact. Tap the Apple Pay icon at the bottom of the screen, choose an amount and tap request or send. Apple says it takes one to three days for transactions to be processed. Apple Cash is free to use — unless you choose an instant transfer, which guarantees processing in under 30 minutes, but comes with a 1% transaction fee. Read our Apple Cash explainer.

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Cash App, formerly known as Square, is the No. 1 finance app in the App Store. Once you sign up, you’re assigned a $Cashtag — your screen name. You can identify contacts using their email address or phone number. 

Once you add a bank account or credit card, you can send, request and receive money through the app. As long as you’re funding and receiving payments through your bank account, there are no fees or foreign transaction costs. But there is a fee — 3% of the transaction amount — if you pay using a credit card.

Cash App typically takes between one and three days to transfer funds. There’s an option to access your money instantly, but you’re charged an additional 1.5% fee (with a minimum charge of 25 cents). Read more about Square’s Cash app.

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Google Pay replaced Google Wallet and Android Pay in 2018. You can use it to pay for goods and services as well as send and receive money.

While Apple Pay is exclusive to iPhone users, anyone with a Gmail account can use Google Pay. You can access it directly through the Google Pay app or point your browser to pay.google.com. Transfer to a debit card usually takes 24 hours while transfers to a linked bank account can take up to five days. There are no transaction fees to use Google Pay. How to set up Google Pay on your Android phone.

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One of the first platforms for digital payment, PayPal is free to use as long as it’s connected to a bank account (or you have a PayPal Cash bank account). If you initiate a transaction using a credit card, there’s a 2.9% fee. Standard transfers can take one to three days to show up in your account. Instant transfers show up immediately but are charged a 1% transaction fee. Read more about PayPal.

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Owned by PayPal, Venmo is the third most popular finance app in the App Store. Once you download it, you can send or request money to or from anyone else in the US with a Venmo account. It’s free as long as the payment comes from a bank account, debit card or prepaid debit card. For payments funded by a credit card, Venmo charges a 3% transaction fee.

Transfers to a bank account generally take between one and three days to clear. There’s an option for an instant transfer, which is processed in 30 minutes or less. Those are charged an additional 1% transaction fee.

Zelle

Owned by a collective of 10 US financial institutions, including Bank of America, Capital One and JP Morgan, Zelle allows you to transfer funds directly between bank accounts. There’s no app to download or account to set up. Just enter the email address or phone number of the person you want to pay, and boom: The transaction is instant, and all of your contact info and bank account details remain private.

You can download the Zelle app or use it on your bank’s website, if it’s one of the 30-plus institutions that support it. (Not all banks and credit unions participate, but most do.) While Zelle won’t charge you to send or receive money, some banks may apply fees to transactions made using the technology. Read more about Zelle.

Read more: I switched to Google Pay from Samsung Pay and haven’t looked back

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