Swappa Local: payment apps vs physical cash

Swappa Local: payment apps vs physical cash

The times, they are a changin’. With the rise of payment apps like Venmo and Apple Pay, the ability for people to make purchases or send money electronically is growing increasingly more popular. Today, it’s entirely possible to leave your entire wallet at home with the growing number of smartphone compatible tap-to-pay terminals that can be used en lieu of physical bank or credit cards.

It’s clear we’re moving toward a cashless society but one area where physical cash still makes a lot of sense is when buying or selling used goods to someone in the real world. Be it a yard sale or using local meetup service like Swappa Local, cold, hard cash is still considered the most reliable way for buyers and sellers to do business in-person. But more and more people are being enticed by the convenience of payment apps to exchange money for goods and services. Are these apps viable alternatives to using physical cash?


Disputes and chargebacks

Most forms of electronic payment apps or services are tied to a debit or credit card of some kind. These cards are often times equipped with loads of buyer protections, all to help keep customers from falling victim to fraud. This is great news for buyers, but for sellers offering used goods locally, there’s very little done to protect them and their money.

Here’s a hypothetical scenario one may encounter when receiving money electronically from a bad character:

  1. Buyer and seller agree to meetup.
  2. Buyer pays for the product via electronic payment app.
  3. Buyer leaves with the product.
  4. Buyer later files a dispute or chargeback with bank.
  5. Money is removed from sellers account.
  6. Seller is left with no money and no product.
  7. Buyer gets away with a free device.

Now this doesn’t mean everyone out there is looking to scam you, but it’s important you know how to keep yourself protected. As a seller, if you meetup with someone online and hand over your phone in exchange for electronic payment, there’s little stopping the buyer from later claiming foul, leaving you with no money or product. Because of this, it’s tough to vouch for other payment methods for in-person meetups other than traditional physical cash.

When meeting to buy a Swappa listing in real life, it’s up to the buyers to fully inspect and ensure the device they’re buying is satisfactory before handing over their money. When in doubt, walk away and immediately contact Swappa support for a refund on your deposit fee.


Using payment apps for Swappa Local meetups

Let us be as clear as possible: Swappa does not officially support using electronic payment methods for local transactions. Although we caution against it, we know many users will still choose to go this route. Peer-to-peer payment apps are extremely convenient and easy to use, but it’s important you know whats actually permitted in their terms of use. In many cases, these apps aren’t meant to be used to pay for goods or services.

Sellers will want to stick with a service that’s as close to the exchanging of physical cash as possible. This also means a buyer wont be able to file a dispute or issue a chargeback, but it’s no different than paying for an item using physical cash. Buyers should always carefully examine a device to make sure it’s satisfactory before handing over or sending payment.

For those that absolutely insist on using electronic forms of payment, here are a few of the most popular payment apps along with a brief description of how they work:


A digital wallet and payment provider, lots of people use PayPal everyday to make payments online (like on Swappa) or when sending money to friends and family. Although it’s possible to receive money via PayPal for a good or service, keep in mind that buyers can still file a dispute and claim the product they received either wasn’t as advertised or perform a chargeback with their bank, resulting in a refund and loss of item being sold. PayPal’s Seller protections don’t apply to the sale of products that haven’t shipped — in other words, local meetups.


Owned by PayPal, Venmo is another digital wallet/payment service with a social twist. It’s primary meant to be used to send money to friends — or people you know — by splitting bills at a restaurant or reimbursing someone for rent, utilities, or groceries. Venmo makes it very clear that would-be buyers should never use the service to pay for physical goods or services. Sellers accepting payment under these circumstances could see Venmo reversing payment, leaving sellers without payment and the item they sold. Buyer and seller beware.

Cash App

The Cash App is another popular payment app and owned by Square, the mobile credit card processing company. Once again, the Cash App is meant for direct peer-to-peer payments, with they ability to send or request money from other users using linked debit card. You can have payments deposited straight into your bank account, or stored in a digital wallet.

