Is the Venmo Debit Card Safe? Venmo’s Security Measures Explained

Ashley Ferraro, Consumer Operations
Nov 15, 2023
 • 
10
 Min Read

In recent years, Venmo has reached an all-time high since its launch in 2009, surpassing 80 million users. One of the biggest reasons behind Venmo’s success is that it makes sending and receiving money simple.

However, as is the case with any service handling a sensitive matter such as finances, users are concerned about Venmo’s security and reliability. The concern may be exacerbated by the fact that Venmo has received criticism in the past for some of its customer service and security practices[1]

If you are conflicted about using Venmo, this article will help you make an informed decision by answering questions such as:

  • How does Venmo work?
  • How does Venmo protect its users?
  • Is the Venmo Debit Card safe?
  • How do you use Venmo safely?

How Does Venmo Work?

Venmo, now a subsidiary of PayPal, is a payment service that was conceptualized as a peer-to-peer (P2P) payment app. It has since expanded its service, and today, Venmo also supports retail purchases, partnering with millions of merchants[1], including Amazon, Home Depot, Hulu, Uber Eats, and Shein

You can start using Venmo by downloading the app, creating an account, and linking a:

  1. Credit card
  2. Debit card
  3. Checking account


Once you sign up, you will have an account balance, which you can fund with your bank or Venmo Debit Card. You can send or request money by entering the other party's email address, phone number, or username. The service is mostly free unless the payment goes through a credit card account.

Recently, Venmo has also started issuing debit cards, which give you access to your Venmo balance. Debit cards can be used at stores that accept Mastercard®, including well-known marketplaces such as eBay and AliExpress, and at participating MoneyPass® ATMs. 

A photo of a person holding a smartphone displaying the Venmo loading screen
Source: Tech Daily

Is Venmo Safe? Venmo’s Security Practices

Venmo employs many measures to safeguard its users from hacking and fraud. The following table discusses some of them:


Security Measure What It Entails
Data encryption Venmo uses encryption to protect your account details and never shares them at checkout[2]. It stores all information on servers at secure locations[2].
Two-factor authentication Besides the standard password, you can set biometric or PIN-based passcodes[2]. This extra step aims to prevent unauthorized access to your account even if someone gets hold of your password.
Account monitoring Venmo monitors your account activity to help detect fraudulent charges quickly[3].
Payment alerts The company automatically sends you notifications for completed payments, monthly and quarterly statements, and cryptocurrency purchases and sales[4].
Identity verification As a regulated money transfer service[3], Venmo is obligated by law to verify your identity[2]. It does so through the secure Venmo app, where the photos of documentation and face scans are encrypted[3].
Purchase protection Venmo offers purchase protection for buyers and sellers[5]. When you want to make a purchase, you should toggle the option that indicates you’re paying for goods or services[5]. In case the merchant fails to deliver as promised, you may be able to get a refund for the full amount, shipping costs included[5]. The same protections also apply to Venmo Debit Card purchases[5].

While necessary, these measures sometimes aren’t enough to prevent fraud. If you lose your phone or fall victim to a scam, your data may end up in the wrong hands. 

Are Venmo Debit Cards Safe?

Like all consumer debit cards, Venmo’s debit card is protected by the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA). In case of a lost or stolen debit card, the EFTA limits your liability for unauthorized purchases provided you report the issue timely. You should notify the issuer about a lost or stolen debit card within two business days to limit your liability to $50. If you report the issue within 60 days, your maximum liability will be $500. 

Since the Venmo Debit Card is issued by Mastercard, you may enjoy the following additional security benefits[6]:

  1. Zero Liability fraud protection for unfamiliar charges provided you reported the issue timely and took reasonable care in protecting the card from theft or loss*
  2. Mastercard ID Theft Protection, including detection, monitoring, alerts, and expert resolution 24/7


*The Zero Liability policy doesn’t apply to cards used for commercial purposes and anonymous prepaid cards.

In case of an unauthorized transaction, you should disable your debit card via the Venmo app[7] and contact Venmo immediately. If you’re not eligible for Mastercard’s Zero Liability policy, Venmo may step in, limiting your liability to $50 if you report the issue within two days and $500 if you report it later[7].

If you lose your phone, you can use a computer to access your account and sign out of the app on the lost phone[3].

Despite the numerous protections, you also bear responsibility for keeping your debit card safe. You should be aware of potential threats and employ all the security measures available to you.

A photo of a person using a laptop while holding a payment card
Source: Ivan Samkov

Security Risks That May Concern Venmo Users 

In the past, Venmo has faced controversies due to claimed negligent privacy and security measures and inadequate response to a data breach[1]. The company has since upgraded its practices[1]. Among other things, it stopped setting users’ accounts to public by default[1].

However, like any financial services app, Venmo is an alluring target for cybercriminals of all kinds. If you aren’t cautious, hackers can get into your account and transfer the funds to a new account, emptying your balance[1]. Hackers also tend to change the settings to make sure you don't notice suspicious activity until it’s too late[1].

Besides cracking passwords, fraudsters can obtain your sensitive information through phishing and other scams. With phishing, a fraudster may impersonate a legitimate individual or business, such as Venmo, and contact you via email, text, or phone. The fraudster will usually ask you to urgently perform an action, such as providing card numbers or downloading a file containing malware that can infect your device and steal sensitive data. 

