Venmo privacy settings to change now

If you pay for things using Venmo you might be shocked at what information you’re sharing publicly

An illustrated collage with the Venmo logo and security icons.
(Illustration by Elena Lacey/The Washington Post)
3 min

A payment can be an unexpectedly personal thing. Whether it’s splitting a bill on a first date, donating to a political cause or just paying your therapist for a weekly session. Chances are you don’t want what happens in your wallet made public.

With transactions moving online, payment app Venmo has dangerously blurred the line between social media and personal finance features, leaving many people exposed without knowing it. That includes President Biden, whose entire public-facing Venmo friend list was discovered after he mentioned he uses the app to send money to his grandkids.

If you’re using Venmo, which is owned by PayPal, you should hightail it to the settings screen and start making these changes. All of these settings can be accessed on the Android or iOS apps.

If you only do one thing

Make sure all your payments are private

By default, any time you pay for a babysitter or reimburse a friend on Venmo, that amount and description are public and shown to your other friends on the app. Here’s how to make it private.

  • In the smartphone app, click on the profile icon, then the settings icon (looks like a gear). Select Privacy and set the Default Privacy Settings to Private (not Public or Friends).

If you’re still concerned about privacy

Hide past transactions

That first setting only changed what people can see going forward, so you’ll have to take another step to hide past payments.

  • In the same screen, scroll down to More and click Past Transactions. Tap on “Change All to Private”

Hide your friends list

This may be one of the app’s sneakiest defaults, and it’s the one that got President Biden. Hide all your contacts ASAP.

  • Go back to the main Privacy screen, select Friends List under More. Set to Private, then toggle off the switch at the bottom for “Appear in Other Users’ Friends Lists.”

Don’t share location information

There are also some things you can do to limit what data Venmo can get about you to share or make public. Starting with your location, which is not required to make a payment.

  • Go back to the main Privacy screen, select Location under More, if available. This will reroute you to your smartphone settings where you can make sure it doesn’t have location access.

Don’t share your personal contacts with Venmo

You can also limit which contacts are imported into the app. (It’s still easy to find people by their name or using the built in codes.)

  • Go back to the main Settings screen, select Friends & Social under Preferences. If you can, make sure all three toggles here are off (a gray dot instead of a green check mark): Facebook Connect, Phone Contacts and Facebook Contacts. If the last item won’t toggle off, don’t worry. It should still be disabled because Facebook Connect is off.

If you want to be extra cautious

Consider using a different payment app. We’ve run down all the options and different use cases here.

Breaking up with Venmo: The best payment apps for privacy and low fees

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