Image: Arvelisse Bonilla Ramos / Shutterstock


Group dinners in the holiday season can be a headache, but splitting the bill doesn’t need to be. 

Champagne should be flowing, hors d’oeuvre should be yummy and having a good time the last thing on your mind should be the ins-and-out of splitting a bill.

But typically in a group outing, once the bill is dropped on the table a series of events ensues. First, the group gathers around the check and whips out their cellphone’s calculators, they’d ask their server for a pen to initial items in the bill and sometimes even their card’s last 4-digits before spreading said cards on the table.

Next, you’d hear the infamous “who do I Venmo?”, a plea followed by the sneaky “are you sure we should tip that amount?” 

“The courteous and polite way to do it is to involve the people that are going to be contributing in the decision-making process in some way,” said Daniel Post Senning, etiquette expert and co-president of the Emily Post Institute.

But what happens, when the check comes and you had one drink and the table wants to split the bill evenly. It just doesn’t seem fair, and for some reason this was the only conversation skipped prior to the gathering.

“There’s no universal answer,” said Post. “One of the things to be really clear about is the role that you’re playing at a meal. What I mean by that is that if there is a clear host and a clear guest.”

Luckily there are some phone apps that can fast forward the conversation and the payments – without making things awkward.

A variety of apps including Splitwise, Plates, Venmo, CashApp, and Zelle can help consumers transfer money easily.

As the foodservice industry continues to adapt to advances and innovations in technology, consumers expect that these advances will help them not only order but also pay faster. The rise of QR Code ordering in restaurants, cafes and bars was heavily adopted during the pandemic, and also the use of peer-to-peer payment applications which appealed to consumers who sought simple, safe transactions between friends and family.

By 2022, approximately 47% of American adults will use peer-to-peer payment applications to divide the costs of purchases such as groceries and restaurant meals according to a survey published by Forbes.

Here are a couple of steps to include these apps in daily transactions and special gatherings, as they change traditional dining manners.

Include the apps in the conversation from the get-go.

Knowing that you’ll use an application ahead of time to divide up a check helps knowing who and where to send money without complications. Typically a group will decide to use one either at the beginning or the end of a meal when discussing how the bill will be split or divided. 

“These apps often have tactful and gentle reminders set up for those who perhaps forget to pay in a timely manner, again taking away awkward money talk,” said Myka Meier, founder of Beaumont Etiquette. 

“It's a modern way to split a bill.”

You can use them to track expenses, from restaurant bills to travel expenses.

Some restaurants, for example, have maximum credit card policies in places. Others add to the menus that a tip percentage will be included in bigger groups.

For instances like this, consumers can use an app like Splitwise.

“People can use Splitwise for a lot of different situations,” said Hannah Cope, business operations at Splitwise.

“I used it on a recent trip to vegas with friends, and it helped when we’re out for the night,” said Simon Casas, 33, a San Antonio-based project manager. “We don’t have to wait for everyone to close their individual tabs or for a server to split the check.”

The app is integrated with Venmo and PayPal, who handle the payments. 

“We started using Splitwise to divide home stuff,” said Gabriela Valero Arias, 33, a communications manager based in New York, about splitting bills with her husband.

Looking to keep it budget friendly? No problem.

Splitwise, for example, allows for users to keep tabs, or a tally based on the groups created. If for example, during a dinner party, a person doesn’t want to pay for a share of a bottle of wine the person's name can be deselected from the list of that specific item.

“If you were to go out to dinner as part of a bachelorette party, or like a trip with your friends, you could scan their receipt in, or you could add the amount, and then you can itemize,” added Cope. 

“Don’t be afraid to discuss the bill ahead of the meal beginning,” added Meier. That way you are not going to end up paying for someone else’s glass of champagne when you only ordered water. 

Checking the menu prior to the gathering helps too, she added.

If you don’t want to download more apps into your phone, Venmo’s got you!

Venmo, one of the most popular peer-to-peer digital wallets, announced on November 14 its new iteration Venmo Groups, a new in-app feature that lets users easily track, split, and manage multiple or ongoing expenses among groups. It automatically calculates the individual amounts, reducing the need for spreadsheets, multiple apps or mental math to settle up, according to a press release.

“We know managing ongoing expenses in a group can be challenging, in particular when each member covers different costs with different amounts at different times,” said Erika Sanchez, vice president and general manager of Venmo on the announcement

Not sure how safe peer-to-peer apps are? Use Zelle.

Zelle is the go to option for people looking to safely transfer money directly from their bank accounts. Its network connects more than 1,800 financial institutions, and these transactions often happen in minutes.

The company recommends sending only to people you know to avoid service scams, like buying tickets to a concert online, or that modern couch on Marketplace.

No matter your choice, make sure the funds in your peer-to-peer app are transferred to your bank account. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has found that stored funds are potentially at risk because they lack deposit protection or insurance coverage.