Zak Killermann is a staff writer at Finder specializing in money transfers. He has ghostwritten hundreds of FinTech articles over the years and found his love for publication at St. Cloud State University. Zak has been traveling internationally for nearly half his life and — after getting burned once by an over-the-counter money exchange — vowed to never settle for anything short of the mid-market rate.
What is Zelle?
Formerly called ClearXchange, Zelle is a payment processing network developed by some of the largest American banks — Bank of America, Chase, Capital One and USAA among them. Zelle is known for transferring money instantly to other users.
Integrates with hundreds of banks. Zelle is partnered with more than 500 banks. Chances are that if Zelle is integrated into your bank’s app you won’t have to download another one.
Instant transfers. Transfers between two supported banks typically happen within minutes.
No fees. Zelle is free, so sending money to other Zelle users will cost you nothing.
Convenience. When sending to other Zelle users you just need their phone number or email.
What should I watch out for with Zelle?
US only. Both the sending and receiving bank accounts must be in the US to use Zelle.
Only supports bank accounts. You can’t pay with a credit card to send money through Zelle.
Smartphone required. If your bank supports Zelle you may be able to access it through the bank’s website, otherwise you’ll be forced to use the mobile app to send money.
No sending protection. There is no fraud protection with Zelle. Sending money through Zelle is like sending cash, once it is sent you can’t get it back — even if you sent it to the wrong person.
How does Zelle work?
Unlike Cash App, Google Pay, Venmo and other competitors, Zelle works by moving money directly from one bank account to another. There is no escrow or intermediary period where the money is held by Zelle. Instead, money moves directly from your bank account to your recipients in as little as a few seconds. If your recipient isn’t a Zelle user, you can send money using their email or phone number. Zelle will prompt them to visit their bank’s app or download the Zelle app to receive their money.
Zelle is free to use and doesn’t charge any fees for its service. However, because Zelle works with hundreds of banks it is always best to double check with your bank to make sure there won’t be any withdrawal or transfer fees charged to your account by your bank, specifically.
How to send money through Zelle
Sending money with Zelle can be done in just a few steps, either through your bank’s mobile app, the web or the Zelle mobile app for Android and iOS:
Set up your account. Log in to your current bank’s online system and register your email address or phone number to establish a connection with your bank account.
Send your payment. Choose your recipient, the amount you’re transferring and your funding bank account. Review your information and send.
Zelle notifies your recipient. Your recipient receives an email or text with instructions on how to receive the transfer. If your recipient is not registered with Zelle, they’ll be prompted with a one-time setup.
Zelle deposits your money. Your transfer is deposited into your recipient’s bank account, typically in minutes.
How much can you Zelle in one day, one week, one month?
The amount you can send through Zelle depends on your bank, as each has its own set of Zelle transfer limits. If your bank isn’t offering Zelle, then your weekly send limit is $500. For the major banks, the Zelle limits are:
Daily sending limit
7-day sending limit
30-day sending limit
Bank of America
Chase (personal checking)
Chase (Private Client)
Unfortunately, many banks don’t make the limits known, and all bank Zelle sending limits can change at any time. Contact your bank directly for the most up to date information.
What banks use Zelle?
As of April 2020, more than 500 banks have incorporated Zelle into their money transfer systems. Major banks that support Zelle include:
Making a transfer between banks can be done even if your bank doesn’t support Zelle. You have a few options here, including:
Using an alternative service. Alternative domestic transfer options include Google Pay, Venmo, Cash App, Apple Pay and more. To read more about these services, visit our domestic transfer guide to learn how to get your transfer started in little to no time.
Using a money transfer company. If the person you are sending to doesn’t have a bank account or would prefer to pick up money in cash, a money transfer company might be your best choice. To learn what company might best suit your needs, check out our extensive guide on money transfers.
Signing up to the Zelle app. You may still be able to use Zelle even if your bank isn’t supported by downloading the Zelle mobile app and connecting your debit card. This won’t work for all banks, though, and transfer speeds are slower than when using a Zelle partner bank.
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Zelle is used by hundreds of banks in the US and transfers money directly between bank accounts. However, just because your money should be safe in Zelle’s hands doesn’t prevent user error while transferring money through Zelle. Here are some key tips to increase the safety of your Zelle transfer:
Do you know the recipient? Only send Zelle transfers to people you know and trust. Zelle should be used to pay friends, family, coworkers and the like — Zelle should not be used to pay strangers.
Are you being scammed? If the item you are about to buy online and pay for with a Zelle transfer seems too good to be true, chances are it is. Zelle offers no buyer protection, so if you get scammed you probably won’t get your money back. Use a service that offers buyer protection, like PayPal, when making purchases online from strangers.
Would you send cash? Treating a Zelle transfer like you’d treat cash is a great way to make sure you stay safe. You wouldn’t send an envelope of cash without double checking the address, so always look twice at the mobile phone number or email before confirming your transfer.
Does Zelle have an app?
Yes, Zelle has an app on both Google Play and the App Store. The app makes it possible to:
Connect non-partner bank accounts. Enroll using a Visa or Mastercard debit card to connect your US-based checking account.
Log in using biometrics. Both face and fingerprint recognition can be used to log in.
Send money on the go. Quickly pay friends and family members with a few taps after a shared meal or day shopping.
Request money. Send money requests through the app to make sure you get paid back without delay.
These three money transfer apps let you send money to friends and family for free, but each has its own style and slightly different use case.
Zelle vs Venmo
Both apps allow you to send money from your phone to friends and family, but with varying sending and receiving limits one may be a better choice than the other for you. In short, Venmo is absolutely the more socially-focused of the two choices, while Zelle may be the more convenient option if your bank is a Zelle partner.
Zelle vs Cash App
Cash App offers similar features to Zelle, with added features like buying and selling Bitcoin, investing in stocks and more. There are slight differences in sending limits between Zelle and Cash App, and Cash App supports transfers to friends in the UK from the US. However, you may want to stick with Zelle if you prefer straight bank-to-bank transfers with no escrow.
What else can I use Zelle for?
Zelle is best for sending money to friends and family, but offers some additional features that you can take advantage of in the right circumstances.
Using Zelle with a small business. Zelle supports transactions between users and small businesses so long as the small business’s bank account is a registered Zelle partner. Only use this service to pay small businesses that you trust, as you won’t be able to cancel payments through Zelle if you are unsatisfied.
Using Zelle for disbursements. After creating your account and enrolling with Zelle, you’ll be able to use your Zelle account to receive disbursement payments from organizations, companies, the government and more. Typical reasons for using this service include insurance payouts, claim settlements, refund checks and similar situations.
Zelle is a straightforward way to send money from your bank account directly to the bank account of a friend or loved one. However, things get a bit more complicated when you bank at an unsupported bank and have to register your account using a debit card. To see how Zelle stands up to competitors in the domestic money transfer field, head over to our guide on sending money in the US to see all of your options.
Compare other services that send money within the US
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