Venmo warns its users about a few particularly prevalent scams[8]

  • Fake prizes—The perpetrator contacts the target, claiming they’ve won a prize from Venmo, and asks them to go to a fake Venmo link and provide login information.
  • Fake sign-in—The perpetrator tries to log into the target’s account and, once they encounter the multi-factor authentication process, calls the target impersonating Venmo to ask for the code or sends a message with a fake sign-in link.
  • Fake tech support—When the target tries to contact Venmo’s or another company’s support and instead reaches a scammer, who then asks them for money or sensitive information.

How To Enhance the Security of Your Venmo Transactions

A close-up photo of a screen with “Security” written on it and a cursor hovering over the text
Source: Pixabay

Although your funds may be protected in case of unauthorized card use, you still need to invest a lot of time and effort into filing a dispute and replacing the compromised card, which can be time-consuming and exhausting. Ideally, you should be proactive and take steps to prevent fraud from occurring in the first place. That includes:

  • Fortifying the security of your Venmo account—Besides setting a strong, unique password, you should enable multi-factor authentication to prevent fraudsters from accessing your account even if they manage to steal your login credentials. 
  • Avoiding large balances—You should never store large amounts of money in your Venmo account. Otherwise, you run the risk of having your account drained if hackers manage to access it. To keep your Venmo account balance low, consider transferring each transaction to your linked card or account right away.
  • Being wary of scam attempts—You should only exchange funds with people you know and trust to avoid getting defrauded. If you receive an unexpected message or email from someone claiming to be associated with Venmo, don’t take any action until you’ve confirmed that the sender’s phone number or email address is legitimate.
  • Avoiding Venmo transactions via public Wi-Fi—You should avoid logging into your Venmo account or making purchases when connected to a public Wi-Fi network. Public networks are typically less protected than private ones, enabling hackers to intercept and steal your data easily.
  • Using virtual cards—A virtual card masks your real card or account details using randomly generated numbers. When you use a virtual card, potential hackers who breach Venmo’s or merchants’ servers can’t access your real financial information as it was never stored. While many well-known banks offer virtual cards, such as American Express® and Capital One®, an independent virtual card provider like Privacy provides advanced customization options and card controls besides robust security.

Enjoy Safer Shopping Sprees With Privacy Virtual Cards

A photo of a woman’s hand holding a smartphone and payment card
Source: Karolina Grabowska

A Privacy Virtual Card can be connected to a debit card or bank account and used at most local or global stores that accept U.S. Visa® and Mastercard® payments. It acts as a middleman between you and the merchant, shielding your financial information when you’re transacting online.

Privacy’s rigorous security protocols and customer service can match that of any reliable bank. This is further validated by the company’s Better Business Bureau® accreditation. 

With Privacy, you can create Merchant-Locked or Single-Use Cards. The Merchant-Locked Card can be used with only one merchant and prevents potential thieves from using it anywhere else. The Single-Use Card becomes invalid shortly after the first transaction is completed—even if hackers get hold of this card, they won’t be able to use it at all.

Privacy—More Than Safety

You also get access to the following features with Privacy:

  • Browser extension—Available for Chrome, Safari, Firefox, and Edge, the Privacy extension autofills card details for you at checkout. You can make fast and seamless purchases without having to reach for your wallet or type in card numbers. The Safari extension is available for iOS as well, which means users who shop on mobile can also enjoy faster checkouts.
  • Mobile app—You can generate and manage your virtual cards on the go thanks to the Privacy mobile app for Android and iOS. You will also receive real-time notifications each time your card is used or declined.
  • Card pausing/closing—When you pause or close a virtual card, Privacy will decline all further transactions, which is especially beneficial for preventing unwanted subscription services from charging you.
  • Spending limits—Set limits on your Privacy Cards to stay within budget and prevent sneaky merchants from overcharging you.

To start using Privacy, you only need to:

  1. Sign up
  2. Provide the information needed to verify your identity
  3. Connect a debit card or bank account
  4. Request Privacy Virtual Cards


When it comes to pricing, Privacy gives you three options. With the Personal plan, which is free for domestic purchases, you can create 12 virtual cards a month and enjoy benefits such as card pausing and closing, spending limits, and access to the browser extension and mobile app. If you want more cards (up to 60 a month) and additional benefits that include cashback on eligible purchases, zero fees on foreign transactions, and priority support, sign up for one of the paid plans.

References

[1] Andrew Bloomenthal. Investopedia. https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/032415/how-safe-venmo-and-why-it-free.asp, updated April 8, 2023 
[2] Venmo. https://venmo.com/about/us/trust-and-safety/, sourced October 2023 
[3] Venmo. https://help.venmo.com/hc/en-us/articles/360035844973-About-Venmo-Security, sourced October 2023
[4] Venmo. https://help.venmo.com/hc/en-us/articles/217532247-Notification-Settings, sourced October 2023
[5] Venmo. https://venmo.com/purchaseprotection/, sourced October 2023
[6] Mastercard. https://www.mastercard.us/en-us/personal/get-support/safety-security.html#:~:text=With%20Zero%20Liability%20fraud%20protection,resolution%2024%2F7%2F365, sourced October 2023
[7] Venmo. https://venmo.com/legal/bancorp-cardholder-agreement/, sourced October 2023
[8] Venmo. https://help.venmo.com/hc/en-us/articles/360048404533-Common-Scams-on-Venmo#h_01G3C4A2HDRWYZHK57A7FWQKWZ, sourced October 2023
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