Zelle Money Transfer: What It Is, How to Use It

Chanelle BessetteJanuary 3, 2020
Zelle Money Transfer: What It Is, How to Use It

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In an increasingly cashless world, money transfer services have become more widely available, allowing you to send money — whether it’s a few bucks or thousands — to people in your life at the push of a button.

While there are many peer-to-peer transfer services available, Zelle is the one that is most commonly integrated with banks. Read on to learn more about this money transfer service and what you should consider if you’re thinking about using it.

»Looking for other ways to transfer money? Check out NerdWallet's top peer-to-peer payment apps

What is Zelle?

Zelle is a peer-to-peer, or P2P, money transfer service that allows individuals to send and receive money from each other via connected bank accounts. Most major banks and credit unions are part of the Zelle network, and once you enroll, you just need an email address or phone number to send and receive money electronically.

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Does Zelle cost anything?

Zelle doesn’t charge any fees to send or receive money. The company recommends on its site, however, that customers double check that their bank doesn’t charge a fee.

How do I enroll in Zelle?

To use Zelle, both the sender and recipient must enroll in Zelle through their bank account or with the Zelle app. This process is fairly simple: Zelle will ask for basic information like a phone number and/or email account and walk you through the enrollment process. If you’re using Zelle through your bank, your accounts will be linked. If you’re using the Zelle app, then you’ll have to connect a debit card.

How do I send, request and receive money in Zelle?

Sending and requesting money. You can send or request money to or from another Zelle user by entering their email address or phone number.

Check with your bank about how much you’re allowed to send at once. Some banks might put lower limits on sending to first-time recipients and then increase those limits once they become an established recipient.

Receiving money. When receiving money with Zelle, the funds should appear in your account in a matter of minutes.

Benefits of using Zelle

No cost. Zelle doesn’t charge any fees to send or receive money, and it's unlikely that your bank will charge you a fee to use the service. The company does, however, recommend checking with your bank or credit union to make sure there are no additional fees.

Fast money transfers. Zelle transfers typically arrive within minutes, so money can change hands quickly.

The convenience of going cashless. Daily activities like splitting utilities, gas money and restaurant bills become much easier and faster when you don’t have to run to an ATM every time.

Compatible with different banks and credit unions. If you have an account at Wells Fargo and you need to send your half of the rent to your roommate who uses Ally Bank, don’t worry. Zelle has a huge list of partner banks and credit unions that can send money to one another seamlessly. If your bank or credit union doesn’t use Zelle, you also have the option of using the Zelle app and connecting a debit card.

Things to consider when using Zelle

Customers can’t use Zelle with international bank accounts. Both the sender and recipient must have U.S.-based bank accounts to use Zelle.

There’s no fraud protection program. When using Zelle, the onus of protecting your money falls on you, the user. Zelle recommends that you think of the Zelle service like cash: Send money only to people you trust, make sure your recipient’s contact information is correct before you send money, and beware of scams. If you’re looking to send money to someone you don’t know and you’re wary that you might not get what you’re paying for, you might want to pay with a credit card instead, since credit cards typically have built-in buyer protections.

Using Zelle typically requires a smartphone. If your bank or credit union offers Zelle, then you should be able to use a desktop web browser to access your bank account and use the service. If your bank or credit union doesn’t offer Zelle, then you’ll need to use the Zelle app, which requires a smartphone.

You can’t connect a credit card. Venmo — a competing P2P transfer service — allows users to link credit cards and use them to pay people for a 3% fee. The ability to use a credit card may be pricey, but it can also be convenient if you don’t have enough liquid cash in your bank account.

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