Which Mobile Payment Methods Are the Most Secure and Private?

Venmo, Zelle, and Apple Pay are examples of mobile payment apps that promise to make trading money with pals as simple as using cash. However, with that convenience comes security issues.

What happens if you give money to the wrong person by accident, or if you fall victim to fraud? Unlike cash, apps keep track of your transactions and may sell or share such information for marketing purposes.

We looked at each tool’s privacy and security policies to see how they protect data and payments, as well as how much information they share with third parties.

Why Do You Need Mobile Payments?

You will discover several cellular fee choices on the market; however, we determined to stay with the preferred: Apple Pay, Facebook Pay, Google Pay, PayPal Mobile Cash, Square Cash, Venmo (which is owned by PayPal), and Zelle. We checked out several critical options for every app: fundamental particulars about knowledge safety, transaction, and account safety, and the way the service shares knowledge. We dug into the private insurance policies of every app. Throughout transactions, we monitored site visitors utilizing Disconnect’s Privacy Pro iOS app, which shows a feed of any website the telephone sends the knowledge to. (Take into account, although, that even when learning isn’t shared dwell, it might nonetheless get shared later.)

The brief version is as follows: If privacy is your primary concern, use Apple or Google apps whenever possible, even if doing so means those firms will add even more of your behavioral data to their already massive collection. Use payment apps that enable QR codes or link sharing, such as Facebook Pay, PayPal Mobile Cash, Square Cash, or Venmo, if your major issue is sending money to the wrong person; nevertheless, all of those services have some privacy problems.

Cell fee apps’ safety and privateness

Safety web pageBug bounty programTwo-factorauthentication (2FA)Payment notificationsApp or transaction lockIncorrect-payment protectionSells or shares data with third eventsAccount privacy
VenmoYes (PayPal)YesSureAppQR codeSureUsername
PayPal Mobile CashYesYesSureAppHyperlink sharing, QR codeSureUsername
ZelleYesSure (through bank)SureAppAffirmation displaySureTelephone quantity or email
Square Cash (Money App)YesYesSureTransactionHyperlink sharing, QR codeSureUsername
Apple PayYesYesSureTransactionAffirmation display; can cancel fee if the recipient hasn’t acceptedNoTelephone quantity or email
Google PayYesYesSureApp or transactionAffirmation display; can cancel fee if the recipient hasn’t acceptedNoTelephone quantity or email
Facebook PayYesYesSureAppNoneNoFb profile

Here’s what we discovered:

  • Every service we looked at had adequate account security and some type of two-factor authentication. Some security pages are more extensive than others. Venmo and Zelle don’t go into great depth about their security measures, unlike Apple Pay, Facebook Pay, Google Pay, PayPal Mobile Cash, and Square Cash do.
  • Every organization participates in a bug bounty program, in which people are paid to report exploits or flaws.
  • Every app provides payment alerts and a passcode-lock option to prevent someone who has your phone from making a payment without your permission. Many of them also provide a warning or other safeguards to prevent you from sending money to the wrong person. Our preferred option is to use dedicated links or a QR code, which allows you to quickly share your account information without worrying about making a mistake. This option is available only through PayPal Mobile Cash, Square Cash, and Venmo.
  • Aside from methods to protect your account, no app provides fraud protection. There’s not much you can do if you authorize a payment and it turns out to be a scam or fraud. If your account has been hacked, you can contact customer service for assistance. In any event, consider electronic payments with the same caution that you would with cash. NBC has further information on how some of these schemes operate.
  • Some apps require you to create a username, while others require you to enter your phone number or email address. This is irrelevant if you’re simply trading money with buddies. However, if the payment is for something like a Craigslist purchase from a stranger, you might ask if the transaction can be done through PayPal.me, Square Cash, or Venmo so that the least amount of personal information is shared.
How Mobile Payments Can Boost Growth And Profitability for your business?

To complete a transaction, all payment applications exchange certain personal data with third parties such as banks or fraud-monitoring agencies. However, we searched for examples where services exploited this data for marketing purposes, as transferring data to those types of third parties could expose your data in unexpected ways. Apple and Google don’t share data beyond what’s needed to complete transactions, and they don’t use the information they collect internally for marketing, but it’s difficult to foresee how they might use it in the future. Facebook Pay does not share any information with third parties, while it may use some information to target internal adverts.

Every other service we investigated shared or sold personal information for marketing purposes. To track internal marketing, PayPal Mobile Cash, Square Cash, Zelle, and Venmo share data with third parties.

