What is Zelle® and how does it work?

Peer-to-peer (P2P) payment services have become more popular in recent years. The money transfer services make it easier to split bills or send funds to friends, family members and service providers on the go. Still, it can be hard to choose the right P2P platform.

This guide breaks down the P2P service Zelle®, its features and the benefits of using the platform. It also offers step-by-step instructions on how to enroll with Zelle® so you can start sending and receiving money today. Here’s what you need to know.

Key takeaways

  • Zelle® is a free1 payment service you can use to quickly send or receive money with people you know and trust.
  • Zelle® enables money to be sent directly from bank account to bank account instead of holding funds in a third-party account. There’s no need to cash out.
  • Zelle® partners with over 1,000 banks and financial institutions, and account holders at banks that offer Zelle® can access Zelle® through their mobile banking apps.

Get Zelle® with Capital One

Download the Capital One Mobile app to use Zelle® for peer-to-peer payments.

Download the app

What is Zelle®?

Zelle® is a payment service similar to PayPal, Venmo and Cash App. This digital money transfer service lets you send money to friends and family members—even if you use different banks in the U.S. For instance, Capital One checking account holders can set up Zelle® through the Capital One Mobile app. And after enrolling your bank account with the service, you can quickly and easily send money through the Capital One Mobile app or online. There are no fees to use Zelle® if you’re a Capital One checking account holder.

How does Zelle® work?

Unlike some services, Zelle® enables you to send money directly from your bank account to your intended recipient’s bank account. Most Zelle® payments are typically available in minutes when the sender and receiver are already enrolled in Zelle®. And you only need the recipient’s email address or mobile phone number to send money. 

In comparison, traditional bank transfers can take several business days. Bank transfers may also require you to input details like routing and account numbers, which you or your recipient may not have on hand.

As a result, Zelle® can be a more convenient way to send and receive money compared to bank transfers. You can transfer money in a short period of time. And you don’t have to have details like your routing and account number on hand to initiate a payment.

Pros and cons of using Zelle®

Zelle® can be a good option for sending money to friends and family. But is it right for you? Consider potential pros and cons before enrolling in and using this P2P payment service.

Pros of using Zelle®

 Cons of using Zelle®

  • Fast and convenient 
  • No transfer fees1
  • Available within hundreds of banking apps
  • No bank account or credit card information needed to send or receive money
  • No purchase protection
  • Can only send money to people with a bank account in the U.S.
  • Send limits may apply and vary by bank


How to use Zelle® in 4 easy steps

Curious about how you can send or receive money with Zelle®? Here are four steps to set up and start your Zelle®.

1. Determine if your financial institution partners with Zelle®

Check your mobile banking app for Zelle®. Many banks and credit unions have partnered with Zelle® and integrated the service into their mobile app or online portal. For instance, Capital One checking account holders may be able to use Zelle® to send and receive money, right in the Capital One Mobile app or online.

You can browse the list of banks that offer Zelle® to determine if your bank works with Zelle®. And if your bank doesn’t offer Zelle®, you can still use the app to send and receive money.

2. Enroll in Zelle®

If you haven’t used Zelle® before, you’ll need to enroll in the service through your banking app or the Zelle® app. For instance, Capital One checking customers can easily enroll with Zelle® through the Capital One Mobile app. To get started, navigate to your Capital One checking account and select “Send Money with Zelle®'' to get started.

Generally, you’ll only need your U.S. mobile number or email address to enroll through your bank. And if your bank doesn’t offer Zelle®, you can enroll through the Zelle® app using your U.S. mobile number and a U.S. bank-issued debit card.

One thing to keep in mind: If you previously enrolled with Zelle® through a different financial institution, you may be prompted to confirm you are OK with your U.S. mobile number or email address being removed from your previous account to be registered with the new account.

3. Choose your recipient and the amount you want to send

After you complete the sign-up process, you can send money to or request money from other Zelle® users.

Start by choosing “Send” or “Request.” Then, you’ll see a prompt asking for the recipient’s contact information. Simply type in their full name and U.S. mobile number or email address to locate your recipient and select them from your Zelle® contacts.

Finally, enter the amount of money you’d like to send or receive.

4. Review and confirm the recipient’s contact information

Before you confirm your payment or request, make sure you double-check the information you provided. You may not be able to cancel the payment if you use the wrong email address or U.S. mobile number. 

If you’re certain the information is correct, tap “Send” to authorize the payment or request. You can also include a note in the “Memo” field explaining why you sent or requested the payment.

Tip: When in doubt, contact your friend to double-check. If you authorize a payment to be sent to the wrong person, you may not get your money back.

Is Zelle® safe to use?

Zelle® is a quick and easy way to send money to friends, family and others you know and trust. And you only need to share an email address or mobile number connected to your bank account to use the platform.

Using the payment platform means you don’t have to carry cash or checks, which could get lost or stolen. Unlike other P2P services, Zelle® doesn’t hold funds in a third-party account. Instead, it notifies your bank about the incoming payment. Then, your financial institution directs the payment into your account. 

But it’s still important to use Zelle® wisely. If you accidentally send money to the wrong person, the money goes directly into their account and is available for use in minutes if they’re already enrolled with Zelle®—but only if the recipient has already enrolled in Zelle®. And you may not be able to cancel a payment or get your money back unless you’ve been a victim of fraud or the person you sent the money to isn’t enrolled with Zelle®.

Tips for using Zelle® more securely

Whether you’re new to Zelle® or use it frequently, here are a few tips to help you keep your personal information and money more secure:

  1. Only send money to people you know and trust. As a general rule, it’s recommended to send money only to friends and family through Zelle®. That’s because you usually can’t cancel payments after you authorize them—even if you send money to the wrong person.
  2. Stay aware of scams. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says it’s wise to familiarize yourself with common scams and take steps to avoid them. For instance, don’t use Zelle® to pay a stranger for products or services. And keep an eye out for links in emails or text messages that require you to input your passwords or login information.
  3. Use unique, complex passwords. It’s tempting to use the same password for every account. But doing so could put your personal information at risk. Instead, opt for strong, unique passwords for every account. If you’re worried about remembering them, you may consider using a password manager to store your login information securely.
  4. Think of Zelle® payments like cash. If you pay someone you don’t know for a product or service and they don’t deliver, or if you pay the wrong person, you may not be able to get your money back.

Zelle® FAQs

Zelle® is a free way to send money from your Capital One checking account.

If you’ve already enrolled in Zelle®, any payments you receive will go directly to your bank account—often within a few minutes. New users may have to wait a few days after enrolling to receive their money.

Capital One 360 Checking account holders can send up to $2,500 per rolling 24 hours through Zelle®. But limits at other banks may vary.

Over 1,000 banks and credit unions, including Capital One, offer Zelle® within their mobile apps. For a comprehensive list of banks that offer Zelle®, refer to the list of financial institutions that offer Zelle®.

How Zelle® works in a nutshell

Zelle® can make it easy to send money to friends and family, right from your mobile banking app. Plus, Zelle® doesn’t charge fees to send or receive money with the Capital One Mobile app.

Ready to make P2P payments a breeze? Download the Capital One Mobile banking app and start sending money with Zelle® today.

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