Consumer Reports' test-based ratings focus on data privacy and security, and tell you how well the services work...
Yonkers, NY - by Tobie Stanger (CR) - Whether you're sharing rent or splitting a dinner tab, paying people you know by app seems a breeze next to checks or cash. Mobile peer-to-peer payment services used on smartphones, tablets—and even smartwatches—have revolutionized on-the-spot money transfers.
But what if that money doesn't go where you intended? And how do you know your P2P data is safe?
In light of the quick rise of P2P—and its potential financial and privacy risks—Consumer Reports tested five mobile P2P services to see how they stacked up for user protections.
In our first-ever test-based ratings of P2P mobile services, CR rated Apple Pay the highest overall, with excellent or very good marks in the key consumer-protection measures of payment authentication and data privacy. Apple's overall rating was significantly higher than for the other services we tested: Venmo, Square's Cash App, Facebook P2P Payments in Messenger, and Zelle.
We rated each of the five services good enough to use.
Zelle, a service used by about 150 U.S. banks and credit unions, was rated good overall. But it was the only service that ranked below average on data security and data privacy, which were weighted heavily in our ratings. 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.
Contacted by CR for this report, Zelle said it would soon adopt the practice of asking senders to confirm recipients before transferring the money, the current practice of some banks and credit unions that offer the Zelle service.
“By the end of October, these enhancements will be consistent across all Zelle participating financial institutions, and in the Zelle app,” said Jeremiah Glodoveza, a spokesman for Early Warning, the company that operates Zelle.
On the plus side, CR rated Zelle well for customer support. Zelle has good error-resolution policies, and users can easily find help in the app, earning Zelle high marks in this area, CR found.
It's important to note that we rated the stand-alone Zelle mobile service, not the version you might enter from your bank’s website or mobile app.
For those who don’t use Apple products, we found Venmo, Cash App, and Facebook P2P Payments in Messenger to be very good performers. However, all three of these iOS and Android-friendly services received only fair scores for data privacy.
An estimated 79 million adult Americans will use P2P payment services this year, an increase of 24 percent over last year, according to eMarketer, a market research company.