Is the Cash App Debit Card Safe? Analyzing Cash App’s Security Protocol

Ashley Ferraro, Consumer Operations
Nov 24, 2023
 • 
10
 Min Read

Launched in 2013, Cash App is today’s number one free finance app in the App Store[1], surpassing 53 million monthly transactions in March of 2023[2]. What makes Cash App stand out most is its comprehensiveness and convenience—it combines a wide range of financial services under one roof.

As technology and cybercrime co-evolve, users are growing more concerned about the safety of their data online. This is especially true when it comes to companies like Cash App, which deal with sensitive user information such as payment card numbers.

This article will explore the ins and outs of Cash App’s safety practices, answering questions such as:

  • How does Cash App work?
  • Is the Cash App debit card safe, and how does the platform protect its users?
  • What security threats are associated with Cash App?
  • What can users do to shield their payment card information on Cash App?

How Does Cash App Work?

Cash App is a mobile app that allows individuals over 13 to[3]:

  • Send and receive money
  • Spend money online and in-store via QR codes
  • Manage savings without having to open a new account
  • File taxes

What’s unique about Cash App compared to other similar services such as PayPal and Venmo is that Cash App also enables you to purchase cryptocurrency and trade stocks[3].

You can send money instantly for free by entering the recipient’s phone number, email, or $cashtag, a unique user identification number[4]. You can also scan their QR code directly from the app if the recipient is near[4]

Money can be added to the Cash App balance via the linked bank account, direct deposit, or at participating retailers[4]. If you don’t have any money in your balance, Cash App will withdraw funds from the linked bank account or card during purchases[4].

Only select online merchants (e.g., American Eagle and Shein) accept Cash App Pay, i.e., direct Cash App payments. To shop on other websites with their Cash App balance, you can use the Cash Card.

The Cash App Cash Card is a Visa® debit card that you can order for free[5]. The biggest benefits it offers include the absence of monthly and overdraft fees, early paycheck access, and instant discounts[5].

A 3D render of Cash App’s logo
Source: Mariia Shalabaieva

How Safe Are Cash App and the Cash Card? 

Like most other financial services, Cash App has numerous safeguards to help protect user data, which you can learn about in the sections below.

Data Collection and Handling

Cash App must gather your personal information in order to provide and improve their services[6]. For instance, it may require your[6]:

  • Name, phone number, and email address to create the account
  • Partial or full Social Security number or official documentation to verify your identity
  • Card or bank details to process payments

The company takes numerous administrative and physical measures to protect your data from theft, disclosure, and misuse. Information is stored securely and shared only when necessary and with select employees, users, partners, and affiliates[6].

App and Card Security Measures

The company takes several precautions to protect the data of Cash App and Cash Card users. The following table presents the most significant ones:


Security Measure How It Works
Encryption Cash App uses encryption when storing and transferring data, complying with the Level 1 Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard[7]—the highest level available.
Security locks You can verify each payment via the PIN, Touch ID fingerprint scan, or Face ID facial recognition technology[7].
Account notifications Cash App alerts you of any account activity via text, email, and push notifications[7].
Card pausing In case you lose or misplace your Cash Card, you can pause the card[7] to prevent unauthorized spending.
Fraud protection Cash App uses cutting-edge fraud detection technology[8]. If the company notices potentially fraudulent activity, it may decline Cash Card transactions[9]. Cash App may also contact you via email to ask if you recognize the suspicious transaction[9].

The Cash Card is FDIC-insured[5], which means the funds associated with it are protected by the federal government in case the card issuer holding your funds goes out of business. 

A photo of a person browsing an online clothing store on their smartphone while holding a payment card
Source: Leelo Thefirst

Liability for Unauthorized Transactions

As a consumer debit card, the Cash Card is protected by the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA). This law limits the debit cardholder’s liability for unauthorized transactions to:

  1. $50 if they report the incident within two business days
  2. $500 if they report the incident within 59 days


The Cash Card is issued by Visa, so it may also be eligible for Visa’s Zero Liability Policy[10]. According to this policy, cardholders are protected if their card was stolen, lost, or used fraudulently online or offline[10]. The policy requires debit and credit card issuers to replace the stolen funds within five business days of notification[10]

The debit card issuer has the right to withhold and delay the replacement funds or limit the amount of money the cardholder can receive based on factors such as[10]:

  • Late reporting of the incident
  • Investigation and verification of the claim
  • Cardholder’s negligence regarding safety or attempt to defraud the issuer
  • Cardholder’s account health and history

Visa’s Zero Liability Policy doesn’t cover[10]:

  1. Commercial card transactions
  2. Anonymous prepaid card transactions
  3. Transactions not processed by Visa

Cash App Risks To Be Aware Of

Although Cash App has implemented industry-standard safety protocols, it’s not immune to hacking, data leaks, and scams. In 2022, Cash App’s parent company, Block, reported a breach, which occurred due to illicit employee behavior related to the Cash App Investing feature[11]. The breach may have exposed only names and brokerage account numbers[11], but it still serves as a cautionary tale to both financial companies and their users.

