Facebook Messenger Adds Payments

Facebook is adding person-to-person payments to Facebook Messenger, the social network announced on Tuesday (March 17). The new free payments feature, which apparently doesn’t have any fancy branding, will roll out in the U.S. for Android, iOS and desktop users over the next few months.

The first time a Facebook user wants to send or receive money through the new system, the user will need to add a Visa or MasterCard debit card issued by a U.S. bank to the account, unless they already have one on file from previous Facebook transactions. After that, the user can create a PIN or, on Apple devices, enable Touch ID.

To send money, a user starts a message with a friend, taps the “$” icon and enters the amount to send, taps the word “Pay” in the upper right corner of the screen, then selects the debit card to send the money. Receiving is even simpler: If a user has already added a debit card to his or her account, if a friend has opened a Messenger conversation and sends money, it’s automatically credited to the bank account associated with the debit card.

Facebook won’t charge any fees for the service and doesn’t hold the money, although it can take up to a few days for the payment to become available to withdraw, the company said, adding that it already processes more than a million transactions per day, and has been handling payment for game players and advertisers on the site since 2007.

Facebook executives have also been talking about payments for years, but especially since the company hired PayPal CEO David Marcus to run the Messenger division in 2014. Facebook CFO David Wehner and COO Sheryl Sandberg both talked in general terms about the company’s payments plans during Facebook’s Q4 earnings call in January.

And three months earlier, CEO Mark Zuckerberg called payments “an important part of the online business ecosystem, but we’ve traditionally thought of this as something we are going to partner with other companies on to enable great solutions rather than trying to compete and do it as a business ourselves.” That thinking apparently changed somewhere along the line, and Facebook’s product manager for the new Messenger payment feature, Steve Davis, told TechCrunch that work on Messenger payments was well underway when Marcus was hired last June.