Facebook says today that it’s expanding access to the new payments feature introduced in Facebook Messenger earlier this year to those located in New York City and the surrounding metro area. The feature, which allows friends to send and receive money using Facebook’s messaging app on iOS and Android as well as on the desktop, was previously only available in a few cities in the U.S., including Seattle, Portland and Austin.
Alongside the NYC area launch, Facebook says the payments feature is also receiving a handful of updates designed to make payments easier to use than before.
In March, Facebook announced its intentions to delve further into the payments business, with a move that could potentially upend popular payments apps like PayPal or Venmo. The latter is a social payments app that uses Facebook to help users find and pay their friends.
Venmo, in particular, has grown popular among millennials, who find it handy for things like splitting the bill at a restaurant or paying roommates their portion of the rent, for example. It’s possible Facebook saw the traction this and other competing apps had, and decided to launch its own take on social payments.
By including payments in Messenger, Facebook is now pitting itself against not only other dedicated payments apps, but also the Square Cash-powered Snapcash feature that Snapchat launched last November.
With Facebook’s own implementation, the company introduced a way for users to connect their MasterCard or Visa debit card with Facebook Messenger, and then tap a dollar-sign button in order to send money to friends. (If you don’t see the “$” button in the Messenger app, then the payments feature isn’t available to you yet. However, if someone sends you a payment in the app, you’re then able to try it for yourself.)
Facebook says today that the feature is being improved with a few new additions.
Now, dollar amounts sent in Messenger conversations are automatically hyperlinked so that, when tapped, they’ll kick off a payment for that amount to the person you’re messaging. The sender can confirm the payment before sending, in case of accidental clicks, of course. This feature is similar to how addresses, phone numbers and website URLs are already linked when shared in Messenger.
Also new, payments will now work in group conversations, too. Before, a user would have to leave the group to send an individual a person-to-person payment, but, going forward, they’ll be able to pay their friend within the group on the desktop, says Facebook. Others in the group will be able to see this payment, including who paid whom and how much.
Currently, payments is only available to individuals, not businesses, though it makes sense that this is something Facebook would consider in the future. However, the company today says that the tool is not designed “for commercial purposes.”
Facebook says that New York is the first major metro area to receive Facebook Messenger payments, but the company will expand the rollout more broadly across the U.S. in the “coming months.”
Today, over 600 million people use Facebook Messenger every month, but Facebook declined to say how many are now able to or have already accessed the payments feature, nor would it share the dollar amounts that have been sent through the service to date.