Facebook is testing a new option designed to highlight the company’s ability to handle person-to-person payments through its Messenger chat application. The company confirmed it has added a new option in its flagship app’s main navigation titled “Send or Request Money.” The feature will move Facebook users into Messenger in order to manage payments, or it sends them over the App Store to download Messenger, if it’s not already installed.
Messenger’s support of peer-to-peer payments is only available in the U.S. for the time being, so the new “Send or Request Money” feature is only being shown to U.S. Facebook users, we understand. The test began two weeks ago.
You may recall that Facebook introduced peer-to-peer payments in Messenger early last year. The move positioned the network to compete with dominate payment apps like Venmo or PayPal, for example. The option works by allowing users to connect their payment card (e.g. Visa or MasterCard) to Facebook, then tap a button in Messenger to send their friends money without fees.
However, in the current version of the Messenger application, the payments option is tucked away under a menu of “more” options, as the main chat interface is already full of features that let users do things like add stickers, photos, GIFs, or voice messages to their conversations.
That means many Messenger users probably don’t realize there’s an option to send money via the app. Facebook needs to change that. That’s why it’s leveraging the power of its main application to highlight its payments service. The company has also more recently used the navigation to send users to other areas it wants to expand, including Moments, Events, Groups, Shops, On This Day, and Moves, among other things.
Peer-to-peer payments is only meant to be Facebook’s first step into the broader payments market. But the company has said it doesn’t want to be in the payments business itself – instead, it’s going for reach. In an interview last fall with Wired, David Marcus, a former PayPal president who now heads Messenger, noted that Facebook wants to eventually enable transaction-free payments for businesses, then make money when businesses pay to be featured or promoted.
But before consumers are transacting with their favorite e-commerce services via Facebook and Messenger, they need to connect their payment cards to Facebook…and step one is knowing that a Messenger-based payments service even exists.