Zelle is an app developed by major American banks to compete with payment services like Venmo. The app gives you the opportunity to send money to and from bank accounts bank accounts easily. Customers who bank with Zelle partners will receive transfers directly to their accounts within minutes, unlike apps such as Venmo. However, users who don't bank with one of the app's partner institutions will find that Zelle comes with more requirements and slower processing.
What is the Zelle App?
Zelle is a free app supported by more than 30 banks to compete with other person-to-person payment services such as Apple Pay and Venmo. Zelle allows users to send money to recipients at any other bank. If your bank is already one of Zelle's partners, you can access it directly through your bank's app, with no need for additional accounts or more apps. If your bank isn't a Zelle partner, you'll need to download the standalone Zelle app—and you won't be able to transfer money unless the other party is banking with a Zelle partner.
Major Zelle Partner Institutions
- Bank of America
- BNY Mellon
- Capital One
- Morgan Stanley
- U.S. Bank
- Wells Fargo
Unlike other forms of mobile payment, Zelle doesn’t hold money in a separate account managed within the app, which makes peer-to-peer payments safer than third-party apps such as Venmo. Transfers can take minutes if both parties have checking accounts with banks that support Zelle. If your bank isn't supported by Zelle, transfers can take 1-3 days. In any case, either the sender or receiver in every Zelle transaction must be at a bank that is currently a Zelle partner.
Zelle itself doesn’t charge a fee, but if your bank doesn't support the app, then you should check to see if they charge separate fees. Zelle partners with over 30 banks. According to a Zelle press release, over 86 million customers use Zelle through mobile banking accounts, meaning that other places may adopt this platform to keep up with their competitors.
How Do You Use Zelle?
Using Zelle is easier for users whose banks are already Zelle partners. For the most part, these banks—such as Chase—have fully integrated Zelle into their own banking apps, making it unnecessary for you to download the Zelle app or to create another account. A few others, like PNC Bank, offer multiple apps that you can use to access Zelle's features.
If your bank or credit union hasn't partnered with Zelle, you must download its standalone app in the Google Play or iTunes store. To enroll using this option, you’ll also need to submit your contact information, a U.S. mobile phone number, email address, and your U.S based Visa® or MasterCard® debit card.
To make a transfer, you enter the recipient’s email address or phone number and the amount of money that you want to send. The recipient will receive an email or a text notifying them of the transfer. If the person you’re sending money to doesn’t have a Zelle account, they'll receive a simple guide to help them enroll. The payment will expire within 14 days if the recipient doesn’t set up their Zelle profile and the money will go back into your account. You can also use the app to send a request for money, provided that the person you’re sending the request to is a Zelle user.
Zelle vs. Venmo and Other Payment Apps
If your bank supports Zelle, and you're sending money to a person who also has a bank account supported by Zelle, then you can send and receive money within minutes. Some apps, such as Google Wallet and Venmo, let users allow users to send and receive money, but the money is held in an app-based bank account until users initiate a bank transfer. Other services—Popmoney and Square Cash—are similar to Zelle in that money goes directly to the user's bank account, but their transactions can take up to three days to complete.
Zelle is free to use, while other payment apps may charge a percentage of the transaction amount. While Zelle does not impose transfer limits, your bank might, so it's best to check with your bank before sending large amounts of money. Zelle isn't a good option for users who don't use one of the banks that support it. If you decide to use the standalone app to send or receive payments, it can take up to three days for the funds to arrive. In this case, using Zelle isn't any different than using a third-party app. In fact, some competitors are rolling out features that allow users to receive funds instantly for a small fee. Venmo has just introduced this feature into its app, which allows users to pay a 25-cent fee to instantly transfer their balance to their bank account.
Furthermore, Zelle doesn’t support credit card transactions. Other apps, which include Venmo and Square Cash, do accept credit card transactions, but they charge users up to 3% of the transaction amount. Finally, Zelle only works with U.S.-based banks, making international transactions impossible.