Payment apps allow business owners to make payments directly from a smartphone without using traditional payroll methods. You can also connect your credit cards or bank accounts to a payment app.
The best payment apps offer compatibility with a wide range of credit and debit cards, quick transfer speed, and support a wide variety of devices. We compared ease of use, lack of payment limitations, fund transfers, and even incentives for consumers. Learn more so you can choose the right option for your device.
Best Overall : PayPal
We chose PayPal as our best overall due to its convenient payment options, powerful brand-name recognition, and robust tools. In addition, you can send up to $60,000, depending on the currency, and can use PayPal Cash or PayPal Cash Plus, which offers more features.
Easy to use
Offers safe encryption and monitoring
Free to pay friends and family
Additional bank fees
Confusing array of packaging and services for merchants
Some banks charge a transaction fee
The PayPal app won our category based on its seamless payment options between parties. Register your credit card or bank account with your PayPal account. You can then swiftly send payments by tapping "Send" or request money by tapping "Request Money." You can use PayPal Instant Transfer for a 1% fee (up to $10) or tap into its standard service, though it will take a couple of days to funnel into your bank account.
Users pay 2.90% plus a fixed fee to send money via a credit card. PayPal charges 5% to send international personal transactions using a PayPal balance, bank account, or through an Amex Send account. Credit card payments for international transactions cost 7.90% plus a fixed fee.
You'll feel secure with PayPal's encryption standards and 24/7 monitoring. The PayPal Security Key will also send you a temporary security code through SMS when you log in. If you accidentally send money to the wrong person, request a refund. If the individual doesn't respond, dispute the transaction with PayPal directly.
Read our full PayPal review.
Best for Small Businesses : QuickBooks Online Mobile
The QuickBooks Online Mobile app swept the best for small businesses category due to the app's touch interaction and intuitive interface. The app lets small business owners pay invoices, accept credit cards, and make debit card payments online with low effort. It can also set recurring invoices and instantly pay online.
Automatically categorizes business expense deductions
Pays employees and contractors automatically
Automatic tax tracking
User interface could use some improvements
Expensive advanced options
Mobile apps not comprehensive
QuickBooks' Online Payments app took over this category because business owners can easily accept credit card payments and pay and get paid quickly. QuickBooks stores customers' credit card information online and automatically processes it on the due date with recurring billing.
The app can also invoice, manage cash, catalog tax deductions, track travel miles, run reports, send estimates, manage bills, check expenses, and pay employees and 1099 contractors. The app also allows for real-time alerts and connects all bookkeeping.
You can also use GoPayment, a free mobile point of sale app that allows you to take payments on the go. All devices can connect to QuickBooks Online on the web with the QuickBooks Online mobile app. Funds arrive in your bank account the next business day with the GoPayment app. In addition to the fees for QuickBooks online, costs include:
- ACH bank transfers: 1% (max $10)
- Card (Swiped): 2.4% plus $0.25
- Card (Invoiced): 2.9% plus $0.25
- Card (Keyed): 3.4% plus $0.25
QuickBooks Online embraces high-tech encryption and authentication technologies such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), digital certificates, and RSA encryption to protect your business's valuable information.
For QuickBooks Online Payments users, credit card payments typically deposit in about two or three business days, and free ACH Bank Transfer payments deposit in about two to seven business days.
QuickBooks makes it easy to right errors if you accidentally send a payment to the wrong person or vendor. You must delete your payment and recreate it if you send payments to the wrong account.
Best for International Payments : Wise
Wise earned our top spot because it uses the standard exchange rate instead of bank rates. Anyone who transfers money internationally can use Wise.
Traditional banks charge an average range of 3% to 4% of the total amount due to SWIFT fees that cost $20 to $50 per transfer and an additional exchange rate markup of 2% to 4%. Wise's multi-currency account offers a cheaper alternative.
Lets you avoid bank exchange rate markups and high foreign transaction fees
Can always pay in the local currency
Recipients cannot track the status of transfers
Not as fast as other payment apps
No protection by a financial protection scheme
Wise took the top spot for best international payments because it doesn't charge overly large international transaction fees or exchange rates. You can send money to just 61 countries. However, you may send money to a country not on Wise's list if the recipient's account uses U.S. dollars, euros, or pounds.
Wise offers mobile apps for Apple and Android devices and enables robust security and encryption so you can protect your personal information. You can also choose two-factor authentication for extra security. Wise doesn't offer the same protection that the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), the U.K.'s statutory deposit insurance and investors compensation organization, offers with a bank account.
Converting money can take a maximum of five working days, but often takes less time. It also depends on how quickly the recipient's bank can process deposits and the ways in which you can send money in that particular country.
