Article: How Is Venmo Changing The Nature of Friendships?

Jul 26, 2017
Article, Question of the Day, Payment Types

Hat tip to Jessica for this fascinating article about how the payment app Venmo is affecting friendships. Watch your students squirm as they discuss how they use Venmo with their friends.

From NY Times:

Margaret Pennoyer, an elementary school teacher in Manhattan, had just returned from a bachelorette party in Napa Valley when she received an email that had been sent to all the guests. The two organizers had itemized each woman’s individual expenses, which they had covered, and requested reimbursement through Venmo, an app that transfers money between users who have linked their bank accounts to their phones. Ms. Pennoyer owed $31.98 to one woman and $20.62 to the other.

In a previous time, the organizers likely would have asked everyone to bring enough cash to repay them in person or to mail a check afterward, courteously rounding down to $30 and $20. But the Venmo request, calculated to the penny, struck Ms. Pennoyer, 29, as emblematic of how the app, the most popular among her fellow millennials for everything from entertainment expenses to rent shares, “changes friendships and makes them more transactional,” she said. “It’s nickel-and-diming everything, literally.”

It seems the concept of “treating” has disappeared:

Ms. Pennoyer agreed and recalled childhood taxi rides, when two adults would fight to treat the other. Now, thanks to a host (or perhaps that’s the wrong word) of money transfer and bill splitting apps — such as Divvy, which takes a photo of a restaurant receipt and assigns a bill to each diner — and a fare-splitting feature built into Uber and Lyft (for a 25-cent fee), “that doesn’t happen with my generation,” she said. “It’s the difference between saying ‘I’ll get it next time’ and ‘I’ll Venmo you.’”

And yes, there is a privacy aspect to this too that your students better be aware of:

Yet, as with anything emoji-speckled or exclamation-point-riddled, there is a performative aspect to the memos, especially since the default mode is that transactions (though not the dollar amount) and contact lists are publicly viewable…Within a minute I was able to see what a friend — whom I’m not even connected with on the app — pays for internet access and electricity, since her roommate itemized the charges in the memo.


  • Do you use Venmo? How do you use it?
  • How has it impacted your friendships? Any horror stories to tell or awkward situations?
  • Do you keep your information private?


Lost in this sea of apps? Have your students teach you and be app reviewers in this engaging NGPF Activity: Online Tools and Appsl

About the Author

Tim Ranzetta

Tim's saving habits started at seven when a neighbor with a broken hip gave him a dog walking job. Her recovery, which took almost a year, resulted in Tim getting to know the bank tellers quite well (and accumulating a savings account balance of over $300!). His recent entrepreneurial adventures have included driving a shredding truck, analyzing executive compensation packages for Fortune 500 companies and helping families make better college financing decisions. After volunteering in 2010 to create and teach a personal finance program at Eastside College Prep in East Palo Alto, Tim saw firsthand the impact of an engaging and activity-based curriculum, which inspired him to start a new non-profit, Next Gen Personal Finance.