Every day, the eCommerce industry is growing. With all the different mobile apps and contactless payment methods available, paying for things with cash is looking more and more old-fashioned.
Peer-to-peer, or P2P, payment systems are one of the newer iterations of mobile payments. There are several prominent P2P apps out on the market and many financial institutions are getting into the game.
With the wide variety of apps and the risks that come with using your personal information for online payments, keeping your money secure is a very reasonable concern. Here are some tips to keep in mind when using a P2P payment system:
Put your best, safest foot forward
For many users this might seem obvious, but it’s worth including: You should only download legitimate P2P payment apps from legitimate mobile app markets like Google Play and the Apple App Store. Downloading apps from sources you don’t know you can trust is a risk that isn’t worth taking.
There are some really simple steps you can take to make using your new app more secure. First, set up a password or a PIN for your account. It’s easy to do, but not every P2P app has this feature, and you’ll have that additional security if you lose or misplace your phone.
Secondly, make sure you set your account to private. Some P2P apps include a social networking feature, where contacts can see each others’ transactions in the app’s feed. It’s usually better to keep your financial activities private.
Don’t settle for the default security settings. Some P2P payment apps have preset security and privacy settings. Many users don’t take the time to personalize their account’s settings, when they really should be. Maximum security and privacy is the way to go.
Finally, avoid carrying a balance. Many P2P apps let you keep money on your account indefinitely. It’s super convenient to have a digital wallet like this, but your money isn’t as safe as it would be in your financial institution’s account.
Keep it in your ‘bubble’ of friends and family
When using a P2P app, it’s usually best to limit your transactions to people you know. The first and easiest way to start is to ask your friends and family which P2P apps they’re using, but you shouldn’t just follow along blindly. It may be effortless to just use the same app, but you need to remember that no P2P apps are exactly the same.
Do your own research on the apps your friends and family use. It’s very important that the P2P app you use is secure, and you might find out their favorite app isn’t as safe as they thought. Suggesting another, more secure app is a good way to start on the same page.
Along these same lines, you should probably avoid sending money to or receiving money from people outside of your social circle. If someone is looking to scam you, they’re likely to do so by canceling their P2P payment after receiving their product or service. This is called a transaction reversal scam, and depending on which app you use you may not have a way to resolve that problem.
Do your research and learn how it works
When you do decide to use a new P2P app, make sure you review the app’s terms of service (ToS) carefully. You should pay additional attention to the app’s rules on settling disputes and complaints, as well as how your data is used, stored and processed.
Reading these sections of the ToS keeps you informed and can help you avoid some nasty surprises if something does go wrong. Some P2P apps make their users resolve their own disputes, while others offer pretty significant assistance in resolving issues between users. Before you start using any P2P service, search the app for customer service contacts and procedures. That way you know where to go and how to ask for help.
While you can tie your P2P payment app to any bank, credit card, or non-bank financial institution (NBFI), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) recommends connecting to your checking account or credit card. The key here is that these accounts are insured if something goes wrong, and a lot of the P2P apps themselves aren’t FDIC or NCUA insured.
Lastly, you should avoid using P2P payment services for business purposes. You should be able to see in the ToS whether the app prohibits commercial use, but even then it might not be the most secure option. There are other payment apps meant for business users you should look for instead.
Overall, P2P payment apps are a very convenient way to pay your friends and family, especially now that everyone is getting into contactless payments. However, there are few risks involved, so it’s always a good idea to minimize those risks as much as possible.