In one of Wise's licensed states or in a country outside of the U.S., you can send up to:
- $15,000 per day with bank debit ($10,000 per day using bank debit in Nevada, Hawaii, Guam, or the Virgin Islands)
- $2,000 during a 24-hour period and $8,000 every seven days if you use debit or credit cards
You can spend the money you keep with the Wise card.
If you accidentally send the wrong payment to the wrong person, try canceling the transfer yourself and set up a new transfer using the correct bank details. However, sometimes it’s too late to cancel. Once marked "complete," the money goes into the banking system. In that case, get in touch with the person you paid and ask them to contact their bank and find out whether their bank can send the money back to Wise.
Best for Freelancers : Stripe
Stripe, which incorporates software and APIs to help small businesses (including freelancers) get paid, takes our top spot because of its robust payment processing platform. Its powerful products also accept payments and send payouts. Customers can send money from their bank account through a credit or debit card transaction directly to your freelancers' business account.
Easy-to-navigate user interface
Supports invoicing and regular billing, a must-have for freelancers
Can take customer data with you when you move to a different payment system
First payout can take up to 14 days
Not as familiar to some people as PayPal
Simple payment features can look scammy
We chose Stripe because it's easy for freelancers to take on its suite of payment products, including the ability to accept payments and send payouts globally. Stripe accepts all major debit and credit cards from customers in every country, so you don't need to limit your clients to the U.S.
Stripe’s products also prevent fraud, issue virtual and physical cards, and help freelancers manage how much they spend in their business.
Stripe offers mobile apps for iPhone and Android devices. You can gain access to its comprehensive dashboard from your mobile device. It also offers transparent, pay-as-you-go pricing. Stripe costs 2.9% plus 30 cents for each successful card charge. You can do what you need to from there without extra set-up fees, monthly fees, and other hidden fees.
As a freelancer, you'll feel secure knowing that Stripe meets PCI Service Provider Level 1 certification requirements, the highest level possible in the payments industry.
Freelancers often need to get paid quickly, and you can tap into Instant Payouts (for a 1% fee of the payout amount) to send earnings to a debit card within minutes. Daily payout limits may apply but this feature works 24/7 year-round.
Be aware that the first payout for every new Stripe account takes seven days after the first payment but can take up to 14 days for businesses in certain industries.
As long as you own or administer the Stripe account, you can invite anyone to access the account under Business Settings.
Best for Invoicing : FreshBooks
FreshBooks, a cloud-based small business accounting software, won our top spot for its comprehensive time-tracking and receipt and expense management options. It also creates, edits, delivers, tracks, and successfully follows up on invoices efficiently through FreshBooks Payments, powered by WePay.
Offers a free 30-day trial
Great for freelancers and small businesses
Actively supports invoices
Holds client limits
Cannot hold money
No payroll services
FreshBooks wins for best for invoicing because it automatically sends payment reminders and offers a great invoicing array for up to 50 clients. You can accept credit card payments right away and clients can pay online so the money goes into your pockets faster. That way, you can focus on your business instead of having to bug customers to pay their invoices.
We also liked it due to its simple pricing. It charges 2.9% plus 30 cents on all credit card transactions (American Express costs more, at 3.5% plus 30 cents) and bank transfers (ACH) at 1%.
FreshBooks' app on the Apple App Store and Google Play runs its mobile accounting app from any iPhone or iPad running iOS 9.0 or higher and any Android device running Android 4.2 or higher. Once you have the app up, go to online payments and add your bank information.
The app lets users either log time worked or use a timer to log work for a client or project. You can also track time for non-client work, and you can pair the timer with the invoices on the app. FreshBooks also allows you to respond to questions and seek feedback right from the app.
FreshBooks connects with over 14,000 different banks through ACH payments and credit cards, so it can handle seamless invoice options and it takes approximately one to two business days to process a transaction. Freshbooks' firewalls safeguard your banking information traveling between your browser and FreshBooks with 256-bit SSL encryption.
Best Peer-to-Peer App : Venmo
We awarded Venmo our top peer-to-peer app designation for its instant transfer to a bank account or debit card, which arrives in about 30 minutes (for a 1% fee). Venmo works with all U.S.-based banks. You can send money for free through the app, although you'll pay 3% of the transfer total to send money via credit card.
Can get your money within 30 minutes
Works with all U.S. banks
Can use it to make payments to anyone—even those without accounts
Past safety and security concerns
No Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insurance
Fee for instant cash-out transfers to your bank account
We chose PayPal's Venmo as the best peer-to-peer app for your cash because you can spend, send, or transfer money to your bank account or to a friend's with ease. You can even personalize your communication with emojis or share animated stickers with friends and family.
