One tech development that feels somewhat underappreciated this decade is that various apps have made personal finance and investment almost fun. This isn’t necessarily a 100 percent positive development. There are drawbacks, such as young people getting into investment through trendy apps without actually knowing what they’re doing. More broadly speaking though, the emergence and improvement of these apps has brought all of our financial needs to our fingertips. It’s happened somewhat gradually, but it feels like something we might appreciate more when we look back on the current decade in years to come.
Lately, a little bit more buzz has been building, and tends to revolve around the suggestions that certain apps can basically replace bank accounts. That claim, at this moment, still feels exaggerated – but only slightly so. There are in fact some finance-related apps offering a vast array of services. Three in particular can do most of what we tend to rely on our banks for on a day-to-day basis.
Once known as Moneybookers, Skrill has slowly gained a place among the elite payment and finance apps. It has a little bit more of a stated, specific purpose than some of its competitors – namely to facilitate low-fee international payments – but it’s come to be a bigger service over time, and is now capable of handling a lot of the same tasks the other major players in the market can accomplish.
For all intents and purposes it’s now a multi-currency online and mobile payment processing app with low (or no) fees for transactions. But it’s also taken some steps to further its hold on individuals’ financial dealings. For instance, you can now buy a prepaid card through your Skrill account so as to use the service in person, much like you may use a debit card from your bank. For regular users there are even some VIP loyalty rewards on offer. Additionally, Skrill now facilitates cryptocurrency transactions, which is not a regular banking activity but is something that’s closely tied to a lot of people’s personal finance dealings these days.
PayPal has been around for a while, and if you haven’t used it recently you might think of it as being a little bit old-fashioned. It was the first major online payment processor to achieve significant public interest, and its early pairings with numerous major retail platforms made it easy to use. These days there tends to be a little bit more of a focus on peer-to-peer transfer ability, and in this regard it can seem as if other services like Venmo and Square’s Cash App have surpassed PayPal in general utility. What some don’t realize, however, is that Venmo is actually owned and operated by PayPal, which makes the service that much more impressive.
The truth is that PayPal has proven over the last year or two to be anything but old fashioned. The app and website have both been updated to look every bit as modern as other payment processors, and more importantly PayPal has gotten into all kinds of new ventures. It supports its own debit card and allows for direct deposit from online employers and even check deposits. And more recently, PayPal has gained acceptance from sportsbooks, which opens up a whole new industry to PayPal use (even if it’s not related to replacing ordinary banking services). At this point it’s probably still fair to call this the most multi-faceted, comprehensive finance app available.
Square’s Cash App, which is now generally referred to as the Cash App or simply Cash, is perhaps the most popular competitor to both PayPal and Venmo. It is marketed more as a counter to the latter, with peer-to-peer payments made easy and an interface that is arguably more user-friendly and modern than that of Venmo. However, the Cash App is almost deceptively simple. While it looks like a fairly simple Venmo alternative, it has actually taken on PayPal somewhat more directly.
The Cash App’s own cash card is killing it, with a large and growing user base, and like PayPal the service also accepts direct deposits for paychecks. This means that like PayPal, the Cash App can effectively replace much of what we tend to use our banks for. It can store money, load it onto a debit card, facilitate transfers, and accept deposits, all at the touch of a finger.