Zelle is a popular digital payment platform that enables you to send and receive money almost instantly without having to pay fees. Zelle uses a simple and clean interface to make payments easy to complete. All you need is the phone number or email of the person receiving the money.
Zelle integrates with many major banks and allows you to connect your bank account or debit card. However, one thing we don't like about the platform is that it doesn't allow credit cards. Similar platforms, such as Cash App and Venmo, allow you to use credit cards for a fee.
In this Zelle review, we take a closer look at Zelle’s features, usability, and security measures to help you decide if it’s the right payment service for you.
Zelle: Is it worth it?
|Our verdict: Zelle offers a convenient method for sending and receiving money within the U.S. We like that we can use it for quick payments at $0 cost. It’s also easier to use than wire and other bank transfers. However, it doesn’t support credit cards and doesn’t work internationally so we couldn’t use it to send money to loved ones abroad.|
What is Zelle?
Zelle is based in Scottsdale, Arizona, and is a peer-to-peer mobile payment service that has been facilitating payments between users since it was founded in 2016. It is owned by Early Warning Services, a private financial services company. It allows for direct payments between U.S. bank accounts with just the mobile phone number or email of the recipient.
Many banks and credit unions participate in Zelle, which means you can use the service directly from your mobile banking app. But if your bank hasn’t joined yet, you can also send and receive money through the Zelle app, which is available for both Android and iOS devices.
Zelle continues to grow in popularity. According to Zelle, small businesses and consumers sent out $120 billion in payments in just the second quarter of 2021.
How does Zelle work?
You can use Zelle to send, receive, or request money. Users typically link their checking account to their Zelle account.
When sending money with Zelle, all you need once you’re enrolled is the recipient’s email address or mobile phone number. Unlike some other money transfer apps, the money becomes available to enrolled recipients within minutes.
You can expect a quick and easy process, even if you’ve never used Zelle. There are hundreds of banks that with Zelle, so you can send money directly from your mobile banking app. And if your bank doesn’t use Zelle, you can also send money through the Zelle standalone app.
How to send money with Zelle
Sending money with Zelle only takes a few minutes. Make sure to have the phone number or email address of the person you want to send money to, then follow these steps:
- Log into your bank's mobile app or web portal with your username and password and choose the Zelle service, which is usually found in the sending money section.
- Enroll in Zelle using your phone number or email address. If you don’t have an account at a participating bank, you can download the Zelle app on your phone and create an account using your debit card.
- Once you're enrolled, enter the phone number or email address of the person you want to send money to then choose send.
- Your recipient will receive a text message or a notification with instructions on accessing their money, even if they’re not yet enrolled.
Which banks use Zelle?
Zelle is used by banks and credit unions from coast to coast. Over a thousand banks have incorporated Zelle into their banking apps. Big bank names you might recognize include Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Chase. But there are also many smaller financial institutions that use Zelle.
Here are 20 major U.S. banks that incorporated Zelle into their apps or online banking portals:
You can see the full list of participating banks on Zelle.com.
However, you may be able to use Zelle even if your bank isn't listed. You can simply download the Zelle app on iOS or Android devices via the App Store or Google Play. You can then use your debit card details to create a Zelle account.
What Zelle does well
Zelle is different than other money transfer services, and in many ways, it’s better. It allows money to move directly between bank accounts, but it’s faster than using an account transfer. Here are some of the reasons we like using Zelle:
- It allows us to move money to our recipients in minutes as long as they are enrolled.
- It charges no fees to send or receive money.
- We can access it via our mobile banking app and web portal.
- It has a standalone Zelle app available in the app stores for both Android and Apple devices.
- It only requires the U.S. mobile number or email address of the recipient, making it easy to use.
- It offers a good level of safety and security from hacks and unauthorized transgers.
Zelle also supports small businesses. You can send money to a small business as a consumer or accept Zelle payments for products and services if you are a business owner. Zelle also supports business-to-business transfers if both businesses are enrolled and have a linked business bank account.
