NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Austin Kadulski generally uses Facebook messenger to communicate with classmates on projects and for group chats with friends. But now the 20-year-old plans to link his debit card to the Facebook chat interface once remittance is up and running. “I like the idea of having another solution to either pay or get paid when money is owed,” said Kadulski who lives in Whitewater, Wis. where he works in the financial software industry.
Since former Paypal CEO David Marcus joined Facebook to run Messenger about 11 months ago, the company added a payment option that consumers can use to send money to friends instantly.
“It's very similar to Paypal but there is no concept of an eWallet balance,” said Ben Katz, CEO of Card.com in Los Angeles. “The funds are immediately pushed onto the recipients debit card and are not banked at Facebook at all."
Some 1.9 billion people are active mobile users, which is an increase of 26% year-over-year, according to Facebook data.
"Everyone is on Facebook daily, while almost no one logs into PayPal every day so it can quickly be top of mind for money transfer,” Katz told MainStreet.
And with 42% of marketers reporting that Facebook is critical or important to their business, Messenger is potentially a goldmind.
“Facebook's stated mission is to make the world more open and connected,” Katz told MainStreet. “The social media site connects people across languages, borders and devices so why not link with remittance flows?”
With Friends Like These...
Of course, transferring money with friends is easy as long as it's safe. There could be a few unfriendly entities lurking, leading to the risk of associating a payment card with a particular website.
“If that website suffers a security breach, then your information could be stolen,” said Brian Finch, co-head of global security with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman in Washington, D.C. “Debit cards are of particular concern, because the money is taken from a bank account rather than from the credit card issuer.”
Preventing theft requires the regular rotation of passwords and pins.
“Use two factor authentication and ensure that website traffic is encrypted with HTTPS rather than HTTP,” Finch told MainStreet. “It won’t fully secure the transaction but it will make it more secure.”
Despite a perceived security risk for electronic transactions, Facebook Messenger could replace existing payment services.
“Facebook has years of data on a customer and is in a position to identify fraudulent activity that would be impossible at a retail money transfer solution,” Katz said. "Western Union will be worried in five to ten years."
But Patrick Quinn, who works as a copy writer for a financial tech company in Los Angeles, brandishes some skepticism.
“I have too many apps as it is,” said Quinn. He currently uses Messenger exclusively for social purposes.
“I use it to share things I find funny or interesting with friends and it's easier to spark up a conversation with a friend who you see is online as opposed to blindly sending a text," Quinn told MainStreet.
Whether he adds the payment functionality will depend on whether it can replace his other favorite peer-to-peer money app: he'll adopt Messenger for payments only if it can sufficiently replace Venmo, is a free digital wallet that allows users to pay and request money from friends for splitting bills.
—Written for MainStreet by Juliette Fairley