You can send money using your iPhone or Android-based smartphone by choosing a sign-up method and creating a secure password. Venmo asks you to verify your phone number, email address, and bank account. In addition, you must also verify your bank account when accessing funds.
The standard bank transfer through the ACH network to a verified checking account typically takes one to three business days to arrive. You can keep money in Venmo or your bank account. Venmo requires a person-to-person spending limit of $299.99, but users can increase the weekly rolling limit to $4,999.99 by verifying their identity.
You can add additional layers of security to your Venmo account by adding multi-factor authentication and a PIN.
If you accidentally send money to the wrong person, you can request a return for the money. If you don’t hear back or need help sending a charge request, contact Venmo's support team, though they don't offer a recovery guarantee.
Read our full Venmo review.
Ultimately, the best payment app depends on your needs and preferences. For example, if you freelance full-time, you may want to gravitate toward Stripe for its additional business services.
For a comprehensive choice with robust offerings, you can't beat PayPal. Its high standards, quick turnaround time, and encryption make it a great choice for just about any solopreneur, small business, or large company. It also fits the bill for people who need to pay each other or send other money requests.
Compare the Best Payment Apps
|Company||Operating System||Payment Methods||Fees||Transfer Speed|
|PayPal Best Overall||iOS and Android||Send payments by tapping "Send" or you can request money by tapping "Request Money."||Users pay 2.90% plus a fixed fee to send money via a credit card. Charges 5% to send international personal transactions using a PayPal balance, bank account, or through an Amex Send account. Credit card payments for international transactions cost 7.90% plus a fixed fee.||Instant transfer (paid option) or could take a few business days|
|QuickBooks Online Mobile Best for Small Business||iOS and Android||You can easily accept credit card payments with QuickBooks' Online Payments app. Send customers a "Pay Now" link.||ACH bank transfers: 1% (max $10); Card (Swiped): 2.4% plus 25 cents; Card (Invoiced): 2.9% plus 25 cents; Card (Keyed): 3.4% plus 25 cents||Funds arrive in your bank account the next business day with the GoPayment app.|
|Wise Best for International Payments||iOS and Android||Wise Batch Payment tool for payroll allows employers to pay in more than 45 currencies||$5.16 (0.35% to 3%)||Zero to two business days|
|Stripe Best for Freelancers||iOS and Android||Comprehensive dashboard offers many payment methods from your mobile device||Costs 2.9% plus 30 cents for each successful card charge||Instant Payouts (for a 1% fee of the payout amount) to send earnings to a debit card within minutes; subject to daily payout limits.|
|FreshBooks Best for Invoicing||iOS and Android||Edit, deliver, track, and successfully follow up on invoices more efficiently through FreshBooks Payments, powered by WePay||Charges 2.9% plus 30 cents on all credit card transactions (American Express costs more, at 3.5% plus 30 cents) and bank transfers (ACH) at 1%||Two business days|
|Venmo Best Peer-to-Peer App||iOS and Android||Standard bank transfer through the ACH network or can keep money in Venmo or your bank account||Send money for free through the app, although you'll pay 3% of the transfer total to send money via credit card. Instant pay feature costs 1% of the total cost.||Instant transfer option available for the fastest transfer method; standard bank transfer method takes between one and three business days.|
Frequently Asked Questions
How Do Payment Apps Work?
Payment apps offer convenience for business owners, contractors, and individuals who want to send money from person to person. Payment apps work by allowing you to make payments directly from your smartphone. You can make payments through your app without needing to have your credit card or debit card handy at all. The app may allow you to bypass a bank altogether and may offer other features, such as business invoicing, timers to track work, and more.
Are Payment Apps Safe to Use?
The payment apps on our list were specifically tested for their safety features. You can usually find protection against unauthorized transactions with a payment app but may not get the same type of financial protection you might get through FDIC-protected banks or other financial institutions. Many apps offer authentication technologies such as Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), digital certificates, and RSA encryption to protect your business's valuable information.
What Types of Payments Can Be Processed With an App?
From making customer billing payments to paying a friend for drinks or dinner, payment apps will transfer payments between two parties through individual banking accounts or credit cards. You can register your business or personal credit, debit, or ACH information once. Then, in just a few taps, you can pay employees, purchase goods, pay a bill, and even keep track of invoices and business expenses.
How We Chose the Best Payment Apps
We analyzed a dozen apps offered by the top companies for the best user experience and assessed app pricing, features, user reviews, and ratings.
We considered apps that primarily focus on payments, that come with low (or no) cost to sign up, offer an easy-to-use interface, and that provide multiple device accessibility.
We also looked into security features, products, educational tools, security, and how each app accesses your financial data. Finally, the apps on the list have thousands of reviews and high ratings in the App Store and on Google Play.