I love Splitwise. The app makes splitting costs among a group of people easy and straightforward. No one needs to feel underpaid, just as no one can get away without putting in their fair share: Everyone records the things they paid for, and the app tells you how much you owe to whom (or who owes you what).
The main flaw with a service like Splitwise, however, is that it’s a separate service. While it’s there to help you divvy up the expenses, you almost always need to leave the app to actually pay people. It’s not a big deal, mind you: People can connect their Venmo accounts to Splitwise, for example, so with a single tap, you can launch Venmo to settle up. But it isn’t as simple as it could be if, say, Venmo just made their own Splitwise-like feature.
Venmo Groups could be a Splitwise killer
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On Tuesday, Venmo announced “Venmo Groups,” a new feature that lets you track group expenses directly within Venmo. The feature is slowly rolling out to users starting today, and should be fully available in the coming weeks.
It looks simple enough to use: To start, head to the Me tab in the app, then tap the new Create a group button towards the top of the page. At this time, I have the button, but when I tap it, I’m told the feature is “coming soon.” Once it’s up and running, however, you can add members and create a group name, then start tracking expenses. Once everyone has their payments submitted, you can hit Request to settle up.
As the feature is so new, it’s tough to tell how it compares to something like Splitwise. Even if Venmo’s option is missing key features you find in Splitwise, however, the sheer convenience of tracking expenses and managing payments in the same app is likely going to be a strong enough pull to move people from third-party apps to Venmo, assuming they use Venmo for payments in the first place.
Of course, not everyone uses Venmo. Some people use Cash app, others Zelle, and others still prefer old-school cash payments. These users are what Splitwise is likely going to count on in the future, but they’ll need to be aggressive to keep them. I could see this becoming an iMessage situation. If all your friends use Venmo, the pressure will be on to make a Venmo account just to keep up with the group.