How to Use Zelle: A Step-by-Step Guide to Digital Payments (2024)

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How To Set Up Zelle

You’ll need a U.S. checking or savings account (excluding U.S. territories) and either an email address or a U.S. mobile phone number to enroll with Zelle.

There are three ways to access the platform and link your bank account:

  1. Your banking app: Chances are, Zelle is available in your banking app. It could be under the Transfers section of your app or in a dedicated Zelle section.
  2. Your bank’s website: Many financial institutions have Zelle integrated with their websites. You’re likely to find it on the Payments and Transfers tab or in a dedicated spot.
  3. The Zelle app: If your bank doesn’t participate with Zelle or it isn’t already part of your bank’s app, you can still use Zelle with your smartphone. Download the app for Apple iOS through the App Store or for Android through Google Play. From there, you can enroll and add a Visa or Mastercard debit card connected to a U.S. bank account for your Zelle payments.

How To Send Money With Zelle

To add a new recipient, search for their Zelle profile using their phone number or email address. You can access your list of phone contacts through Zelle, which will show if they already use the service (you’ll know from the purple “Z” icon). Zelle also has QR codes for users to easily share or scan their profiles.

Then, type in the amount of money you’d like to send. Include a memo if you’d like, though it isn’t required. Your bank may have a transfer limit. If your financial institution doesn’t offer Zelle, there’s a $500 weekly send limit and a $5,000 weekly receive limit.

Risks of Sending Money With Zelle

Once you send cash to a recipient enrolled with Zelle, you most likely can’t get it back. This is true even if your bank account has NCUA or FDIC protection. Zelle doesn’t offer purchase protection, meaning if you pay for a product or service that turns out to be fraudulent, you could lose that money for good. Unfortunately, there are many examples of scams carried out through Zelle. So it’s best to only use Zelle with people you trust.

Likewise, you might be out of luck if you accidentally send money to the wrong person. Always double check the recipient’s email address or phone number before confirming a transfer. And if you aren’t physically next to your intended recipient, it never hurts to give them a call before you authorize the transaction.

How To Receive Money From Zelle

Funds sent to you should automatically go to your connected bank account as long as you have a Zelle profile.

If you aren’t already registered with Zelle but someone sends you money through the service, you should receive a payment notification from Zelle via text message or email about how to enroll and claim your money. But be sure to set your Zelle profile up within 14 days. Otherwise, the money will be returned to the sender.

How To Request Money On Zelle

You can request funds by going to the Zelle app, or to the Zelle section of your banking app or website, and selecting Request. Choose from your contacts or add a new one with their email address or phone number. Indicate how much you’re looking to receive, add a memo if you want and submit your request.

What Banks Use Zelle?

More than 1,800 banks and credit unions use Zelle, and more than 2,100 banking apps have it built right in. You can search here on the Zelle website to see if your financial institution is one of them.

Zelle is operated by Early Warning Services, a fintech company owned by these banks:

  • Bank of America
  • Capital One
  • JPMorgan Chase
  • PNC Bank
  • Truist
  • U.S. Bank
  • Wells Fargo

Zelle vs Other Payment Apps

Next, we’ll show how Zelle compares to other payment apps, starting with its benefits.

SpeedMost Zelle transactions between registered users take just a few minutes to hit the recipient’s account. This is much faster than platforms such as Venmo and Cash App, which typically take one to three business days for standard transfers to settle in the recipient’s bank account.
CostInstant transfers require a 1.75% fee with Venmo or 0.5% to 1.75% with Cash App. Zelle, meanwhile, doesn’t charge any transaction fees to quickly send or receive money through the platform, even if it’s done between different banks or credit unions. However, Zelle recommends contacting your bank to see if it charges fees for this.
Privacy and SecurityOnly the sender and recipient can see Zelle payments between them. Account information isn’t shared to complete transfers, just a phone number or email address attached to the Zelle profile.

