Though it started as a simple way to send money, Venmo has quickly turned into everyone’s voyeuristic guilty pleasure. It gives you the perfect way to keep an eye on your friends through the charges they send and receive. You can watch people pay their roommates for Wi-Fi, send their significant other their half of the dinner bill, and friends divvy up the bill after happy hour.
Venmo is also home to some, um, unconventional charges. They’re little ones, sometimes as small as two cents. People send them for all sorts of reasons, calling them everything from “friendship fees” to just a series of emojis. According to Money, there’s actually an official name for the phenomenon: “penny poking.”
That’s what Paypal, the owner of Venmo, is calling it, anyways. Basically, it's any small charge on Venmo. It can be as small as a few cents, or up to $5. If you’ve ever sent a charge like this before, you’re not alone. They say close to 40% of Americans are guilty of penny poking, according to a survey of 1,000 people ages 18 to 55.
People penny poke for all sorts of reasons. Paypal says 57% of survey respondents send penny pokes to thank people, while 29% said they just send the charges to say “hello.” People on Twitter have some other, more creative ways of penny poking, too.
Overall, Paypal said that the average American sends around $1,500 a year to friends and family using payment apps like Venmo. Among millennials, that amount is even higher; the average millennial will send more than $2,000 each year. That’s a lot of pennies.
Unsurprisingly, the most common reason people Venmo one another isn’t penny poking; it’s reimbursement for meals. But if you’re looking for a more creative way to say hello to your friends, give penny poking a try. Oh, and make sure to add some extra emojis for good measure.