Facebook knows you have your phone in one pocket and your wallet in the other and it wants to help you combine the two. Though it’s been rumored for some time now, the social networking company has finally announced it will be adding a way to exchange money through its Messenger app.
Users who want to take part can do so by linking a Visa or Mastercard debit card to their account. From there, users will be able to initiate payment from within a conversation by pressing a “$” icon. A new menu pops up, prompting you to type the dollar amount you’d like to send. Then, with the tap of the “Pay” button, the money is off.
Facebook’s new payment option will carry zero transaction fees, making it free to exchange money with friends. The money is transferred immediately, though like any bank deposit can take one to three business days to actually be available. Facebook is also taking steps to ensure the transactions are secure by adding a PIN to be entered before completing the transaction. Owners of iOS devices can authenticate the transaction by using TouchID.
Facebook joins a list of apps that offer peer-to-peer payments. Snapchat partnered with Square to introduce Snapcash late last year. Google Wallet exist primarily as means of completing transactions in stores but can be used for direct to user payments as well. Venmo—now owned by PayPal—is arguably the most popular payment app, while PayPal is the best known.
Now all of those services are being put on notice. Because Facebook has opted to go with its own payment system rather than integrate an existing one, the company can undermine competing services at every turn. PayPal’s transactions are slower and carry a $0.30 transaction fee, and Facebook is far more ubiquitous than any other option—especially since it basically pushed its entire user base to Messenger by cutting chat from the flagship Facebook app. (As of last November, Facebook Messenger had 500 million active users. In comparison, Snapchat has nearly 200 million active monthly users.)
None of that means other payment services are going away—they’ve all managed to stick around so far by finding their own little niches. But Facebook and its network of users is so huge it will be hard to justify opting for any other app when it’s so convenient to use the one with your friends and family already built in.
Facebook will begin rolling out the new feature in the United States over the coming months, with the payment option landing on Android, iOS, and desktop.