Facebook takes big step into digital payment arena

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Facebook Pay

Facebook is introducing a new consistent payment service across its apps.

The social media giant is starting to roll out Facebook Pay, which is designed to provide a secure and consistent payment experience across the Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp platforms. Users can already make purchases, donations, and personal payments across these Facebook-owned apps. However, Facebook Pay will streamline in-app transactions and enable unified, cross-app digital payments.

Facebook app users will be able to add their preferred payment method once then use Facebook Pay where available to make payments and purchases on the apps, instead of having to re-enter their payment information each time. Consumers will have the options to set up Facebook Pay app-by-app, or choose to set it up for use across apps where available. Facebook won’t automatically set up Facebook Pay across the apps a user is active on, unless they choose to do so.

In addition, consumers will be able to view payment history, manage payment methods, and update their settings in one place. Real-time customer support will be available in the U.S. via live chat, with plans to offer it in more countries in the future. 

Facebook Pay will begin rolling out on the Facebook and Messenger apps the week of Nov. 11 in the U.S. for fundraisers, in-game purchases, event tickets, person-to-person payments on Messenger, and purchases from select pages and businesses on Facebook Marketplace. Over time, the social network plans to bring Facebook Pay to more people and places, including for use across Instagram and WhatsApp. 

Once Facebook Pay is available on WhatsApp and Instagram, users will be able to set it up directly within each app.

Facebook Pay supports most major credit and debit cards as well as PayPal. Payments are processed in partnership with companies like PayPal and Stripe. The service is built on existing financial infrastructure and partnerships, and is separate from Facebook’s planned Calibra wallet, which the company hopes to run on its troubled Libra cryptocurrency network.

Facebook says it designed Facebook Pay to securely store and encrypt user card and bank account numbers, perform anti-fraud monitoring on its systems to detect unauthorized activity, and provide notifications for account activity. Users can also add a PIN or use their device biometrics, such as touch or face ID recognition, for an extra layer of security when sending money or making a payment. Facebook does not receive or store a device’s biometric information. 

“Facebook Pay is part of our ongoing work to make commerce more convenient, accessible and secure for people on our apps,” Deborah Liu, Facebook VP of marketplace and commerce, said in a corporate blog post announcing the new service. “And in doing so, we believe we can help businesses grow and empower people everywhere to buy and sell things online. We’ll continue to develop Facebook Pay and look for ways to make it even more valuable for people on our apps.”