A study carried out jointly at the University of Virginia, Columbia Business School, and Harvard Business School examined how people felt about others who paid an exact amount when settling debts with friends and family members.
When settling debts using a payment app such as Venmo or Apple Pay Cash, it is very easy to pay the exact amount. This is in contrast to paying with cash, where people tend to round to the nearest dollar rather than worry about change. For example, if someone owes $24.95, the custom with cash is to just pay $25.
As the student researchers write in an article for the Wall Street Journal,
We asked people to evaluate two imaginary individuals based on past online transactions with a friend: One person had sent three precise payments (for example, $9.99, $34.95 and $20.06), while the other had sent three round payments ($10, $35 and $20). Even though the total amount exchanged was the same, 81% of the people we asked said they would rather befriend the person who had paid round amounts. They told us that when precise numbers are involved, the payment feels impersonal—too much like a business transaction.
Don’t worry though if you happen to be a heavy user of payment apps. This perceived pettiness extends to the specificity of your payment, not whether it is paid using the app or cash. Therefore, next time you’re paying someone back, don’t be so precise! They might think that much worse of you.