Payment Methods

Zelle First Look

Last week, the world got its first public look at Zelle — and an announcement from Zelle’s operator, Early Warning, has 19 US financial institutions signed on and ready to roll in 2017.

Those 19 financial institutions signed at this point represent approximately 76 million mobile banking users in all.

Zelle will exist as both a standalone mobile app and as a baked-in feature in its partner banks’ mobile banking applications and sites. Zelle’s calling card is that it’s bank friendly and leverages a familiar and trusted financial services relationship. When a customer logs into to Zelle, it looks exactly like the bank the customer is using.

That familiarity, Early Warning hopes, will allow it to gain momentum as Zelle builds its presence in the P2P payments scene – a part of the payments space that PayPal’s Venmo has cornered.

How Zelle Is Like Venmo

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before — Zelle, using only an email address or a phone number, makes it easy for consumers to send each other money. It also has other goodies like a “split the check” feature that makes communal paying easier.

There is a bit more to it than that, however. To receive payments, users must have a US checking or savings account and register at (if they weren’t already signed up to the app). They can also have a valid debit card on file.

But past that outline, Zelle has added a few other bells and whistles.  This is unlike the ClearXchange days of old that just relied on the ACH rails to move money to and from people. Like Venmo, Zelle is also leveraging the MasterCard Send and Visa Direct rails to enable money to be pushed instantly to a network-branded debit card. In addition to the real-time nature of the send and receive, this also gives Zelle the ubiquity that the ACH rails and signing up all 14k banks one at a time didn’t or wouldn’t for a long time.

Zelle also leverages Early Warning’s authentication technology, meaning consumers’ P2P payments are constantly monitored across 14 risk moments (per two second transaction) and about 1000 authentication points that include what device the consumer is using, how often the consumer sends money, who the consumer normally sends to, how much they normally send — and whether or not these patterns are not only consistent with each other, but also consistent with how most consumers use the product — just to name a few. That, Early Warning says, puts a lot more power into the hands of the bank to both enable and protect consumers – and themselves.

Beyond P2P

While most of the early press around Zelle has been focused on its future as a potential Venmo foil, Zelle is more excited for the expanded uses opened up by technology that makes two-party funds transfers easy and instant to anyone with online banking or an app.

Beyond P2P, Zelle can be used to enable corporate disbursements, including the billions of dollars a year in paper checks insurance companies are writing because they don’t have an easy way to push payments back to their customers that doesn’t involve using paper. Corporate reimbursements for travel are another cited potential use case that would enable the hopelessly paper-locked enterprise accounting departments to securely move the funds electronically to its employees.




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The Which Apps Do They Want Study analyzes survey data collected from 1,045 American consumers to learn how they use merchant apps to enhance in-store shopping experiences, and their interest in downloading more in the future. Our research covered consumers’ usage of in-app features like loyalty and rewards offerings and in-store navigation, helping to assess how merchants can design apps to distinguish themselves from competitors.

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