Facebook introduced person-to-person payments within Messenger in early 2015, but today the company announced the feature is expanding to support groups, as well. The payments feature essentially works the same in group chats as in private ones, but now allows users to pay either everyone in the group or individual members through a click of the payments icon (the dollar sign).
The payments icon can be selected after first clicking on the plus sign in the bottom left hand side of the group conversation. This is where the other, lesser-used features like games, location-sharing, ride requests, and more are tucked away in a new, scrollable user interface that arrived alongside Facebook’s debut of its Messenger assistant, M, earlier this month.
Facebook suggests the new feature would be useful for groups where everyone is chipping in on a purchase – like a group gift – or are splitting a restaurant bill. These are areas where people today still tend to turn to standalone payment services, like PayPal, Venmo, or Square Cash.
In addition to sending payments to other group members, you can also request payments from the group right within your chat.
To do so, you enter the amount you want to request per person or the total sum to be divided evenly through the group, either including yourself in that calculation or not, Facebook says. You can also add a note about what the money is for (e.g. “pizza party”) then hit “Request” to send it out the group conversation.
A message will appear in the group chat to show who has paid. Those details are available by viewing the Request Details in full-screen, too.
The service is free to use and does not require a password, Facebook notes.
Payments is an area of Facebook’s business that hasn’t received as much focus over the years, despite the social network’s potential to collect and store payment data for its sizable user base – information that could then be used in other areas across Facebook – like gaming or e-commerce, for example.
But Facebook has been hesitant to fully acknowledge its ambitions with payments, having said in the past with the launch of Messenger payments that it was “not building a payments business.” Instead, the goal was to simply make Messenger itself more useful, and therefore, more competitive with rivals, it had indicated.
However, payments is a critical feature for today’s messaging apps. Facebook Messenger competitors – like Snapchat and China’s WeChat – already support in-app payments, and Kik this month detailed its intentions to add payments to its own app, too.
The move to add group payments to Messenger also comes at a time when Facebook has been rumored to be preparing the launch of a digital payments business in India within its other messaging app, WhatsApp.
Group payments is live starting today in the U.S.