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5 pay-by-phone apps tested

The mobile payments industry is expected to top $171 billion in 2012, and dozens of players want in. Are they ready for everyday users yet? I left behind my wallet for a day and went shopping.


gallery mobile payment venmo transaction

Pay-by-text service Venmo has been gaining a following, mainly from friends using it to pay one another. Set-up is straightforward: Users enter their information into the app and receive a text message to confirm. If you connect the service with your Facebook account, you can search through your friends and click on their names to text cash.

Venmo, which was acquired by Braintree on August, is ideal for things like splitting the bill at dinner or paying your roommate for rent. The maximum amount you can send is $2,000 a week with a bank account and $2,000 a month with a card. Just enter the amount you'd like to pay, pick a person (you can enter their name, phone number or email), enter the dollar amount and click "pay." If your friend doesn't have a Venmo account, they'll get a message suggesting they set one up to claim their cash.

The key difference between Venmo and some of the others I tested is the way you use the service. I'd use Venmo to square up a bill with a friend, but I'd turn to another mobile wallet app to purchase items in a store.

- Last updated September 24 2012 09:31 AM ET