There are countless peer-to-peer mobile payment processing services nowadays, but few are as “instant” as they appear. Even though your Venmo app might say you’ve sent a friend the $15 you owe for that shared cab ride, it will take a day or two for the friend to withdraw and process the cash out to their bank account.
Zelle, a new payment processing network backed by more than 30 US banks, aims to make that process instantaneous. After six years in development, major banks are beginning to roll out the first stage of Zelle to let customers send and receive payments for free — regardless of bank affiliation — and allow instant withdrawals. Based on the Zelle website, it seems the intent is to process casual transactions, much like what Venmo and Square Cash are generally used for.
Backed by banks like Chase, Citibank, Bank of America, TD Bank, and Wells Fargo, Zelle doesn’t yet have a standalone app though it is forthcoming within the year, according to The New York Times. For now, Zelle acts as the backend network powering these individual partners to allow cash transfers between banks. You can continue using your bank’s app or online banking site to pay and receive funds, so the app component doesn’t seem necessary unless you prefer the social network-esque aspect of Venmo. According to the company, peers can send and receive money using just an email address or phone number. That also puts it in direct competition with Apple’s newly announced iMessage peer-to-peer payments for iOS 11.
Zelle is rolling out now to customers with a US-based bank account (different banks will begin to offer it at different times throughout June.) The full list of partners can be found here.