Consumer Reports Ranks Apple Pay Cash Above Venmo, Zelle
This year an estimated 79 million Americans are expected to utilize peer to peer (P2P) payments services, marking a 24% increase over 2017. With this growing popularity, the P2P landscape has evolved in recent months — including the revelation that Zelle is now leading the pack after overtaking Venmo. Now Consumer Reports has issued their first-ever test-based evaluation of some of these P2P payment options, with the results putting Apple Pay Cash on top, while the new king Zelle fell a bit short of its competitors.
To arrive at their findings, Consumer Reports rated each P2P app on a number of factors. Among them, the company poured over the various data policies for the apps to rate them in the areas of payment authentication, data security, and data privacy. Customer support and broad access were also considered in their rubric, which then graded each app and assigned them a score up to 100.
As mentioned, Apple Pay Cash (referred to by Consumer Reports as just “Apple Pay”) saw the highest score, with a total of 76. The app was also the only one to achieve top marks for payment authentication and data privacy. It was also found to have above average data security and customer support, although its score was hindered in the “broad access” category because it’s only available to Apple users with later-model devices. Explaining their rating decisions, Consumer Reports wrote that Apple Pay Cash “limits the information it collects and shares on users and their transactions. It doesn’t store credit card or debit card numbers, and it states in the terms and conditions that it doesn’t sell users’ personal information to third parties.” Meanwhile an Apple spokesperson told the publication, “Apple Pay Cash is unique from an ease of use, privacy, and security standpoint, as Apple Pay Cash functions seamlessly through hardware, software, and the service all combined.”
Despite Apple Pay Cash coming out on top, Venmo, Square’s Cash App, and Facebook Messenger’s P2P feature all achieved scores in the “very good” category. Scoring a 69 overall, Venmo’s best-performing categories were in broad access and customer support while its data privacy was below average. Similarly the Cash App was also knocked for its data privacy but excelled in broad access and was above average for data security and customer support, earning it a score of 64. Just below Square with a score of 63 was Facebook Messenger, which was above average when it comes to payment authentication, data security, and broad access but below average in data privacy and customer support.
This left just one app in the regular “good” category: Zelle. Although the P2P service — the product of a partnership between 150 U.S. banks — saw the highest customer support score, it was below average both data security and data privacy. As a result Zelle only managed a score of 50.
Explaining one of their largest problems with Zelle, Consumer Reports said, “The Zelle app lacks features that keep you from accidentally sending money to the wrong person. That could happen if you mistype a phone number.” However, a spokesperson for Zelle says the company is working to fix this by asking the sender to confirm recipients before sending. They went on to note, “By the end of October, these enhancements will be consistent across all Zelle participating financial institutions, and in the Zelle app.” For the record, some institutions that use Zelle through their banking websites already have similar protections in place, although Consumer Reports only evaluated the standalone Zelle app for its study.
Interestingly Consumer Reports’ evaluation comes at a time when Venmo is getting some heat for its public transaction ledger feature, which has brought up a conversation about privacy on P2P apps. While it seems that other P2P services also share some privacy concerns, it is comforting to see that each app in question still managed to receive an overall blessing from the publication. Additionally, as the peer to peer payments space continues to grow, it’s only logical to assume more safeguards and features will be added to their increasingly popular products.