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Guest Post: The Role of Smartphones in Getting What We’re Owed

Sup homies – this is a guest post from Brendan Baker, who helps run the excellent homework help site Student of Fortune. Check out his bio below the post.

We’ve seen excellent resources for keeping track of debt drama, but what about when it comes time to collect? Without a doubt, getting reimbursed has always been a problem for college students, especially between roommates. How many of us have fallen victim to a scenario such as this:

You: OK, 2 extra large pizzas and a gallon of Mountain Dew comes to… $18.50 each.

Roommate: Sorry, I only have 14 dollars on me…

You: (Sigh)…fine. Just give me the 14…

In this scenario, you would appear cheap holding out for that extra $4.50, so accepting the $14 would be in your best interest. But after continually getting shorted a few bucks time after time, it starts to add up. And that’s money you could be using towards more pizza, for example.

Or perhaps you’ve been swindled with this old trick:

“I don’t have any cash on me right now, but I’ll pay you back.”

Of course, that day never came, and suddenly that $18.50 you were owed was one too many weeks away to confront your friend about any longer.

But we’ve all been victims of it, and hell, we’ve all been perpetrators, too. Luckily those days are long gone thanks to the witchcraft that is the modern day smartphone. Now, paying somebody back instantly is no sweat!

Let’s try that first scenario again, but this time let’s add in a dash of smartphone magic!

You: OK, 2 extra large pizzas and a gallon of Mountain Dew comes to… $18.50 ea…

Roommate: Transferred.

Wow! See how easy that was? What a considerate and incomprehensibly speedy friend you have! But how did such a transaction take place? I’m surprised more people don’t use them, but here are my 2 favorite apps for all your money transferring needs:

[Insert name of Bank Here] App

If you bank with a larger institution, they probably have an app available to you. I’m a personal fan of the Bank of America iPhone app. Provided you and your roommate have already exchanged account information, there is no easier way to wire money.

Some attest that setting up an account is just as much of a hassle as driving to the ATM, but I beg to differ. Sure, the initial setup can be a pain, and perhaps exchanging bank account information to begin with can be an awkward conversation, but after you’re set up, the one-time pain will make transfers in the future a real snap.

Paypal App

Paypal is another convenient money transferring service, especially for transfers outside of your bank. Not only is the app simple to use, but it looks like it might be getting simpler. Soon enough, transferring money will be as undemanding as touching phones.


Square is a relatively new entrant to the money-moving game, but its offering is a very good one. You simply download the app for your iPhone, and the company will send you a free credit card reader that plugs right into the headphone jack. After that, they simply charge 2.75% per transaction – a lot less than that $4.50 you got shafted for last week’s pizza

Less Pain, More Gain

Apps such as these actually seem to take some of the sting away from owing money, too. Giving someone cash feels like a real loss, whereas transferring electronic digits from one account to another is a lot less painful. It’s the same psychology behind how some casinos allow you to gamble with “credits” instead of cash. It’s just not as emotionally agonizing if (or when) you lose it.

Final Note: With Great Convenience Comes Great Responsibility

With new technology percolating throughout our lives, sometimes etiquette takes a backseat. As human interaction dwindles, so does common courtesy. In the same way that having the convenience to text your friend an almost certainly hilarious inside joke of yours, doesn’t mean you should do it while talking to your date’s father.

And so it should be for transferring money. We have the convenience to transfer money easily now, sure, but remember this is still hard-earned money you’re exchanging. So be polite when asking for money owed – you’re not trading pogs (remember those!?).

Additionally, if you’re going to set up accounts for transferring, be straightforward about it. For example, try saying: “Since we’re going to be living together, maybe it will easier to keep our finances together by exchanging account info for convenient transfers?” Throw in some trendy slang or pop culture references to make it sound more appealing.

Our phones are already on their way to replacing our credit cards, so if this process is something that puts you off, you may want to stop filling out the money gram form and catch up with the times, grandpa (sorry, that was harsh). But I digress.

The apps of today and tomorrow not only make sure you get paid the right amount, but that you get paid instantly and effortlessly. No debt drama, no more getting shorted – just the money to which you’re rightfully entitled. With all of that out of the way, the only thing you have to worry about is who’s getting up to get the pizza.