What Zelle could do better
Zelle makes it easy to send money quickly, but this has a few drawbacks:
- Scammers sometimes use Zelle to target their victims, which is why you should only send money to people you know personally. If you fall victim to a scam through Zelle, you’ll have no recourse. Payments are typically final once you authorize them.
- Some banks have mobile apps that are easier to navigate than others, so sending and receiving money is not always a seamless experience for Zelle users. Some other payment apps feel more user-friendly.
- Zelle doesn’t accept credit cards from all networks, including Mastercard, Visa, and American Express.
- You can only cancel a payment if the recipient has not yet enrolled in Zelle.
What are some alternatives to Zelle?
Though Zelle is one of our favorite payment apps because it is quick and safe, it might not be the best bank app for you to use. For example, if you need to make a credit card payment, you’re better off using one of these alternatives:
- PayPal: Allows you to send money with a credit or debit card to friends, family, and businesses, even internationally (fees apply for credit cards). It takes one business day for a standard transfer to your bank account, and instant transfers are subject to fees.
- Venmo: Lets you pay a friend with a credit card, debit card, or from your bank account. All you need is their phone number or email address. Standard transfers take 1-3 days, and fees apply for instant transfers and credit card payments.
- Cash App: Allows you to send money to anyone in the U.S. with a phone number or email address. Fees apply for credit card payments and instant transfers. Learn more in our Cash App review.
FAQs about Zelle
Is Zelle safe to use?
Yes. Money sent with Zelle is never held by a third party, which means it is always FDIC-insured. And the Zelle app uses authentication and monitoring features to protect the security of your payments.
That said, you should only use Zelle to send money to people you know and trust, and ensure that their phone number or email address is still accurate. You can’t cancel a payment, and you’ll have no recourse or fraud protection if you get scammed by a stranger. So use caution when sending money with Zelle.
What banks use Zelle?
Hundreds of banks and credit unions use Zelle. Here are some of the most widely used institutions:
Head to Zelle to see a complete list or search for your bank or credit union.
Can I use Zelle without a bank account?
No, you can't use Zelle without a bank account. The account you use must also be a U.S. bank account that works directly with Zelle or has a supported Visa or Mastercard debit card. Keep in mind that Zelle doesn't support credit cards, but some of its altenatives do such as Venmo and Cash App.
Is there a fee to use Zelle?
No, there is no fee to use Zelle. While Zelle charges a small fee to the financial institution, you’ll never have to pay Zelle to send or receive money. However, Zelle does recommend checking with your bank or credit union to make sure they don’t charge any additional fees for the service.
Can I use Zelle without a debit card?
If your bank or credit union supports Zelle, you’ll just need a U.S. checking or savings account to send or receive money. However, if you aren't a bank customer with any financial institution that supports Zelle, you'd need to enroll through the Zelle app and you’ll need a debit card. It also must be a ‘fast funds enabled’ card to work with Zelle.
How long does it take to get money from Zelle?
Enrolled recipients will receive their money within minutes. People who aren’t yet enrolled will receive enrollment instructions, and it can take one to three business days for the money to be transferred. If the recipient doesn’t enroll within 14 days, the payment expires.
How do I contact Zelle customer support?
Zelle's customer support can be contacted via their online form or by phone. The number for Zelle support is 1-844-428-8542. They operate from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Eastern time, seven days a week except for some holidays.
Bottom line on Zelle
While other apps might provide additional features, such as credit card payments, there are fees to use these tools. Most other apps also charge a fee for instant transfers, while sending money with Zelle is always fast. And with Zelle, your money remains FDIC-insured via the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation instead of being held by a third party before it goes to your recipient’s bank account.
For these reasons, Zelle is one of the fastest and safest payment options available. And since Zelle partners with numerous banks and credit unions, it’s likely you won’t even need to download an app to get started. Just remember to only send money to people you know and trust with Zelle.
If you're looking to open a new bank account, make sure to check out our list of the best banks and pick one that allows you to access Zelle.
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