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What Is Zelle and How Does It Work?

Zelle is often quicker and cheaper than its competitors.

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Mobile payment apps
 like Venmo and Cash App have transformed how we send money from one account to another, sometimes with a click of a button. But the funds are usually only instantly available if you pay a fee. Zelle, on the other hand, is a peer-to-peer payment service that may let you instantly transfer money between US bank accounts without incurring fees. 

What is Zelle?

Zelle is an online service that allows you to send money from your bank account to someone else’s bank account. Zelle is owned by Early Warning Services, a fintech company owned by seven major US banks: JPMorgan Chase, Bank of AmericaCapital One, PNC, Truist, U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo

How does Zelle work?

Users need to have a Zelle account to receive money from Zelle, which will be automatically deposited into the linked bank account in minutes. Zelle is integrated with the apps of participating banks, but there’s also a standalone app. Zelle relies on the Automated Clearing House system to speed up transfers between US bank accounts. 

Does Zelle charge a fee?

No, Zelle does not charge a fee for transferring or accepting money.

How to use Zelle

1. Confirm whether or not your bank or credit union offers Zelle

If your bank or credit union offers Zelle, a designated portal should be connected to your financial institution’s mobile app. You can also browse Zelle’s online database to see if your bank is listed as a participating partner. Otherwise you can download the Zelle app for Android and iOS. 

2. Sign up with your email or phone number

When you set up the Zelle, either through your bank or the standalone app, it’ll require you to enter your basic contact information. If enrolling through the standalone app, you’ll need to enter your debit card information for whichever card you want to make payments from.  

3. Send money 

You only need a recipient’s email address or US mobile phone number to send money. Once you enter the recipient’s information, enter the amount you want to transfer and hit send. If the recipient already has a Zelle account, the money will automatically be deposited into their bank account. But if they still need to enroll, a notification will go to their phone or email address with instructions so they can receive the money securely and quickly. 

4. Receive money 

You can receive money on Zelle if you have a Zelle account or your bank partners with Zelle. Any payment transferred to you using Zelle will automatically deposit into your linked bank account. If you receive a Zelle payment for the first time and you don’t have an account, you can download the app and sign up, or check to see if your bank offers Zelle.

How much can I send through Zelle?

The amount of money you can send through Zelle depends on the type of account you use, the recipient and your banking history. For example, Wells Fargo and Bank of America limit customers to a maximum Zelle transfer of $3,500 daily. If your bank doesn’t provide Zelle, the weekly limit for sending money is $500. There are no restrictions when it comes to receiving funds through Zelle.

Is Zelle safe?

Zelle is considered a secure payment option for sending and receiving money, but it does not offer the same payment protections as credit cards or debit cards. For this reason, you should only send money to people you know, like family members and friends. When you are ready to initiate a payment on Zelle, ensure that you have the correct phone number or email address, so it ends up in the right hands. 

What if I send money to the wrong person?

Zelle does not offer any protection or coverage of unauthorized payments. Since you initiate the payment, it’s up to you to ensure that you have the correct information. For this reason, it’s essential only to use Zelle to transfer money to someone you know and trust. If you send money to the wrong email address or phone number, in most cases, you won’t be able to get your money back.

The bottom line

Zelle is a free peer-to-peer payment service offered by various banks and credit unions in the US. With Zelle, users can quickly transfer funds to and from people they are familiar with, and the funds are typically delivered within minutes. It is important to know Zelle’s limitations and risks and to only send money to people you know and trust.

This article was assisted by an AI engine and reviewed, fact-checked and edited by our editorial staff.