According to our analysis, the majority of the third-party organizations to which PayPal Mobile Cash, Square Cash, and Venmo transfer data appear to track internal marketing initiatives using services like push notifications, email newsletters, and ad clicks. Although we prefer this to the real selling of data, the use of third parties by payment apps is not without risk.

“You’re susceptible to each of these flaws from a privacy viewpoint,” said Jeremy Tillman, president of Ghostery, a software startup that produces privacy extensions and apps.

“People using these apps have no reason to believe that when they transmit money, there are tracking firms they’ve never heard of gathering super-personal data, like their house address (precise GPS location) and the names of their associates,” said Casey Oppenheim, co-founder of Disconnect. You may trust PayPal with your data, but when it shares that data with a third party you’ve never heard of and with whom you have no direct contact, you don’t have much of a say—if you even realize it’s happening. You’d have to read the third party’s terms of service and privacy policy to properly comprehend the scope of where and how your data is shared. “And this undetectable tracking has a daisy chain,” Oppenheim continued. “Each monitoring company that gathers your information may be able to keep, utilize, and distribute such data in accordance with their policies without your knowledge or approval.”

“They’re putting a lot of faith in third parties that they’re simply trusting to secure your data and with whom you don’t have a direct contact with,” Tillman said.

This information may not be useful on its own, but as we’ve just covered, it may be combined to create a thorough profile of you. And that’s probably more information than most people want to provide when sending money to a buddy.

Let’s take a look at each app’s privacy settings.


You and the other person must exchange usernames to send money, but you do not need to disclose a phone number or email address. You can transmit account information with a QR code, which is preferable to entering in a login because it avoids the possibility of making a mistake and paying the wrong person.

Pay with Venmo

However, if you happen to ha by no means paid somebody earlier than, Venmo double-checks that you simply need to ship the fee and reveals a bigger model of the recipient’s profile image. You should not pay the fallacious individual, and it’s essential to hope they ship the cash again if you pay the fallacious individual.

Venmo is the one service with a social community connected to it. Transactions on Venmo are public by default, which means each time you ship cash, pals and strangers can see the feedback in a public feed. Don’t hesitate to change your privacy settings. In line with its privacy policy, Venmo collects quite a lot of knowledge about transactions, together with your location, which PayPal representatives advised us the corporate could use to market its merchandise.

Venmo provided information to a data firm named Braze, which specializes in delivering marketing via push notifications and email, during a transaction I witnessed. This data exchange could include newsletter signups or Venmo’s social features tracking. Venmo and PayPal also engage in “joint marketing,” which allows them to coordinate marketing initiatives with other financial institutions such as banks.

PayPal Cell Money

PayPal Mobile Cash hyperlinks to PayPal’s basic privacy policy. Like how Venmo does issues, the information that PayPal Cell Money collects is tracked for the needs of inner advertising applications. Throughout our test transaction, PayPal despatched knowledge to 2 advertising corporations, mParticle and Adjust. Each firm presents utilizing instruments to evaluate cellular advert campaigns and observe app use. Regulate additionally gives some fraud monitoring that identifies bots, making sense for an app like PayPal Cell Money.


You need to use Zelle utilizing most main banks, together with the Financial institution of America, Chase, and Citi. However, if your financial institution doesn’t help Zelle, you need to use a standalone app. This implies that Zelle’s safety measures, together with fundamental practices comparable to two-factor authentication, usually depend on the financial institution. This association has led to safety points before now, during which scammers have discovered methods to get cash from people who don’t use Zelle.

It’s also worth noting that just because Zelle is frequently offered through your bank doesn’t guarantee it provides any greater scam or fraud precautions over its competitors.

To add to the confusion, Zelle confirmed to us that its privacy policies differ depending on whether you use Zelle through your bank or the Zelle app. The app captures a lot of data, according to Zelle’s privacy policy, including your name, email address, location, and other online identifiers. Zelle’s privacy policy includes both its mobile app and website, which might be misleading because it initially appears that Zelle can sell data to ads. However, Zelle told us in an email after our initial article that the data sale solely applies to website visitors, not app users. Your bank’s privacy policy is likely to be different, and it may or may not collect as much information.

During a transaction utilizing Zelle through a banking app, no data was shared to marketing third parties. The Zelle app does, however, send data to Mixpanel, a business that analyzes behavioral data in apps and tracks usage.

