Messenger users in the U.S. can now send and receive money between groups of people on the app, Facebook announced on Tuesday. Messenger first launched payments in March 2015, when it made it possible for two people to send payments to each other via a debit card stored on the app on Android, iOS and desktop.
“Starting today, you can send or receive money between groups of people on Messenger,” Facebook product manager Partha Sundaram said in a blog post on Tuesday. “It's free, simple, fast and secure. Whether you're splitting a restaurant bill or chipping in for a group gift, all you need to do is go to a new or existing Messenger group conversation to get started.”
To send money between groups, users can tap the plus sign in the bottom left hand corner of a group conversation to access additional features (such as ride requests, location-sharing and games) and then tap the payments icon, a dollar sign. Users can then select who to send or request money from, and whether they’d like to include the entire group or only some members. Users can then enter the amount they’d like to request per person and label their money request. Each time someone in the group has paid, a message will appear in the group thread. Users can also review the status of requests in a full-screen view.
Messenger’s new tool will compete with other apps with peer-to-peer payment services like PayPal , PayPal-owned Venmo, Snapchat, Square Cash and China-based WeChat. However, Messenger has one big advantage: The app has more than 1 billion monthly users globally, which could reduce much of the friction in getting users to try the service. (In March 2016, parent company Tencent said WeChat had 762 million users globally.) Messenger users, also, for example, don’t need to remember a password to log in. Facebook-owned WhatsApp, which also has more than 1 billion monthly users, appears to be preparing to launch a peer-to-peer payments tool in India soon.
Facebook been testing advertisements and buy buttons in Messenger, but has yet to glean substantial revenue from Messenger or WhatsApp. The standalone apps could, however, become important revenue sources for the social network over time.
Facebook first began processing payments in 2007 for game players and advertisers. When Facebook launched peer-to-peer payments in 2015, the company said it managed more than 1 million transactions daily on the site and encrypts the connection between users and Facebook, as well as users’ card information. Facebook said its payment systems receive additional monitoring and control, including oversight from anti-fraud specialists to keep accounts secure.