Venmo wants to eliminate the financial mental math of splitting roommate bills, lunch checks and road trip costs.
The new Venmo Groups feature gives users the ability to track and split ongoing group expenses, making it easier to figure out who owes who what. Members can add an expense and specify who in the group is involved, and the app will then automatically calculate the split cost into individual on-going totals. Anyone in the group can choose to settle-up with other members at any time. The tool is designed to help with continuous group spending like the kind that might go on among a family or school club.
A group can have up to 30 members, letting both couples keep track of groceries and large soccer teams organize group fees. Users can be in as many as 20 groups at one time.
Venmo began roll out to select users Tuesday, promising Groups would become widely available “in the coming weeks,” according to a company press release.
Erika Sanchez, Vice President and General Manager at Venmo, called the new tool “one of our most requested features.”
Prior to Venmo Groups, users looking to keep track of group spending had to either create requests for each transaction – sending requests to everyone on a road trip for gas, then sending new requests for dinner later that night – or rely on completely separate apps to keep track of on-going transactions.
Venmo Groups is the company’s response to smaller apps like SplitWise and SettleUp, existing options for those looking to do exactly what Venmo Groups now offers. However, while SplitWise can keep track of on-going spending and help users understand how to split bills, it does not offer native payment options to settle up running tabs. Instead, users can opt to connect their Venmo or PayPal accounts with Splitwise, creating an extra step that Venmo Groups eliminates. Splitwise has also increasingly been pushing its Pro version, limiting free users to entering three transactions a day and viewing unskippable ads in the hope that initial users will opt for a $40 annual subscription. The company says it “currently has tens of millions of users worldwide.”
Owned by digital payment giant PayPal since 2013, Venmo is one of the most popular free mobile finance apps with more than 90 million accounts in the US (the only country where it’s available). Users rely on the app to send and receive money among friends, make payments at small businesses, use as a checkout option on many apps and websites, transfer cryptocurrency funds and track their Venmo credit card usage.
The news of Venmo’s new tool comes as the service comes amid calls for increased federal scrutiny. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) proposed new rules last week for Big Tech companies and other non-bank entities like Venmo that “blur the traditional lines” between banking and commerce with digital wallet and payment services, the agency said on a press call.
CFPB Director Rohit Chopra expressed fears in June that these services “are increasingly used as substitutes for a traditional bank or credit union account but lack the same protections to ensure that funds are safe,” pointing to the fact that many users store funds in apps like Venmo but that payment apps are not federally insured. The CFPB is concerned that if one of those companies were to go under, then, customers could lose their funds.
Customers at federally insured financial institutions such as traditional banks are guaranteed to get back up to $250,000 per account if the bank fails- the same is not true for apps like Venmo.
The agency said last week it wants to ensure the companies are held to the same security and regulatory standards as large banks, credit unions and other established financial bodies under CFPB regulations.
CNN’s Chris Isidore contributed to this report.