If you’re considering using Zelle instead of a different payment app, keep these limitations in mind:

No Purchase ProtectionIf you use Zelle to buy something that turns out to be a knockoff, different than described, damaged en route or simply never delivered, there’s little recourse to get your money back. In contrast, payment platforms such as PayPal and Venmo (as long as you tag a transaction as a purchase) may offer purchase protection.
Can’t Be Used With a Credit CardZelle only supportstransfers between U.S. bank accountsand Visa and Mastercard debit cards. Alternatives including Cash App, Venmo and PayPal allow credit card payments.
No Social ComponentWith Venmo, you can set your transaction view settings to Public, Friends Only or Private. Non-private transactions are curated on a feed so they can be liked and commented on by other users.
Only Allows U.S. AccountsBoth the sender and recipient must have U.S. bank accounts to use Zelle. Alternatives like Remitly and WorldRemit allow users to send cash internationally.
Only Connects to One AccountYou can’t connect more than one of your bank accounts to a single Zelle profile. But Venmo lets users add up to four cards in a given six-month period.

Zelle Security Features and Troubleshooting

Zelle isn’t a third-party cash-transfer app, meaning you don’t have to share your account number or other details. That information stays with the bank you already use. Zelle also says it uses monitoring and authentication practices to secure transactions.

On top of that, cash that’s sent through Zelle goes straight to your bank account instead of a separate (and not federally insured) balance to be deposited later.

But issues can still come up. Common roadblocks Zelle users may face include:

Phone Number Enrollment

This might be because your number is enrolled with another bank or because you’re using an international or landline number.

Debit Card Enrollment

You can’t enroll business debit cards, credit cards, cards connected to international accounts, gift cards or prepaid cards issued by banks that don’t offer Zelle.

Failed Payment

If your recipient hasn’t received your transfer after three days, first check your Zelle transaction activity history. If your transfer is still pending, it could be because the recipient hasn’t enrolled their U.S. mobile number or email address with Zelle yet. If the transaction isn’t listed in your history, contact Zelle for support.

Sent to the Wrong Person

This issue can be difficult to reverse, so verify your recipient’s phone number or email address before you hit send. Contact Zelle if you authorize a payment with an error. But there’s no guarantee you’ll see your cash again. And if a stranger reaches out about a payment they mistakenly sent to you, don’t send it back — it could be a scam. Instead, reach out to Zelle for next steps.

The Bottom Line on Zelle

Once you set your Zelle profile up through your bank’s app or website or the Zelle app, you can safely send and receive money through your U.S. bank account. Recipients often get cash deposited in minutes, without any fees for them or the sender. As long as you confirm your recipient’s Zelle contact information, you can feel good about using the service.

FAQ: How To Use Zelle

To use Zelle for the first time, check if it’s already included on your mobile banking app. If so, you can enroll within the app using your email address or mobile phone number. If not, you can download the stand-alone Zelle app for Apple or Android.

To use Zelle with your bank account, confirm that it’s offered by your bank or credit union offers it. You can look this up on the Zelle website. If it doesn’t, you can download the Zelle app and connect your Visa or Mastercard debit card. Once your Zelle profile is set up, you can search for people by their phone number or email address, to send and request money.

Yes, you’ll need a U.S. bank account to receive or send money with Zelle.

*Data accurate at time of publication

Editor’s Note: Before making significant financial decisions, consider reviewing your options with someoneyou trust, such as a financial adviser, credit counselor or financial professional, since every person’s situation and needs are different.

If you have questions about this page, please reach out to our editors at editors@marketwatchguides.com.

How to Use Zelle: A Step-by-Step Guide to Digital Payments (1)

Myriam Robinson-PucheContributor

Myriam is a personal finance writer based in Brooklyn, New York. The foundation of her financial knowledge comes from developing financial plans for over 100 clients.

How to Use Zelle: A Step-by-Step Guide to Digital Payments (2)

Rashawn MitchnerManaging Editor

RaShawn Mitchner is a MarketWatch Guides team senior editor covering personal finance topics and insurance. She’s spent over a decade writing and editing articles about how to save money on things including travel, entertainment and household services.

How to Use Zelle: A Step-by-Step Guide to Digital Payments (2024)

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