Should You Use Paypal or Venmo?

A PayPal update threatens to tilt the balance, but is it enough?

On Thursday morning, PayPal launched a redesigned iOS and Android app. The redesign makes it easier to send and request money to friends and family, and, with this improvement, also makes it a lot more like Venmo. So is there any real difference between the two apps?

Venmo is owned by PayPal — the founding of which parent company gave Elon Musk the capacity to move on to bigger, crazier ventures. So, it would seem, the powers that be are covering all their bases. If you run the two most functional, popular payment apps, user preference will remain a thing: Some users will prefer one app, other users the other app. Obviously, in both cases, you win.

Both apps look pretty swanky, now. Venmo is on the left and PayPal on the right:

A side-by-side comparison of Venmo and PayPal's activity feeds. The former is public, the latter private.

Despite appearances — and disregarding that, for them, it’s a win-win — you, the user, may wish that your preference be an informed preference. So here goes:


… is without a doubt the hipper option. “Lemme just Venmo you” is a refrain heard throughout the land. “Venmo” has achieved verb status, a milestone for any business. It’s got a social feed, so your friends can virtually like or comment upon your payments. (Because none of us can ever get enough affirmation.) Most of the time, people just emojisplain their payments — like “🍕+ 🍺” (which explanation could only account for a classy, luxurious, memorable date). Plus, friends only need your phone number to be able to pay you, which A) makes payments easy to deploy and B) gives you an excuse to give out your phone number. Venmo’s user experience and interface is pretty good, too, especially if basic is your thing. (A perhaps more artistic interpretation would call it “minimalistic.”)

The primary downside is that merchants are not fully integrated with Venmo just yet, though that will soon change. As a result, you can’t use Venmo to buy, say, clothes online. Yet.


… on the other hand, is useful insofar as you prefer your financial activities to remain private. Plus, you’re able to shop online, if — and I know this is a stretch — you’re into that. You also get a form of buyer’s insurance under select payment options, which — since PayPal is not limited to just friends or personal connections — is good. And with a fresh look on the app, the user experience and interface is now at least on par with Venmo. While there’s no public activity feed, there’s now a more intimate feature within the PayPal app: you can “Add a note” when you send payments and “Say thanks!” when you receive payments. See for yourself:

Not that my own opinions matter here, but I’ll be sticking with Venmo. I like familiarity and PayPal has always served as a last resort, a resort to which I begrudgingly submit after exhausting all other potential options. And I, like you, cherish affirmation. 🙇

Correction: An earlier version of this story claimed PayPal is owned by eBay. PayPal and eBay split last summer.

Related Tags