A photo of a laptop displaying code, with banknotes falling on it
Source: Kenny Eliason

Besides data breaches, cybercriminals have numerous other methods for obtaining sensitive data they can misuse. They can take over your account by guessing the passwords or extract the login and card information using social engineering. Cash App urges its users to watch out for scams and shares some common scenarios it’s come across—scammers may:

  • Create fake sweepstakes and giveaways that require you to pay a participation fee or provide sensitive information[11]
  • Offer fake rewards and bonuses or claim to be able to increase your funds for a small fee[11]
  • Pretend to provide goods and services (such as property renting), then ask for a deposit[12]
  • Impersonate Cash App customer support and, in order to resolve a fictional issue, ask you to disclose sensitive data, download an app for “remote access”, or complete a “test transaction”[12]

While most scams result in the victim losing their payment, some may lead to identity theft. That’s why it’s crucial to remain vigilant and do business only with familiar and trusted individuals.

Security Precautions for Cash App Users

Besides being wary of fraud attempts, you should take the necessary steps to protect your account, funds, and identity. Cash App recommends doing the following[12]:

  1. Signing out after using the app—To safeguard your account, you should sign out of the account when you’re done using Cash App, especially if you share the device with others.
  2. Enabling Security Lock—This feature requires you to verify each transaction using the method of your choice, which reduces the chances of unauthorized use.
  3. Turning on notifications—By turning on notifications, you can get a text or email for each transaction, allowing you to catch fraud in a timely manner.
  4. Securing the device and email account—You should enable two-factor authentication for your email account and add a passcode or biometric lock for your smartphone. That way, you can protect the sensitive information stored in your account or on your device.

Use Virtual Cards To Secure Your Financial Data

If you want to add an integral layer of security to your transactions and prevent fraud, you should use virtual cards. These cards are connected to a real funding source and allow transacting without exposing real card or bank information, as they substitute it with random numbers at checkout. 

Many major banks, such as American Express®, Capital One®, and Citi®, offer virtual cards to their customers for free. If you have an account with Wells Fargo®, Discover®, or Chase® or want a more versatile and feature-rich option, you can sign up for a dedicated virtual card provider like Privacy. The company not only provides the same level of security as a reliable bank but also offers greater budget control with its numerous customization options.

A photo of a person holding a payment card and typing on a keyboard
Source: cottonbro studio

Privacy—Safe Online Shopping

When you’re shopping online, Privacy Virtual Cards shield your card and bank information from prying eyes. You can connect Privacy Cards with your debit card or bank account from most U.S. financial institutions and use them wherever Visa® and Mastercard® payments are accepted.

Privacy offers top-grade security and customer service, as evidenced by its Better Business Bureau® accreditation. With a robust transaction monitoring system, regular independent security audits, and two-factor authentication (2FA), your account and financial information stay protected.

Thanks to the Privacy app, available for iOS and Android, you can create and manage virtual cards regardless of your location. You can also opt to get an email and text notification each time your cards are used or declined, which helps you detect potentially suspicious transactions in a timely manner.

Privacy Features and Setup

The following table breaks down some of Privacy’s most notable features:


Feature How It Works How It Benefits You
Merchant-Locked Cards This card locks to the first merchant you buy from.  Potential hackers who get hold of the card number can’t use it at other merchants.
Single-Use Cards This card becomes invalid shortly after the first transaction is completed. Even if stolen, this card won’t be of much use to fraudsters.
Card pausing and closing You can pause or close virtual cards without affecting your real bank account or debit card. This feature helps prevent unwanted charges from merchants and subscription services you’re trying to cancel.
Spending limits You can set spending limits on your virtual cards. With spending limits, you can have more control over your spending and prevent overcharges by sneaky merchants.
Browser extension The Privacy extension auto-completes card details at checkout and works with Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Safari. iPhone and iPad users can also enjoy faster checkouts with the Safari extension for iOS. You can make fast and spontaneous purchases since you don’t need to reach for your wallet or type in card numbers manually every time you want to shop.

To start using Privacy and enjoy safer shopping, follow these steps:

  1. Create an account
  2. Provide the necessary details for verifying your identity
  3. Connect a debit card or bank account
  4. Request Privacy Virtual Cards


Privacy has three pricing plans, including a Personal plan that is free for domestic purchases and comes with 12 free virtual cards a month, access to the app and desktop and mobile browser extensions, as well as features such as card closing and pausing and setting spending limits.

References

[1] Similarweb. https://www.similarweb.com/apps/top/google/app-index/us/finance/top-free/, sourced October 2023 
[2] Jakob Eckstein. Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/articles/company-insights/090916/how-square-cash-works-and-makes-money-sq.asp, updated August 28, 2023
[3] Cash App. https://cash.app/, sourced October 2023  
[4] Cash App. https://cash.app/send, sourced October 2023  
[5] Cash App. https://cash.app/bank, sourced October 2023  
[6] Cash App. https://cash.app/legal/us/en-us/privacy#security, sourced October 2023  
[7] Cash App. https://cash.app/security, sourced October 2023  
[8] Cash App. https://cash.app/help/us/en-us/3127-keeping-your-cash-app-secure, sourced October 2023  
[9] Cash App. https://cash.app/help/us/en-us/6536-cash-card-transaction-security, sourced October 2023  
[10] Visa. https://usa.visa.com/pay-with-visa/visa-chip-technology-consumers/zero-liability-policy.html, sourced October 2023  
[11] Cash App. https://cash.app/help/us/en-us/6545-trending-scams, sourced October 2023  
[12] Cash App. https://cash.app/help/ie/en-ie/6482-recognize-scams, sourced October 2023
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