Sq. Money (Money App)

Square Cash has usernames, so you may alternate cash without sharing an e-mail handle or telephone quantity. If you happen to have by no means paid somebody earlier than, Sq. Money pops up a warning asking you to substantiate the fee particulars. You can too share a hyperlink immediately or utilize a supposed QR code.

In line with its privacy policy, Sq. Money collects loads of knowledge, together with your location, title, and system info. Sq. could use that to trace inner advertising. After we despatched a fee utilizing the app, it despatched knowledge to AppsFlyer, one other advertising analytics firm that seems much like the corporations PayPal and Venmo use, although AppsFlyer payments itself as a privacy-focused company.

Apple Pay

Paying with Apple Money utilizing Apple Pay works solely with Apple’s Messages app, so it’s worthwhile to alternate a telephone quantity or e-mail handle. There’s nothing to guard you against sending cash to the fallacious individual past an affirmation display; however, Apple Pay defaults to the “Manually Settle for Funds” setting, which suggests a recipient can decline a fee. You can cancel a payment if the recipient hasn’t accepted it but.

What is Apple Pay, how it works, and how you set it up

Apple Money’s privacy policy falls below Apple’s associate financial institution, Inexperienced Dot Financial institution. Beneath this coverage, private info shouldn’t be used for advertising internally or shared with third events. Throughout a test transaction, we didn’t see any knowledge despatched to advertising corporations.

Google Pay

Google Pay works with a Google account, so it’s worthwhile to alternate email addresses for a fee. Google Pay shows an affirmation display to remind you to double-check the main points earlier than you ship cash and lets you cancel if the recipient hasn’t accepted the fee.

Google Pay’s privacy policy will get complicated because it doesn’t differentiate between funds to retailers and money funds between pals. However, once we reached out to Google for a remark, representatives confirmed that Google doesn’t promote consumer knowledge to 3rd events and doesn’t enable advertisers to focus mainly on Google Pay knowledge. After we monitored a transaction, no knowledge went to 3rd events.

Facebook Pay

You ship funds using the Fb app or Fb Messenger so that you and the opposite individual have to be pals or disclose your account information. Facebook Pay doesn’t have wrong-payment safety, although Fb profiles are sometimes simpler to differentiate than the profiles of its opponents.

Although Facebook Pay has its own privacy policy, it does state that it will share data with its parent firm, Facebook, Inc. Facebook does not share transaction data with others, however it may be used internally. Data may appear in internal marketing, according to a blog post: “If you buy a baseball glove on Facebook Marketplace, for example, you might see an ad for a baseball bat.” Facebook Pay sent nothing outside of Facebook in our test transaction.

Steps to safe a cellular fee app

Regardless of which mobile payment option you choose, there are a few actions you can take to improve the app’s security:

  • Enable two-factor authentication: By requiring two pieces of information to log in, two-factor authentication helps prevent unauthorized access to your account. After you’ve activated 2FA, the app will ask you for a second factor, which is commonly a code given to an app, as a text message, or in an email.
  • Set up payment notifications so you’ll know right away if someone breaks into your account and sends money.
  • Use a passcode, your face, or your fingerprint to secure the app: To open the app or submit a payment, enable any secondary security it offers, such as a PIN or a biometric lock (typing in with your face or fingerprint).
  • Enable automatic app updates: Security enhancements and bug fixes are added to mobile payment apps. You should activate automatic updates if you don’t have them currently. Open the Google Play Store app on your Android device and go to Settings > Auto-update apps. Enable App Updates in Settings > iTunes & App Store on your iPhone.
  • Use an app’s built-in account-sharing function that works via a link or a QR code instead of typing out a username to confirm recipient data before sending money. This method eliminates the possibility of making a mistake and paying the incorrect individual. If that isn’t possible, speak with the receiver to confirm the details before pressing the send button.
  • Treat mobile payments like cash: Scams with payment applications are widespread, in part because it’s so difficult to get money back once it’s been transferred. Never pay strangers or send money online without first validating the recipient’s identity.

Scammers target mobile payment apps in part because customers don’t fully comprehend how they work. It is much easier to detect fraud if you have that knowledge. It’s also less probable that someone will ever hack into your account if it includes the security features outlined above.

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Disclosure: Written and researched by the GGT crew. We spotlight services and products you may discover fascinating. If you happen to purchase them, we could get a small share of the income from the sale from our companions. We could obtain merchandise freed from cost from producers to test. This doesn't drive our resolution as to whether a product is featured or beneficial. We function independently from our promoting group. We welcome your suggestions. Please e-mail us at [email protected].

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