Jason Del Rey

Recent Posts by Jason Del Rey

Square Cash, the Service That Lets You Email Money to Friends, Is Now Public (And Free)

square cash

In May, news leaked that Jack Dorsey’s Square had developed a product called Square Cash, which would let people transfer money to any other individual’s debit card via an email message. When my colleague Mike Isaac wrote about it, the service was in a private test with employees of Twitter, Box and Pinterest.

Tonight, Square has opened up the service to the general public in the U.S. And it has knocked off the 50-cent fee it had originally planned to charge senders. (I asked a Square spokesperson if the company will keep the product free permanently. “Perhaps we’d offer something higher value in the future,” she wrote, “but no plans at this time.”)

People who want to send money to friends have to input their debit-card information the first time they use the service. After that, they simply enter the recipient’s email address, add “cash@square.com” to the CC field, and the dollar amount to the subject line. On the other end, recipients are prompted the first time they receive a payment to connect their debit-card information. (For a thorough walkthrough, read Walt Mossberg’s review.)

At first blush, I thought this might be a ploy — and a pretty clever one at that — to push people into signing up for Square Wallet, the digital-wallet service that lets you pay in stores and cafes using only your phone and name. But Square said the Square Cash service isn’t linked to Square Wallet at all. There’s no account to set up. There’s also a separate Square Cash mobile app that lets you accomplish the same thing.

Still, if people gravitate to this Square product, other services in the Square portfolio might become an easier sell.

But it’s not without its competitors. PayPal, of course, allows for transfer between individuals, but both parties must open a PayPal account. Venmo, now owned by payments company Braintree (which has agreed to be acquired by eBay), has built somewhat of a cult following among certain demographics for its app that lets you send money to friends. And Google is slowly rolling out a similar function to Gmail, though the feature is connected to Google Wallet.

In the end, though, adoption may not come down to competition, but to this simple question: Will anyone other than early adopters trust this new method of payment?

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald