The Venmo gaffes end here.

By Lauren Phillips
June 25, 2019
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Anyone familiar with the ins and outs of using a money-sharing app knows there are some specific quirks that make exchanging money through one of these apps—whether it’s Venmo, the Cash App, or something else—different from any other repayment method. How soon is too soon to send a money request? Is responding to one immediately too eager? Can you ask someone to pay you back for a drink two weeks after the fact? These and many other questions come up every time you use the app, but money-sharing apps are so new that there are not defined rules of etiquette for everyone to follow.

Until now, at least.

A recent survey of more than 1,000 Venmo users reveals some interesting trends and preferences among money-sharing app users—and Venmo worked with etiquette expert Myka Meier of Beaumont Etiquette to craft a guide to using the app to make splitting checks, sending gifts, and fulfilling IOUs less of a social minefield for everyone involved.

According to Venmo’s survey, most people want to pay others back. 65 percent of respondents said it was more stressful to owe someone money than to be owed, and 76 percent said they’d rather proactively repay someone they owe than wait to receive a payment request. People use Venmo to split dinner bills or entertainment tickets, lend money, split traveling costs, and more with friends, siblings, S.O.s, co-workers, roommates, and parents—essentially, for any purpose with anyone. With something that’s used so frequently for such a touchy topic as finances, then, it’s a good idea to have a shared set of guidelines to follow.

Whether you use Venmo (or another payment app) to express your financial independence, practice personal finance tips, or monitor your spending to reach your financial goals, following these etiquette tips could make it all a little easier—and preserve your relationships at the same time.

1. Follow the 48-Hour Rule

72 percent of Venmo users say a repayment request should be sent within 24 hours, and the request should be fulfilled within another 24 hours, completing the transaction within 48 hours, at the most. Taking longer than that to pay someone back can be interpreted as rude—and disrespectful of someone’s generosity in fronting money.

“If for some reason you need more time to pay, send the person a text or email to let them know when they can expect the payment,” Meier says.

2. Pay Promptly

Most payment app users say it’s all right to send a reminder within the Venmo app if a payment request hasn’t been fulfilled within four days—but getting ahead of that reminder and repaying someone promptly is the most courteous thing to do. If someone is delayed in paying you back for something, don’t be afraid to send a second notification through the app—it’s a gentle nudge that they have an outstanding debt.

3. Be Upfront About Splitting Costs

With everything from Uber fares to trip planning, make sure everyone agrees to split the expense—whatever it is—before sending payment requests. This is most applicable for large expenses, such as vacations or bachelor/bachelorette parties, and gives people the chance to opt out of more expensive activities if they’re out of their budget.

4. Asker Pays

On dates, whoever asked for the date and picked the spot should pay the bill (regardless of gender). Splitting is appropriate if discussed openly, but sending a post-date request is a no-go—66 percent of Venmo users thinks it’s inappropriate to take someone on a date and then ask them to repay their half of the bill later. “Unless [splitting the bill is] discussed ahead of time, we do not recommend sending a post-date request,” Meier says.

5. Bigger Expenses Mean Quicker Payments

If someone picks up the bill at a large meal or purchases flights or event tickets for a group, it’s polite to repay them for your share immediately—leaving an enormous charge on someone’s card or bank account puts a lot of pressure on them, especially if everyone in the group is slow to pay them back.

6. Mind Your Payment Captions

Unless you have your transactions set to private, the funny inside jokes and emoji you use to define each payment or payment request can be seen by people in your network—including coworkers, bosses, and family members. Keep it clean, and you won’t have to do any uncomfortable explanations. Venmo’s survey says the average user checks the app two to three times per week, and not just to check on payments; you never know who might see your joking caption and take it seriously.

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