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Editor's Note: This article was originally published on March 5, 2018, and has been updated.
It's never been easier to send and transfer money directly from your mobile device. From splitting dinner to sending money to a friend or business, applications like Zelle, Venmo and Cash App have revolutionized how consumers move money, allowing transfers in seconds without needing to ever having to write a check or handle cash.
So what is Zelle and how does it work? Read on to learn how this payment app can make safe, quick money transfers—and what to watch out for to ensure you use it safely.
What Is Zelle?
Zelle is a mobile payment application that allows peer-to-peer (P2P) money transfers, simplifying the process of paying for things and making it easier to move money without handling cash or visiting the bank. Users transferred $187 billion in 2019 using Zelle, an increase of 57% since 2018.
Zelle was developed by more than 30 major U.S. banks, and has a standalone app that users can download to their smartphone. The service is also integrated within the mobile banking apps of major participating banks, including Bank of America, Chase, Citi and Wells Fargo. Consumers who already have their bank's mobile app can start using Zelle right away.
How Does Zelle Work?
Unlike Venmo, money transferred using Zelle moves directly from one bank account to another. Most banking transfers between accounts require account numbers to initiate transactions, and these transactions can take up to several business days. Zelle eliminates this need, allowing users to transfer funds from one checking account to another in a matter of minutes.
To initiate a transfer, all you need is the email address or phone number of the person you're sending money to. Zelle sends the recipient a text or email indicating there's a payment waiting for them, along with a link to accept it. If the recipient's bank is a participating partner, the recipient simply needs to register for the service through their bank's website or mobile app with an email address or phone number.
Once registered, the recipient can accept the payment, though first-time users may have to wait up to three days to receive payment. If the recipient's bank is not a participating member, they can still receive the funds by downloading the Zelle mobile app, registering with an email or phone number, and entering a debit card to receive the funds.
What Banks Use Zelle?
Zelle is compatible with nearly all major banks, and most even have the service integrated into their mobile banking app. Consumers who download Zelle's standalone app must provide a phone number or email and debit card information to be able to receive and send funds.
As long as you have a Visa or Mastercard debit card, you can download Zelle and use the application to send money. If your bank already works with Zelle, you'll be directed to your bank's mobile app, as long as you have it downloaded on your device.
To see the full list of banks that work with Zelle, refer to this list.
Does Zelle Charge a Fee?
Unlike certain other P2P transfer services, Zelle does not charge any fees. Venmo and Cashapp charge fees if users send money using a credit card, and if users want to immediately deposit funds into their bank account. These fees can range from 1.5% to 3% and can make the transfer of large amounts costly.
What Is Zelle's Transfer Limit?
If your bank doesn't offer Zelle, your limit for sending money is $500 per week. If your bank does offer Zelle, you may be able to transfer larger amounts; contact your financial institution to find their spending limits. When it comes to receiving funds through Zelle, however, there are no limitations to how much you can accept.
Here are some of the major banks that offer Zelle and the daily and weekly limits they allow users to transfer using the service.
|Bank||Daily Limit||Monthly Limit|
|Bank of America||$2,500||$20,000|
|Chase Personal Checking||$2,000||$16,000|
|Chase Business Checking or Chase Private Client||$5,000||$40,000|
|Citibank Account, Basic Account and Access Account||$2,000||$10,000|
|Citibank Citi Priority, Citigold and Citi Private Bank||$5,000||$15,000|
Is Zelle Safe?
Compared with handling cash and sending bills or checks in the mail, Zelle could be considered a safer option for moving money quickly. Because the funds never sit in a third-party location, your money is always insured. And the company touts its security, because the idea is that your bank is already protecting your personal financial data.
One caveat to using Zelle is that you need to be sure you're sending funds to the correct recipient—and it's a person you trust. Because the money moves so quickly, if the person you send money to has a Zelle account, the transfer will be completed in minutes and thus cannot be canceled once it's sent. That means you'll want to double-check your transfers to ensure that you don't make a mistake and send the funds to the wrong person.
Zelle's speed in transferring funds also makes it a prime target for criminals, some experts warn. If you're transferring money in exchange for goods and services, a scammer could take your money and not complete the exchange.
Indeed, Zelle does not have the safety features PayPal offers, including protection against being charged for something that wasn't purchased or for not receiving an item that they paid for. If you fall victim to a scam in which you authorize a transfer to someone for goods and services that they do not ultimately provide, there may not be a way to recoup those funds through Zelle. If your account is hacked and money is transferred without your authorization, Zelle recommends you contact your financial institution to see if you can report the fraud and get your money back. You can find out more information about fraud and scams on Zelle's website.
Is Using Zelle a Good Option?
Overall, if you need to transfer money quickly, Zelle is a good, no-cost option that works almost instantly. Unlike other P2P transfer apps, Zelle does not charge fees, and easily moves money between banks, making it one of the better options for immediate transfers.
Though it may be a quick and easy option, it's important for users to remember to use it responsibly, making sure to confirm they're sending funds to people they know and trust. If you are going to use Zelle to pay for goods and services provided by someone you haven't met, make sure they are reputable before transfering money, as this is one of the major areas of loss while using money-transfer apps.