One of the more basic things consumers have clamored for is a simple way to send money to other individuals. While there have been a few ways to do that (PayPal and Venmo to name a couple), none have really passed the simplicity test. Until now.
The process is remarkably simple. Following Mossberg's prompts, I just sent $10 to my wife, then called her to let her know about it — and request that she send money back, say $20, to make sure that part of the transaction works well too. (She didn't quite see the logic of sending back more than I sent her, but one can always try.)
Here's how it works. You open an email program and enter the address of the person to whom you'd like to send cash. In the cc field, you enter firstname.lastname@example.org, and in the subject line, you add the amount. Then you hit send.
The first time you try to send cash, Square sends an email asking you to link your Visa or MasterCard debit card. No log-in or password are required, nor is any new hardware of software. You can send up to $250 a week without doing anything else, or up to $2,500 a week if you provide additional details to prove to Square that you're an actual person.
The service is free.
Once you link your card, Square sends an email back letting you know the cash has been sent. That email hit my in-box nearly instantaneously, though I had to look for it in my send folder, as it was connected to the original email that I sent to her.
I then linked my card, which prompted another email from Square letting me know that the $10 was sent. "Andrea ... is new to Square Cash," it read. "We'll notify you when this cash is accepted."
Three minutes later, after she'd opened my email and linked her card, I got another email saying, "Cash accepted: Andrea ... signed up for Square Cash to deposit the $10 you sent on 10/16/13."
I then took a look at my bank account and asked her to do the same. Square says money should hit accounts within a day, but our transaction showed up in both accounts right away.
As you would expect, there are caveats. Digital transactions are susceptible to hacking. Square says it can reverse transfers that you did not authorize, which it expects you to notice by way of the email that is generated when a transaction occurs, but the company makes no guarantees of repaying funds that are moved fraudulently. The transactions are said to be encrypted.
Also, there is no transaction history; Square expects you to track that by keeping up with the emails.
This seems to be a pretty significant move, and early returns on Twitter were positive, though many noted that security will be a big test going forward. But Square is a generally well-regarded brand and seems to have achieved considerable standing in the mobile payments space. So it's easy to see this service gaining traction quickly.
Square also says it won't send offers or ads. To monetize the service, it plans to offer paid, premium options. For example, the free service is available in the U.S. only, but international transfers could be achieved for a fee.
To close the loop on my test, as noted, my wife did send money back to make sure that works. (That transaction also showed up in our bank accounts right away.)
But she only sent 10 bucks. I suppose I should count myself lucky.
Learn more about money transfer/P2P.