Paying during a pandemic: Venmo, PayPal, and other money transfer apps are surging

by Shelby Sabrina

A new study of payment habits during the pandemic reveals a surprising trend: Even as lockdowns forced businesses to shut and consumers to stay home, use of peer-to-peer payment apps like Venmo has surged.

According to findings by Apptopia, which studies app usage, the use of the most popular money transfer apps has risen by nearly 11% since March 1.


According to Adam Blacker, a VP at Apptopia, the number of U.S. downloads for Venmo grew 16.5% and those for Square’s Cash App grew 20.1% from April to May. Meanwhile, PayPal downloads soared 32.3% during this period.

In raw numbers, Cash App was the most popular with nearly 4 million new downloads, while Venmo and PayPal respectively saw around 2.5 million and 2 million downloads.

Activity on all three apps also climbed with Venmo posting over 600 million sessions—a rough proxy for transactions—in April. Cash App had the next most usage, with around 250 million sessions, followed by PayPal, which had just under 200 million sessions.

Other apps included in Apptopia’s survey, including Zelle and cross-border money transfer service TransferWise, all recorded similar uptakes in usage.

Apptopia’s research did not delve into why the use of payment apps surged during a period of huge economic decline. But Blacker speculates that, in the case of PayPal, an increase in e-commerce during the lockdown helped fuel the growth. As for the spike in Venmo and Cash App usage, he suspects that it was driven in part by consumers wishing to avoid in-person banking, and by people sending money to family and friends affected by the pandemic’s economic fallout.

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