Which to use and when – Forbes Advisor

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These days cash apps allow you to move money as fast as you can spend it. Two of the most popular apps are Zelle and Venmo. But although they are both members of the cash app family, they are more like cousins ​​than twins. Each app works differently and each may work better for you than the other.

In the Zelle-vs.-Venmo competition, one application is not the clear winner. The winner of this competition depends on what you are looking for in a mobile payment app.

How does Zelle work?

Zelle (rhymes with sell) is a peer-to-peer or person-to-person app that allows you to quickly send money from your bank account to anyone you choose. Typically, Zelle functionality is integrated into an application from a bank or credit union. More than 1,000 banks and credit unions in the United States offer Zelle in their apps.

In 2020, Zelle users sent $307 billion through 1.2 billion transactions. Zelle’s technology comes from Early Warning Services LLC, owned by seven major US banks: Bank of America, BB&T (now Truist), Capital One, JPMorgan Chase, PNC Bank, US Bank and Wells Fargo.

You must have a US checking or savings account to use Zelle. Zelle does not charge a fee to use its service.

Once registered with Zelle, all you need is an email address or US mobile phone number to send money directly from a banking app to friends and family. Zelle says her app “can be used to send money to almost anyone you know and trust with a US bank account”

You can also register with Zelle through its app if it is not available through your financial institution. You will need to download the app from the App Store or Google Play, then enter your mobile phone number and the number of a Visa or Mastercard debit card.

Whichever route you take, you’ll enter the amount you want to send into the app. If the recipient has already registered with Zelle, the money will appear in their bank account within minutes. If they haven’t signed up for Zelle yet, they’ll be told how to get the money. It may take one to three business days for someone to receive the money after signing up for Zelle.

In addition to sending and receiving money through Zelle, you can accept payments through the app. This could be money owed to you by government agencies, schools or businesses.

What are the benefits of Zelle?

Zelle offers several advantages over Venmo. Among them are:

  • No charges
  • Availability at over 1,000 banks and credit unions in the United States
  • Fast money transfers; typically, money sent via Zelle is available to the recipient within minutes
  • Ability to earn interest on money held in checking or savings accounts linked to Zelle

What are the disadvantages of Zelle?

As with any app, Zelle has its downsides. They understand:

  • Inability to void a payment after it has been sent if the recipient is registered with Zelle
  • No availability of a Zelle branded debit or credit card
  • Zelle account cannot be linked to a credit card
  • No ability to maintain a cash balance with Zelle

When to use Zelle

If you need to send or receive money quickly, Zelle might be your cash app of choice. Beyond that, however, the Zelle app isn’t a full-featured utility player in the same way the Venmo app is.

How does Venmo work?

Some people might think that Venmo is just a clone of Zelle. It’s not. Yes, Venmo lets you send and receive money, just like Zelle does, to pay your best friend for your share of a joint gift you’ve given or to cover your half of the monthly rent, for example .

But Venmo is more flexible than Zelle. For example, a Venmo user can:

  • Use Venmo’s Mastercard Debit Card to Make Purchases in the US
  • Buy from Venmo partners through mobile apps and websites
  • Make a purchase in-store with Venmo using a QR code
  • Deposit your paycheck directly into your Venmo account and access money up to two days before your regular payday

You must meet three basic requirements to get a Venmo account:

  1. Be at least 18 years old (in most cases)
  2. Be located in the United States
  3. Have a US cell phone capable of sending and receiving text messages using short codes; US short codes are five or six digit numbers used to send and receive text messages

The Venmo app is available on the App Store and Google Play. Owned by PayPal, Venmo had over 80 million users as of November 2021.

Unlike Zelle, Venmo charges for some services. Its basic offers are free, with no monthly or annual fees. These include sending money from a linked bank account, linked debit card, or Venmo account, and making a regular transfer to your linked bank account.

But premium features come at a price. Want to use your credit card to send money to someone? You will pay a 3% fee. Want to instantly transfer money from your Venmo account to a linked bank account or debit card? You will be charged a 1.5% fee (minimum 25 cents, maximum $15).

What are the benefits of Venmo?

  • No monthly or annual fees
  • Ability to use the Venmo app for online or in-store purchases
  • Availability of Venmo-branded debit and credit cards
  • Ability to maintain a cash balance in the Venmo account
  • The app’s social media-like features may appeal to some users

What are the disadvantages of Venmo?

  • Fees for certain services
  • Privacy may be compromised unless you adjust privacy settings
  • Money is not instantly available unless you pay a fee
  • No opportunity to earn interest on money deposited with Venmo
  • Transaction limits, such as a weekly maximum of $4,999.99 for person-to-person payments (Zelle also has transaction limits, but they’re set by your bank or credit union, not Zelle.)

When to use Venmo

If you’re looking for more flexibility, then Venmo might be a better choice than Zelle. This is because Venmo’s offerings are more expansive, such as the ability to shop in-store and online. It’s an especially attractive app if a lot of your friends and family are already using it.

But while the Zelle app doesn’t charge any fees, the Venmo app adds fees for several features. Also, you may not get access to money as quickly as with the Zelle app.

Are Zelle and Venmo safe to use?

Generally speaking, Zelle and Venmo are safe to use. Both integrate security features into their apps, such as data encryption, purchase verification, multi-factor authentication, and fraud protection. Additionally, Zelle and Venmo insist that you should only send money to trusted recipients, not strangers, to avoid being scammed.

Despite these safeguards, Zelle and Venmo users are susceptible to scammers.

In October 2021, the Federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) are warning payment technology providers that their business practices are coming under greater scrutiny, in part to protect consumers from payment fraud.

“Scammers use mobile payment services to trick people into sending money or goods without delaying their end of the bargain. For example, a scammer may sell you concert or sports tickets but never give them to you actually,” warns the CFPB. “Or a scammer may buy an item from you, appear to send a payment, and then reverse it before it reaches your bank account.”

Among other steps, the bureau suggests setting up password, PIN, or fingerprint capabilities on an app like Zelle or Venmo to add an extra layer of protection.


Neither Zelle nor Venmo are a bad option for digital payments. Both work well as cash apps. The choice between Zelle and Venmo comes down to what you want a cash app to do for you – with Venmo being more robust than Zelle – and whether you’d rather pay no fees (Zelle) or are comfortable to pay fees for premium offers (Venmo).

Majorie T. Leonard