When it comes to paying for goods and services, Cash App insists on only sending payment to someone you know and trust, while also limiting the amount of money you can send/receive, although you can add additional personal information to raise these limits. There doesn’t seem to be any buyer protections, and accounts may be locked in the event of a chargeback (which may help discourage fraudulent claims). For more on Cash App’s terms of service, check out their TOS page here.

Facebook Messenger Payments

Facebook Messenger is chock full of features, one of them being the ability to send/receive payments from other users. Setup is extremely easy and you only need your debit card. When sending money, funds are immediately removed from your account — and final — making it closer to using actual cash.

Facebook says they are not responsible for any disputes, and the service isn’t intended for business use (like buying/selling goods and services). Like every other method in this list, a sender can potentially perform a chargeback with their bank resulting in a reversing of charges — so sellers should use with caution.

Apple Pay

Apple Pay is not only great for making purchases in-stores, but it can also be used to send money via the Messages app. Services are provided by Green Dot Bank and you can either load the Apple Cash card, or link a bank account for P2P (peer-to-peer) transfers.

When receiving money, cash is stored in the Apple Cash digital wallet and can be transferred to your bank by entering the necessary info. Apple’s security is top-notch and while chargebacks are probably less likely — they’re still a possibility and could result in a reversal of funds. You can read more about Apple Pay’s terms of service here.

Google Pay

Google Pay is one of the few services that doesn’t forbid using itself for payment of goods and services. Using a linked debit or bank account, you can use the app or website to send/receive money to anyone for free. Senders are allowed to cancel payment, but only if the recipient hasn’t already claimed the money.

When it comes to disputes between sender/receiver, Google says they stay out of it and “will not be responsible for any disputes between Customers.” Although Google does allow users to file a dispute, peer-to-peer payments that have been completed (sent and accepted) will be ineligible for cancellation. For more details on how this works, check out Google’s full Customer Service and Error Resolution page.


Zelle is a peer-to-peer payment system used by around 150 banks and credit unions in the US to send money electronically to friends, family, or just about anyone. It’s one of the few services that, once payment has been sent, cannot be reversed (providing it was authorized payment, of course). This makes Zelle about the closest you’re going to get to exchanging actual cash or wiring money, which is great news for sellers worried about potential chargebacks or reversals.

This, of course, means buyers will need to protect themselves and do their due diligence before sending payment, verifying the device they’re buying in person is up to snuff. You can read more about Zelle’s terms of use on their page here.


Swappa Local tips before meeting up

Should both parties agree to using electronic payment ahead of meeting up, here are best practices to keep in mind:


  • Never — ever — send money before meeting up.
  • Meet during the day.
  • Bring a friend or let someone know where you’re going.
  • Make sure the phone or device you’re buying isn’t iCloud locked.
  • Physically inspect and verify IMEI/serial numbers.
  • Contact Swappa support for any problems after the sale.
  • Using payment apps attached to credit/debit card can result in fee (add bank account info when possible).
  • Triple check phone number/username/email before sending electronic payment.

Read more: Tips for buying a used phone on Swappa Local


  • Be wary of someone offering you more than your asking price.
  • Device should be completely paid off.
  • Make sure the device is fully charged before meetup.
  • Bring everything included in your listing.
  • Give yourself plenty of time for the meetup.
  • Don’t accept checks or money orders.
  • If you only accept cash or specific payment app, make it known on your listing.
  • Contact Swappa support about any issues after the sale.

Read more: Tips for selling a used phone on Swappa Local

While there are lots of different ways to send money electronically, not every method is created equal. While most have plenty of buyer protections, you’ll find many options still pose a big risk for sellers. This is why Swappa still recommends cash as the best way for sellers to get paid and not have it haunt you later.

For buyers, Swappa works around the clock to keep you and your money safe by carefully verifying our marketplace listings before meeting up. Phones on Swappa Local have been thoroughly background checked to ensure they’re not blacklisted or still being financed which allows you to trust the tech you buy. Of course, buyers and sellers should always make sure they follow best practices to protect themselves from bad situations, but there’s a pecae of mind that comes from Swappa doing most of the legwork for you.

Should you have any questions regarding payments — or anything else in regards to buying and/or selling on Swappa — feel free to drop us a line at [email protected]. We’d love to hear from you.