Facebook launched a new payment service on Tuesday that will let users of its family of apps — including Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger — send and receive money and make purchases, a move that lets Facebook match popular features offered by competitors while its more ambitious Libra digital payments system is mired in scrutiny.
The Facebook Pay service is similar to Venmo, Google Wallet and Apple Pay, allowing users to transfer money directly from their bank account or credit cards. It will also be accepted as payment on the Facebook Marketplace. However, Facebook Pay has no fees and will not store money in an online account.
Facebook Messenger already had a service called Payments that let people send money from their bank accounts, but it didn't support major credit cards. Facebook Pay will accept most major credit cards, including Visa, Mastercard, and users can also connect a PayPal account. Facebook says PayPal, Stripe and other international partners will process payments for Facebook Pay.
The rollout comes as Facebook faces intense regulatory scrutiny over its planned Libra digital currency, an entirely new payment system with its own value that would allow smartphone users anywhere in the world to conduct transactions. Many of the partners that were part of Facebook's June Libra announcement, such as MasterCard, Visa and eBay, have since dropped out of the project.
Facebook Pay also provides a unifying thread across Facebook's collection of disparate apps at at time when critics, including several US presidential candidates, are calling to break up the company.
Facebook Pay is available now on Facebook and Facebook Messenger in the United States, it will launch on Instagram and WhatsApp at a later date. While you need to be logged into one of these apps to use Facebook Pay, you don't need a Facebook account to use the service.
Payment data can be used for ads
But Facebook Pay could trigger its own scrutiny and pushback among privacy watchdogs because of the company's plans to use people's transaction data in its multibillion ad business.
Facebook Pay will provide a transaction history and payment details across all of Facebook's family of apps, but it wont be visible to the public unless you choose to share it. Credit card data will be encrypted and Facebook Pay users can opt to lock their account with a pin. However, Facebook says that data collected from Facebook Pay transactions could be used for future advertisements.
"For example, if you buy a baseball glove on Facebook Marketplace, you might see an ad for a baseball bat," Facebook's announcement reads.