There’s a lot to be said for a single-function app, and that’s what makes the Tab app so magical. Unlike other bill-splitting apps, such as Splitwise, which allow you to split and track any type of expense, the Tab app exists to split meal bills only among a group of people. That’s it – that’s all it does.
I was first introduced to the app by my friends when I lived in New York City. After many dinners and discussions about who ordered an extra side of fries, who got three beers instead of two, and who just had an hors d’oeuvre instead of an appetizer, we got tired of doing basic math so that the five or six people at the table could each pay their share. So we switched to the Tab app. The appeal came from the ease of signing up new guests, selecting the items we ordered, and calculating the 20 percent gratuity for us.
Once the app is downloaded, one person signs up to pay with cash or credit card. They then take a picture of the bill to receive an itemized in-app version of that same bill. At the top of this itemized list is a code that the person in charge of the account gives to the group. Anyone who joins the account just needs to tap “Join Bill” on the main screen, whether or not they have an account, then enter the code given to them. From this point on, everyone picks a nickname and goes to the itemized bill and selects what they ordered. If there is a dish that needs to be shared among several people, such as an appetizer, the Tab app allows more than one person to select the same item. When everyone is done selecting their items, the app calculates what each person owes after tax and tip. The person in charge of the bill can change the tip at their discretion.
From there, after seeing their total, each person is given a choice to pay whoever has the bill, either cash or through Venmo. In theory, if you select Venmo and enable Tab permission, Tab will automatically pay the person in charge of the bill. All that’s left is the person in charge of the bill who actually pays and then collects their Venmo transfers. Rounded! This shortened our time spent trying to figure out who owed what, from a solid 10 minutes per meal to easily less than a minute between the bill being handed to our table and everyone who had Venmoed the person who put down their card. Not to mention that the app’s math was more reliable than our tipsy equations behind the napkin. Not only did this ease the tension and save us time, it turned into a mini-party every time we pulled out the Tab app because we all loved it so much.
As much as we praise the app, my friends and I recently discovered that Tab was no longer able to connect to Venmo. The app still behaves like it can; however, when I select the Venmo option at the end of an invoice, Venmo opens and freezes on the consent page. It really sucks because now we have to manually pay Venmo the amount to the person.
I’ve reached out to Tab for a timeline on when and if this will be resolved. A spokesperson who has not yet responded when asked for their name explained that “the Venmo authentication service we use for Tab unexpectedly stopped working several months ago” and attempts to contact anyone at Venmo have gone unanswered. stayed. The spokesperson said, “Venmo appears to have completely depriorized support from third-party developers.” In the meantime, we can get around this problem by simply writing down our totals in the app and then manually switching to Venmo to pay the account holder. The extra step is far from a deal breaker, but it does dampen our excitement.
The best thing about this app – aside from saving math – is that you don’t need a registered account to participate. In fact, neither myself nor any of my friends have ever created an account. As long as the people with you have or can download the app on their phone, it is very easy and efficient to pay with. However, the advantage of having an account is the ability to save your account and review it if there is a discrepancy or error. But if your group of friends is anything like mine, we can blindly trust this app to take care of it all for us.