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Venmo is testing its own physical debit card

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The Venmo app for Apple’s iMessage service
The Venmo app for Apple’s iMessage service
Jason Del Rey has been a business journalist for 15 years and has covered Amazon, Walmart, and the e-commerce industry for the last decade. He was a senior correspondent at Vox.

Venmo has been testing its own version of a physical debit card that would allow people who use its app to make purchases in brick-and-mortar stores using money stored in their Venmo account, according to multiple sources.

The Venmo feeds of some employees seem to confirm public testing of these cards, showing Venmo purchases being made at fast-food chains like Chipotle and Taco Bell, as well as small mom-and-pop shops.

Up to now, the Venmo app has served as a way for people to transfer money to other Venmo users or to pay for items in digital apps that have partnered with the company.

A screenshot from the public Venmo app feed of a Venmo employee
A screenshot from the public Venmo feed of a Venmo employee, with profile photo and name redacted

A Venmo physical payment card would link to a balance stored in a Venmo account, one of these people said. One potential advantage is that it would allow Venmo users to immediately spend money that is sent to them via the app without having to wait a business day for a deposit of those funds to appear in their bank account.

For Venmo and its parent company PayPal, the card could be a way to generate revenue. Merchants pay a fee on each transaction to the issuer that provided the debit or credit card to their customer, but Venmo’s core money-payment service is typically free for users.

A spokesman for Venmo provided the following statement without confirming or denying the debit card tests: “[W]e will continue to test, introduce and expand features that allow people to use Venmo to pay friends and shop. We have nothing to announce at this time.”

A Venmo card launch would be the latest move by a digital-first company to wedge themselves deeper into the financial lives of consumers by offering bank-like services. Last month Square, which operates the Square Cash money-transfer service that is a competitor to Venmo, started marketing a new physical debit card of its own.

And earlier this month, Apple announced its own money-transfer service as well as a virtual payment card — called Apple Pay Cash — that would allow for tap-and-pay payments in select brick-and-mortar stores.

Together, these moves have gotten the attention of the largest U.S. banks and credit card companies, which have for decades owned most aspects of an individual’s personal finances, but recognize the risk of the relationships and trust that big tech companies are developing with consumers.

Before Apple’s announcement, Recode reported that several executives at large U.S. banks planned to confront Visa about its potential involvement in helping Apple create its virtual debit card. It’s still not clear if Visa is working with Apple on the product.

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