What makes Zelle, a digital payments network that will allow people to send money instantly through participating banks’ mobile apps, stand out from rivals like Venmo is the more than 30 US banks backing it including BoA, Citibank, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo.
The casual payments that people make every day — $20 for the dog walker or $50 to split a dinner check with friends — have long been one of the American banking system’s thorniest problems. Instant person-to-person payments are common in many countries, but in the United States, sending cash between banks is often a technical ordeal. Zelle’s pitch is that it will be fast, free and ubiquitous. The interface is almost identical at each participating bank, and setting it up takes a few seconds. To send money to others, you need only their phone number or email address. If their bank is part of Zelle’s network, recipients can immediately sweep the cash into their own checking account.