Square, the online payment company, on Wednesday introduced a service called Square Cash that allows Internet users to send funds via email.
At least that's the way the service appears to work to users. In fact, email is not the medium by which funds are exchanged. It's merely an electronic directive that instructs Square to transfer funds between two parties.
A user composes an email message, enters a dollar amount in the subject line and an explanatory note in the body of the message, then sends the message to the recipient, with firstname.lastname@example.org in the Cc field.
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If the recipient hasn't received Square Cash before, he or she will be prompted to enter the necessary debit card information. Thereafter, the payee will receive the appropriate amount through the provided debit card, with no fees incurred by either party.
Square Cash director of products Brian Grassadonia in a statement characterized Square Cash as a convenient way to send money and receive money without jumping through hoops.
Square has also created Square Cash mobile apps for Android and iOS. The apps provide a straightforward interface for sending money via email.
New users are limited to sending $250 per week. To raise this limit to $2,500 per week, a user must supply a mobile phone number as a means of text-message verification and either a Facebook account link or a full name, date of birth and the last four digits of his social security number -- currently, the service is only available in the U.S.
Square is not alone in offering the ability to send money using email messages. Google began testing Gmail as a way to send cash earlier this year and last month expanded this capability beyond invitees to all Google Wallet users with Gmail accounts.
Square Cash, however, has an advantage: It doesn't charge any fees for sending or receiving funds. Sending money via Gmail is also free if you use Wallet funds or funds stored in a linked bank account. However, if you want to use a credit or debit card as a source of funds for a Gmail cash transfer, there's a 2.9% transaction fee, with a $0.30 minimum.
The situation is similar if you want to send someone money via PayPal, a more established online payment service. The transfer is free using a linked bank account or PayPal balance, but requires a fee of 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction if a credit or debit card is used.
Square insists "security is our top priority" and claims that it makes sure each Square Cash email comes from an authenticated sender. Square does not offer fraud protection, the way credit cards do, although it will reverse transfers under certain circumstances.
Square Cash isn't presently integrated into merchant payment systems, making it ill-suited for shopping at the mall. Still, it provides a convenient way to conduct person-to-person transactions.