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(Credit: Bruce Mars)

So many of our financial transactions now occur online or through apps linked to our bank accounts, and peer-to-peer payment apps have become an integral part of how many people pay their debts and distribute funds.

Paypal has dominated the market since starting out as Confinity in 1998 under the guidance of a host of tech entrepreneurs, including Peter Thiel and Elon Musk. It eventually adopted the "PayPal" moniker after a rapid increase in usage, and the platform became even more popular when it was bought by eBay and adopted as the main payment method for buyers and sellers on the site and throughout the world.

The PayPal service works with 25 currencies and has over 244 million active users and 16 million merchant accounts in more than 200 countries.

But PayPal has many, many detractors, who have a bevy of complaints about the service. According to Consumer Affairs, there are currently 1,200 consumer complaints relating to PayPal policies, most of which revolve around the company's allegedly arbitrary practice of holding merchant funds for up to 180 days if their system detects fraud.

This policy, meant to make it easier for potential reimbursement in the case of fraudulent transactions, has lead to a number of lawsuits by companies claiming the PayPal was holding their money without paying interest. The dislike of PayPal and its policies, particularly from venders and merchants, has spawned numerous Facebook groups and websites excoriating the company and its customer-service representatives, with some even claiming that money in their account was frozen and never returned at all.

But PayPal wiggled back into consumer's good graces with the 2013 acquisition of Venmo, a popular peer-to-peer payment app that allows people to quickly send money between each other. In the first quarter of 2018, Venmo processed nearly $12 billion worth of transactions, an 80 percent jump compared to last year. But the cash transfers are not instant and take one to three days to complete, leaving room for devious scammers to exploit the loophole and rescind payments.

For those in search of a new way to conduct a variety of monetary transactions online, here are your best alternatives to PayPal.

SEE: Best personal finance apps to manage your money in 2018

1. Square

Similar to PayPal, Square (Android and iOS) offers a wide variety of services, from peer-to-peer transfers to merchant-based e-commerce transactions. Between Square Contactless and Chip Reader, Square Stand, Square Register, Square Magstripe Reader, and Cash App, the company covers most of your e-commerce needs and then some.

Square has become popular with small businesses, which use the free magstripe reader to conduct thousands of transactions throughout the day. The Square app is available in both the App Store and Google Play Store, and it charges just a 2.75 percent fee per card swipe. The fee rises to 3.50 percent plus $0.15 with any transaction that is manually entered, but there are no costs for set-up or monthly fees.

Square is almost universally praised, aside from complaints about lackluster customer service, and its sleek look has been a boon for forward-looking businesses eager to shed old, unwieldy cash registers.

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(Credit: Square)

2. Zelle

Zelle (Android and iOS) is a somewhat recent effort by big, traditional banks to get in on the e-commerce game. The payment network is run and owned by Bank of America, BB&T, Capital One, JPMorgan Chase, PNC Bank, US Bank, SunTrust, and Wells Fargo. Zelle allows users to transfer money digitally from bank account to bank account only within the US.

Zelle has been criticized because you can only send or receive money from another registered Zelle user, and when you try to send funds to non-Zelle users, they receive an invitation to sign up for the service. But Zelle simplifies bank to bank money transfers because all you need is a person's email address or phone number.

Zelle has become a popular alternative to PayPal and Venmo because there is no need for an extra step. Due to the participation of most major banks, the transactions are strictly from bank to bank as opposed to Venmo or PayPal, both of which adds fees while transferring money between accounts.

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(Credit: Zelle)

3. Payoneer

Payoneer (Android and iOS) operates similar to Venmo in its ability to conduct peer-to-peer financial transactions, but it allows you to do it anywhere in the world. It specializes in international money transfers, and users can do everything from manage different accounts to bill customers. It even provides a reloadable, prepaid MasterCard that acts like a debit card to be used anywhere.

Based in New York City, the platform provides services for Airbnb, Amazon, Google, and Upwork, in addition to a number of freelance networks. Users pointed to its adoption by major companies as a plus and say Payoneer is easier to use and more secure than PayPal.

With an Payoneer account, you can manage your business and any online transactions that take place. Criticisms of the service range from somewhat spotty customer service to small fees that kick in for any bank transfers -- something you won't find on other similar platforms. There are a number of fees that come with using the prepaid card at an ATM or in a store, which may make it costly for anyone who needs to transfer or take out funds.

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(Credit: Payoneer)

4. Google Pay

Google makes it easy to transfer money to friends using Google Pay (Android and iOS), which allows you to send funds from your bank account to any email address for free. The service makes it a lot easier to buy online, letting you skip most of the checkout process. Users can even send or receive money through Google Messages, so you can pay back a friend or family member you're already chatting with.

In January, the company merged Android Pay, Google Wallet, and Google Pay Send to create Google Pay, and the renamed finance app now serves as both a reliable digital wallet and an online payment system. Google Pay is most popular in the US and UK and has no fee for merchants. You can connect your Google Pay account to your bank account and use it to track your business' expenses.

While Google Pay is available for iOS, most people with Apple devices opt for Apple Pay.

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(Credit: Google)

5. Apple Pay

Apple Pay (iOS) is strikingly similar to Google Pay, in that it serves both as an e-wallet and a mobile payment service. It works in over 30 countries and became massively popular upon its release due to its ease of use and snappy commercials touting its feasibility as an alternative to cash or card transactions. Similar to Google, Apple lets users send money with Apple Pay through Apple Messages, making it seamless for those using both apps.

There is no fee for merchants to accept it, and money is automatically stored within an Apple Pay account, where it can either be spent or transfered to a bank account after 1 to 3 days.

While Apple Pay is available just for iOS devices, that hasn't stopped the app from raking in big user numbers. In a report released this year, Apple says its Pay user base grew from 62 million in 2016 to a whopping 127 million by the end of 2017. Most of this is due to the global expansion of the service, with 38 million users in the US and about 90 million users across the world.

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(Credit: Apple)

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Takeaways

  1. PayPal is still a great option for most e-commerce needs, and their subsidiary, Venmo, has become popular with younger users seeking easy ways to transfer money.
  2. For people looking for alternatives to PayPal, a number of options -- including Zelle, Payoneer, Square, Google Pay, and Apple Pay -- are up to the task.

Also see

Jonathan is a Contributing Writer for CNET's Download.com. He's a freelance journalist based in New York City. He recently returned to the United States after reporting from South Africa, Jordan, and Cambodia since 2013.