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Why I unlinked Venmo from my bank account

by Jacob Kleinman | March 3, 2015March 3, 2015 1:00 pm PDT

Last month, when Todd asked me to name an app I can’t live without, I didn’t need to think twice. Venmo is one of the most practical and well-designed apps I’d ever used. It almost seemed too good to be true. Turns out it really was.

Over the weekend I deleted my debit card info from the app, though I still haven’t uninstalled Venmo completely. I’ll explain why, but first let’s back up to last week when these security issues first came to light.

Slate was first to break the news, publishing an explosive piece that explained what Venmo was doing wrong. First, the app doesn’t offer two factor authentication. Even worse, changing your password doesn’t trigger an email to confirm the decision. That means someone could hack into your account, change your password and then transfer money out of a connected bank account before you even realized something was wrong.

Venmo responded with a blog post soon afterwards, pointing to a list of security features it does provide. However, it still doesn’t offer the option to request any sort of notification if your password or associated email address changes. The PayPal-owned company adds that it’s working  on “a bunch of things” at the moment, suggesting we could get a much-needed security update soon. Until then, I won’t be re-connecting Venmo to my bank account or my debit card.

De-linking my debit card from Venmo was actually surprisingly easy. I jumped into settings and was finished in just a few quick taps. I also have some money already stashed in the app and I generally receive more than I give, so I should be able to keep going for a while like this. But if my Venmo account runs dry I definitely won’t re-connect it to my bank account, at least not until the company adds those missing security features.

If you’ve also decided to disconnect Venmo from your bank account, but don’t feel like waiting around for an update there are a few other options. PayPal’s app includes two factor authentication and notifications when your password is changed, while most major banks also offer their own apps with built-in money transfers with similar features. Neither alternative is as slick as Venmo, but it’s still worth the tradeoff for that added security.

Slate Venmo Blog

Jacob Kleinman

Jacob Kleinman has been working as a journalist online and in print since he arrived at Wesleyan University in 2007. After graduating, he took a...

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