Venmo for teens (a guide for parents)

Venmo for teens (a guide for parents)

Are you in the know about Venmo? Over 75 million people use the money app which acts like a digital wallet. But like Zelle and Paypal, Venmo’s not available for under-eighteens. So if your teens have asked you about setting up an account and you’re looking for some guidance, here’s what you need to know. 


Related: What age can you get a debit card?

Key takeaways

  • You have to be 18 to use Venmo.

  • All transactions are publicly visible unless you change your privacy settings.

  • GoHenry’s a good alternative for teens. It’s flexible, private, and you can monitor your child’s spending. 


What is Venmo?

Venmo is a mobile app you can use to send, pay and receive money via your phone. It’s owned and operated by PayPal. You can pay with Venmo almost anywhere. It’s accepted wherever Mastercard is accepted in the US. 


It started in 2009 as a way for friends to make fast, safe payments to each other. Instead of an IOU, friends could split or share payments using their phones. But what makes Venmo different from other money apps is its social feed. 


When you send/receive money from your friends you can add a message with emojis or stickers and add information about each transaction. This shows up (if you want) on your feed and on your friends’ feeds. For example, your feed might show you which friends went to the movies, what they saw, and when. Or that your roommate paid the electric bill. 


But Venmo’s not just for personal use. It’s handy for small business owners too. You can create a business profile and let your customers pay with Venmo at checkout in your apps or mobile site. 


How does it work?

When you sign up for Venmo you link a debit or credit card and then start adding your friends. You can do this by using their name, @username, phone, or email. But you don’t have to be friends with someone to send them money. 


The app works like Paypal. It stores money you receive on an in-app balance which you can use for future purchases or payments (if you have enough). Or you can transfer money you’ve received to your bank account instead. 


You can send money to a friend, pay for a service, split the tab with friends, and collect money as a small business. All via the app. You can even get your paycheck paid into your Venmo account. 


Every time you make or receive a payment via Venmo, you can add a note about the transaction if you want. By default, these messages are public (anyone can see them, on or off Venmo). But you can make these private, or visible to friends only, if you choose. 


Venmo transfers are free when linked to a debit card but can take 1-3 business days to clear. You’ll pay 3% on transactions linked to a credit card. 


How old do you have to be to have Venmo?

You must be at least 18 years old to use Venmo. (Or the age of majority in your state.) 

There are other requirements, too:

  • You must live in the United States.

  • You must have a US cell phone that can send/receive text messages from shortcodes. (You can’t use a phone number already on file with another Venmo account.) 

  • Your Venmo app must be updated to version 7.38.2 or newer. 

If you have under-18s wanting to use the app you’ll first need to create your own Venmo account. Then you can add your child as an authorized user and give permission for them to start transferring money. 


Is Venmo safe for my kids?

Most peer-to-peer mobile payment services (P2P) like Venmo have proved safe. But there’s always a risk. If you are thinking of Venmo for your teenager here’s how to keep them safe: 

  • Make sure their devices are secure. They should be password-protected and have the latest software update installed. 

  • Use multi-factor authentication. As well as a username and password, your child should enter a one-time code (usually sent by text) so Venmo can verify it’s really them. It’s an extra layer of security you want, especially when using the app from a new device.

  • Check and double-check. Make a mistake —type in the wrong email, amount, or phone number — and you’ll lose your money. Payment reversals require the permission of the other user. 

  • Avoid strangers. The best way to avoid being scammed is not to talk to strangers. Your teens should never send payments to people they don’t know. And they should only accept people they know and trust as friends on Venmo. 

  • Get purchase protection. If you’re buying goods or a service via Venmo you can get purchase protection for a small fee. So if what you bought is never delivered, arrives broken, or is just plain wrong, you’ll get your money back. Remind your teen to tap the in-app toggle and their purchases will be protected. 

  • Make all Venmo transactions private. Set all transactions to ‘private’ so information on what your children have bought, who with, and where, isn’t publicly visible. Be aware that if Facebook Connect is enabled, Venmo then accesses their email, Facebook friends list, and public profile. Even if they don’t want to share information, Facebook friends may still do so on their pages. 

What are the privacy options?

Venmo’s privacy options are as follows: 

  • Public: Transactions will be shared on the public feed. Anyone on the internet can see them.  

  • Friends only: Transactions will only be shared with your Venmo friends and the other party’s friends.

  • Private:  Transactions will only appear in the personal transactions feed under the ‘Me’ tab. If it’s a payment to another user, the recipient will also see this activity in their app.

You can set the privacy setting for each individual payment or purchase. Just tap on the privacy setting when buying something or making a payment and choose the setting you want: Public, Friends, or Private. 


You can also set up your Venmo account so the privacy setting for all future payments is automatically set to your preference. (You can always change privacy settings for individual payments. Just follow the steps above.)


To set your privacy settings for all future payments, first navigate to Settings > Privacy in the app. Then under ‘Default Privacy Setting’ choose your preferred setting. Whenever you pay or receive money on Venmo, the more restrictive setting between the two of you is always honored. 


You can also make past payments ‘private’ or ‘friends only’. On the app, navigate to Settings > Privacy and choose the setting you want under ‘Past Transactions’. 


How can I monitor my child’s spending?

To monitor your child’s spending on Venmo you’ll have to know their login details. You might also want to ask them to check with you before making any transactions. But this, of course, may not always be feasible. 


There are other alternatives for under-eighteens. A children’s debit card option might be an option. You can monitor your child’s spending and give them more flexibility as well as a feeling of financial independence. . 


What are good alternatives to Venmo?

GoHenry is a good alternative to Venmo. It’s a prepaid debit card for teens & kids. But as teens have their own financial needs, there’s a GoHenry account and debit card just for them. They can pay, get paid, save, shop, budget, give and learn all via the app. 


It’s a great way to encourage healthy spending and saving habits. Teens with jobs can get their paychecks straight to their GoHenry account, set savings goals in the app, and track their spending too. 


As well as giving your teens a feeling of financial independence, you get peace of mind. You can pay in their allowance, set spending limits, and get notified whenever your kids make a purchase. 


What’s more, our in-app Money Missions tool makes learning money management skills fun. Level 2 has been created especially for ages 12-14. And missions designed to challenge 15-18-year-olds are coming soon. 




Related articles:

PayPal alternatives for under 18s

Different types of debit card explained

Child using debit card without permission

What is an ATM card?

Can I use my parents debit card?
Written by Charlotte Peacock Published Mar 9, 2023 ● 5 min. read