July 27, 2021

Venmo etiquette: the dos and the don’ts

Venmo is an app that has made the uncomfortable business of requesting money from friends entirely digital—but that doesn’t mean all awkwardness has been eliminated.

While everyone’s personal Venmo philosophies differ, there are a few basic guidelines that help navigate the confusing situation that money-lending can often devolve into.

Users of Venmo can connect their account directly with a checking account or debit card; credit cards can also be linked, but a fee will apply. Users can submit requests and pay each other completely electronically, in a process that takes seconds, which is much more convenient than scrounging around for cash.

Money exchanged can either be kept as a Venmo balance, for later use on the app, or transferred to a bank account, which may take a few days.

The first thing that Venmo-ers must be aware of is that the app’s default setting is public. This means that all of your Venmo friends (and anyone who searches for you, including future employers) can scroll through your transaction history as if it were a Twitter feed. Although this isn’t necessarily a problem, it can easily be changed if you wish. Just open your Venmo settings and select the “privacy” tab.

The key to stress-free Venmo-ing is communication. If you plan on sending your friend a request for the cost of their movie ticket, Uber rideshare, or other expense, be sure to let them know BEFORE you foot the bill that you expect repayment. Sending someone a surprise charge can spark resentment, so it’s much better to discuss things early.

This is especially true when charging amounts under $5. If you’re tight on cash and really can’t afford to buy your friend that $4.50 drink from Starbucks, talking about it beforehand can clear up any suspicions that you’re a cheapskate. If you do have a little extra money in your bank account, however, consider not requesting payments for trivial amounts; instead, trust that they’ll have your back the next time you two grab coffee.

Clarity can also help with Venmo transactions.

In the memo line of your request, you can itemize the purchase, which makes charging expensive tabs easier. For instance, if your roommate is Venmo-ing their share of utilities and groceries, your request to your roommate could read: “electric bill—$50, cable—$25, Kroger—$30.” This way, no confusion exists about where, exactly, their money is being spent.

Promptness is crucial to Venmo success, and it applies to both the requester and the payer. Part of the app’s appeal is the possibility for instant gratification, so procrastinating doesn’t work. If you’re charging someone for Friday night’s dinner, it’s best to do it within 24 hours. And when you receive a charge, it’s courteous to pay it as quickly as possible; after all, it only takes a few taps of a button to complete a transaction. If money circumstances are keeping you from paying, let your friend know about the delay immediately.

Ultimately, Venmo works like most in-person interactions: treat others with respect, and they’ll return the favor. Straightforward communication and instant access put complications behind you, so you can enjoy dinner with friends without worrying about who will be stuck with the tab.

  • Emily is a sophomore English literature major at Capital, and a reporter and distribution manager for the Chimes. When she's not carting papers around campus, Emily enjoys watching Jeopardy, bothering her cats, and eating mac and cheese. edietz@capital.edu.

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