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Editors' note, August 26, 2014: This review has been updated to reflect changes in the latest version of the app.
Square Cash is a service by the mobile payment processing company Square that allows anyone with a debit card and an e-mail account to send or receive money. To accompany the launch of the service and help teach Square Cash users how to properly format the e-mail, and thus use the service, Square released Square Cash for both iOS and Android. Both apps are designed the same way; for this review I'll be using the Android app for reference.
In a recent update in August 2014, Square Cash now lets you send money to friends and family with a text message. The app has access to your phone's address book to pull in your contacts, but you can also text any number you'd like. Just enter the amount and pick the recipient, and the app sends the money in about two taps. The person you're paying doesn't even need to have the app installed to get the money -- they can do it from their phone's browser.
Accessing your Square Cash account
Even though you don't have to create a password or enter any personal information (beyond your debit card information) when sending or receiving money through Square Cash for the first time, Square does create an account that you can manage.
Additional features of your Square Cash account include the option to set a password, change the debit card linked to your account, or enable text alerts for an added layer of security. With a recent update to the Square Cash app on both supported platforms, you can now manage some of this from directly within the app; more about this later.
I had to do some searching on the Square Cash Web site to find the settings page. By visiting Square.com/cash/settings you can edit the settings for your account. The first time you visit the settings page you'll be asked for your e-mail address, which will then send you an e-mail asking you to create an account password. Once your account password is created you can then edit your account.
You can manage the debit card attached to your account, as well as add yet another layer of security when sending money by requiring the CVV number from your card. The addition of just these two options is an improvement to the overall experience. Users no longer have to rely on an invisible sense of security. Instead, they can control and add an extra layer of security to transactions directly from the app.
Since Square Cash relies on your phone number or email address to send and receive money, the service is only as secure as your e-mail account. Square states on its Cash Security FAQ page that it attaches a cryptographic signature to every e-mail sent using the Square Cash app to help verify that there's no funny business going on. If your e-mail provider doesn't recognize this signature, you will receive a followup e-mail asking you to verify your identity. All of these extra steps are welcome security, but in the end Square Cash's security relies on you and your e-mail account password.
Should someone gain access to your e-mail account, that person will in turn have access to your debit card without having to even know a single digit of the number. It's a scary thought. To be sure your e-mail account is secure you need to pick a strong password, and if your service provider offers it, enable two-step authentication.
By setting the requirement for Square Cash to need the CVV number from your debit card before it can complete a transaction, you can expand your Square Cash account security beyond that of your e-mail account password.
Square Cash for Android is a minimal app, and doesn't take up battery life or eat at resources on your device. Again, the service is only as secure as your e-mail account, unless you take the extra steps to enable CVV verification. With the recent addition of limited account settings access within the app, users new and old will appreciate the extra security. I still can't set an account password through the app, but requiring transactions to have my debit card's CVV number entered is an accepted alternative.
With that said, there's no better way to send cash to someone. The process is extremely easy, convenient, and free. I have used it several times to both send and receive money since it launched, even having to enable Gold Status, and I have yet to experience any hiccups.