Facebook expands its mobile Messenger payments service beyond the US

7 Nov 2017

Facebook Messenger app. Image: Jakraphong Photography/Shutterstock

Facebook has allowed users in the US to make payments on Messenger since 2015, but now it’s expanding the reach of the service to other countries.

In March 2015, Facebook announced that its P2P payments system was going live on Messenger for users in North America, in an effort to tap into the payments market by integrating the functionality into the pre-existing Messenger app.

Yesterday (6 November), the company announced it would be letting people outside of the US send money to Facebook friends via Messenger for the first time.

David Marcus is the head of Messenger at Facebook, and he explained that most people in the US use the service to send less than $50 per transaction, and it is mainly used during social situations.

The company doesn’t charge users for the feature, and Facebook is one of a myriad of tech companies trying to carve out a space for themselves within the global payments industry.

WhatsApp is working on payments features for users in India while Google has launched a mobile wallet product called Tez. Apple Pay Cash will also allow users to pay each other through iMessage when it eventually launches.

Facebook Messenger payments in the UK

In terms of where Facebook users will be able to send cash, it looks like the UK will be the first non-US country Messenger payments will be rolled out in. Consumers in the UK are already used to methods such as Apple and Android Pay, and the market for mobile payments is less competitive there than in the US.

The BBC notes that major UK banks had launched an instant payments service called Paym three years previously, which hasn’t made much of an impact on how UK consumers pay for goods and services. This is apparently due to the fact that UK banks decided against a centralised Paym app, with users of the technology required to log into the apps of their own respective banks to use the service.

The convenience of being able to pay friends while in chats was picked up on by the Facebook team. Marcus said: “More and more people are having conversations on Messenger about paying one another.

“As a result, it’s a very natural place for you to have the most frictionless and secure way of paying each other.”

Virtual payments assistant

The company is also introducing a virtual assistant called ‘M’ suggestions, which recognises when you and your friend are talking about payments and suggests the Messenger payments service as a convenient option.

The payments function will allow users to send up to £2,500 in one transaction and a maximum of £10,000 every 30 days, but it is highly likely that usage in the UK will mimic the US market. This means that things like splitting bills, buying rounds and paying rent will be the main reasons people adopt the feature.

Some people may be cautious about allowing Facebook to further ensconce itself in their daily lives, as many already believe the company has a monopoly on a vast range of online interactions we all carry out on a regular basis. Others, however, may view it as a handy tool.

Facebook Messenger app. Image: Jakraphong Photography/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects