Is Zelle Scam or Legit? A Zelle Review

You may have seen the commercials for Zelle, the payment app. They aren’t very specific about what Zelle does, or how it does it. Questions that may pop into your mind are things like, how does Zelle work? Is Zelle legit, or a scam? Why would I bother to use Zelle? Is Zelle safe? You might even have Zelle through your bank without even asking for it. Time to check out some Zelle reviews.

If you already use a payment app, your questions are probably more like, is Zelle better than Venmo, or is Square Cash better than Zelle? It’s time for our Zelle review. Soon we’ll have a look at Zelle vs Venmo.

Zelle Reviews

Zelle is actually two products from the same company. One version of Zelle is the behind-the-scenes payment system backed by, and used by, several American banks inside of their own banking apps. This is the part that the commercials claim is “already on your phone,” or “already in your banking app.” Since Zelle works directly with various banks, they play nicer with Zelle than with others including transferring money with no fees and allowing “instant” transfers and withdrawals.

Check out my Acorns app review for automatic investing.

The second piece of Zelle is a stand-alone money transfer app that is not inside of your banking app. The idea for both products is roughly the same. Your Zelle account gets linked to a bank account and that bank account can send and receive money via the Zelle app. If you already have a banking app on your phone and it already uses Zelle, you don’t really gain anything by getting the standalone Zelle app. However, if you have multiple banks, or if your bank or credit union doesn’t use Zelle, then the standalone app lets you play ball. Venmo works the same in a lot of ways.

How Does Zelle Work?

Zelle works by acting as a middleman between you and whoever you are paying’s banks. Traditionally, you can’t transfer money directly from your checking account to a friend’s checking account, even if you both have accounts at the same bank. With Zelle, the transfer works as withdrawal from your account to Zelle (which you authorized by setting up and using Zelle), and then a deposit from Zelle to the payee account (which they authorized by setting up and using Zelle). This brings us to the Zelle catch number one, and we need to check, is Zelle trustworthy.

zelle send money

Zelle What’s the Catch?

In order to use Zelle you, and whoever is getting the money, both must be set up and using Zelle. I can’t use Zelle to send money to my mom because she uses a credit union from work that isn’t a Zelle partner, and she certainly doesn’t have Zelle on her phone. None of the big Colorado credit unions like Bellco Credit Union, Public Service Credit Union, or Elevations Credit Union directly support Zelle. If you try and use Zelle to send money to someone who doesn’t have Zelle, they actually get an email with a link to set up. If they don’t sign up for Zelle within a certain amount of time then, the transfer is cancelled, and you get your money back.

The way around not having the right bank is to link a debit card from a non-Zelle supporting bank or credit union to the standalone Zelle app. My mom isn’t going to do this, of course, but if you have friends with Zelle and you want to play ball without opening a new bank account, this is how you do it. This brings us to the second catch.

In order to use your debit card with Zelle, it has to be “fast funds enabled.” There is no tangible way to see if your card qualifies other than trying to set it up and seeing if you get an error.

The third catch to Zelle is that even if both of us have it set up, one of us still must have a bank or credit union that supports Zelle, so we can’t both be using the debit card trick, or it won’t work. The reason is that Zelle doesn’t actually take your money and hold it, like Venmo does. Instead, it stays with one of the banks during the transfer. For that to work, one of the banks has to hold the money.

The good news is that there are no fees for using Zelle, so at least that isn’t a catch, and we know that Zelle is not a scam unless it is also scamming 30+ banks.

This Digit app review could give you a way to automatically save money.

How To Use Zelle?

How do you use Zelle? Whether it is via the standalone app or the built-in Zelle banking app, you send money via an email address or phone number. It has to be the email address or phone number associated with the person’s Zelle profile, so it can’t just be any of the person’s email addresses or phone numbers. For example, if you know a person’s work email, but that account is not associated with their Zelle profile, then you can’t use it to send them money. Using the phone number is probably the most straightforward. And, for actual friends, you likely already have that information in your phone anyway.

zelle pay someone people

Let’s start our Zell money transfer review from there.

In the commercial where the guy uses Zelle to buy food from random fundraising stands, I wonder what email or phone number they are using? Is the coach giving out his email or phone number to strangers so that they can pay him? In reality, for now, Zelle is probably best for transferring money to and from people you actually know. Remember, Zelle is a transfer of money, it is not a purchase like with a credit card. There are no disputes or charge backs with Zelle.

If you don’t know the person or aren’t sure you will get what you paid for (for example, items bought from an on-line bidding or sales site), we recommend you do not use Zelle for these types of transactions. – From the website.

That being said, assuming you and whoever you are sending money to are both enrolled and set up in Zelle, the transfer process is actually pretty easy. Basically, the app uses your contacts list to give you a list of people to send money to. Again, since sending by phone number is an option, this is a nice touch. Then, you input how much money to send, and it gets transferred.

Theoretically, the transfer happens in “minutes.” This all seems to work, so long as you are already set up on both ends. Most of the problems with Zelle come from getting it set up. Once you (and whoever you are transferring money to) are past that hurdle, it starts to fulfill its promise of being easy and simple.

Chase QuickPay is moving to Zelle starting in May 2021. Several other banks and credit unions are moving to Zelle as well, including US Bank, Wells Fargo, Bellco Credit Union, and others.

Trouble With Zelle

Next, we should look at the Zell app review. The Zelle reviews in the App Store are dreadful. Many complain about the support, and some even go so far as to allege a big Zelle scam. In other words, this isn’t always as easy as it seems.

The biggest issue is getting setup. The company makes it sound like anyone can use it with just a few clicks, when in fact, there are many limitations both technical and otherwise. Remember, even if you have an existing banking app with a supported Zelle partner company, you still have to set up a Zelle profile. It isn’t integrated. Like most things, this works best if you decide to do it ahead of time, when you aren’t rushed. Trying to set it up in order to pay someone now is a recipe for disappointment.

Want to see a free credit score? Check out my Credit Karma reviews.

For security purposes, you cannot use Zelle over Wi-Fi. That’s all fine and good, but that means you need to have a good, solid data connection to use it. And, if your phone number was linked to another account, including a ClearXchange account, you need to call the company to disconnect it. Also, changing where the money goes when someone sends it to you requires a phone call as well.

Also, if you are not already set up on Zelle when someone sends you the money, it can take several days before the money is available to you, especially if you have to set it up through a debit card instead of a participating bank.

Zelle Security

Is Zelle safe?

Well, that depends on how you feel about the security of your phone. Like Apple Pay, or any other banking or payment app, hacking into your phone from the outside probably isn’t a huge concern. But, if someone gets a hold of your phone and can log in, then they are in business. It takes a password to use Zelle, but that is only as safe as your password. An angry spouse or significant other might be able to use your “usual” passwords to rob you blind, for example.

The security within Zelle is as good as any other banking app. The weakness is if someone can get into it, they have access to your whole bank account up to the maximum amount Zelle allows you to send. Using Zelle with strangers can be particularly dicey.

Zelle Warnings

Banks and credit unions have started getting more serious about warning their customers against using Zelle with people they don’t know. Like wiring money to a stranger, or sending a money order to a stranger, there is no way to get your money back, or even knowing who got your money in the first place. Remember, Zelle is for sending friends, or other known people money, not for paying strangers.

Is Zelle Scam or Legit? A Zelle Review 1

Zelle Rating- 3 Stars

As is so often the case with banking and payment apps like this, the answer to whether or not Zelle is worth it depends on why and how you plan to use it. After this Zelle app reviews, I say it works a lot better as part of a banking app if you bank with one of the banking partners, than as a standalone app.

For me, I don’t often have the need to pay people money like this. Maybe it’s a function of being in my mid-forties, or a function of socioeconomic status. If I owe someone money, it is usually because they bought something for me because we are doing it together, i.e. tickets to Denver Comic-Con, for example. That also means that I’ll see them, like at Comic-Con, and I can grab a $100 out of the ATM and just hand them some cash. If we are splitting something like dinner, most of my friends and I work on the “I’ll get the next one” system.

I suppose for college students, or those with a tighter budget, waiting a few days, or even weeks to get the $50 someone owes you isn’t an option, and I guess that this is one of many ways to be able to pay someone quicker.

And, maybe, I’m just too old. I don’t mind carrying a wallet with some credit cards and a couple of $20 bills in it. That covers me in 99.99% of all my spending cases. But maybe your average 20-something doesn’t roll like that.

Once it is setup, it works just fine, so that might be a 4-star app. However, so many people have so many issues with setup that I can’t rate it that high. For people like me, this app is a waste of space, and yet one more way for someone to hack into my money should I lose my phone, so that makes it a 2-star app for me. However, it isn’t fair to downgrade an app just because I don’t happen to find it useful. I mean, it does what it says, so if you think that would be useful, then who am I to tell you not to use it? If you think this will come in handy, and the people that you are likely to pay have it too, then it is probably worth it. If you are looking to do a one-time thing, then I’d just stick with heading to an ATM to get some cash.

So, in the end, I give Zelle 3 stars for this review.

54 thoughts on “Is Zelle Scam or Legit? A Zelle Review”

  1. It is a scam. Your recipient will get the funds you sent, but for your first transaction, they say it will take between 1-3 days for that to happen; however, it has been reported that the wait is actually 5 days or more at times. During that wait time, Zelle is free to use your money in their personal investments, for free. And that’s what it is about. Once everyone has used Zelle, they will get rid of it.

  2. Zelle is a scam service that attracts and promotes criminal activities like fraud, prostitution, and theft. They will protect the criminals. I would avoid this company at all costs.

  3. Perhaps the stand alone app is not worth it, but the feature integrated with my bank of America app works great. One day BOA switched from their other money transfer system and started using Zelle. I have been using it for many years now, it works fine and never got any associated spam. The only thing I would recommend is that whenever you set up a new account to pay to, that you first send a test payment of $1 to be sure the right person is getting your money.

  4. Against my better judgment, I downloaded the Zelle app and within 24 hours I received a phone call from someone asking my name. I did not respond. Another 24 hours later I received an email from someone stating that they had my user name, password to my accounts, contacts, etc. They wanted $ or else they would send a nasty video of me to all my contacts. This app is just a gateway for scammers.

  5. Zelle service is lame and it is not ready for prime time. I have a friend sent me $600 and it has been 2 days now and I still haven’t received a notice of payment. CAll Zelle and the “recording” directed me to call Bank of America because I bank with them. They couldn’t help me. The customer support even confirmed that it takes upto 5 days for the money to appear. Even she used it to pay her baby sitter and it took a week for the money to get to to sitter. But of course, the bank took the money right out of her account immediately. Don’t use Zelle, I rather go back to Paypal.

  6. i am very frustrated with ZELLE. Trying to open this program and see if I am receiving credits sucks. It keeps sending me to my login for my bank which i never use, and i do not know where to go.
    Why people use this app with no assistance, is beyond me.

  7. Dangerous- don’t let association with bank trick you. We lost our money with no recourse. Zelle refers you to your bank, the bank says nothing they can do. Paypal always protected me in the past. This was a bad idea we tried due to bank connection. My bank should move on from Zelle.

  8. Stop the lies! My bank listed Zelle next to the wire transfer feature on my online account. I sent funds to Europe to a merchant’s account located in the UK! I did not know this Zelle is a US-based massive scam operation! It took my funds, no error message, nothing!
    Zelle is not supposed to work outside the US. So, where are my funds? My bank released it to Zelle, and refused to reverse the transaction!
    I call that massive Fraud: legalized stealing!

  9. We have never registered with our bank to use Zelle, nor have we downloaded the app. However, someone used Zelle to steal $400 from our credit union account. Fortunately, we got a call and we’ll get the money back, but if Zelle requires that both parties have the app and the bank account is set for “fast funds,” how did someone access our account without our being Zelle users? Now, our other bank has sent us an email suggesting we might want to get the Zelle app. I plan to put an alert on all of our accounts that NO transaction initiated by Zelle is to be honored.

    • Omg that just happened to me only 500.00. I cannot get a hold of a real person to talk to, I have emailed 4x. No response. My bank disputed with them no response. I am so mad right now they are getting away with this. I can’t get my money back..

  10. I just got an email from my bank that says my debit card has just been added on Zelle, which I did not do. So it seems as if someone is signing up with Zelle through their mobile app and using my debit card information to set it up. They seem to have my card number and my name. I cancelled the card and no money was transferred, but if my bank would not have emailed me to tell me it was added I’m not sure what could have happened.

    • Zelle transferred money from my PNC checking\debit account to theives. I have never used zelle. Never used phone for banking. PNC did not notify me of anything about this. Eight transactions at $100 each April 18, 19, and 20, 2019, before I discovered by looking at my account. Called zelle; was told nothing they can do. Called PNC; was told it was my fault for giving someone my ID and password; I never did that. PNC is investigating whether or not they will reimburse me.

      • I had the same thing happen except Zelle transferred 419.00 from my account to a contractor I had made a one time payment to months before. Neither the contractor’s bank nor ours has the money anymore even though all parties involved agree the money belongs to us. Zelle is doing nothing and saying the banks are responsible. The banks attempted to return the money but the transaction continues to fail nearly 60 days later. As we approach Christmas this money that was saved for gifts is simply lost. No one at either banking institution seems to care (Chase and Bank of America) and we filed a formal complaint with the CFPB but there’s no guarantee we’ll ever see that 419.00 again. I can’t say enough about staying away from this disgraceful company.

  11. Never used. Never signed up. Someone got my info and scammed me for $800.

    Biggest scam! I called Zelle and they said they didnt have any of my info. Horrible

  12. I hate Zelle. Even my banker couldn’t get the latest transaction to work. And she’s the one who told me about Zelle. Customer service is a joke and customer service people at both banks knew very little about it. It may not be a scam but it is a royal pain. One star.

  13. Terrible rude horrendous customer support from Zelle! My money did not transfer and got lost in the process. I called Zelle five times. Their system is programmed to frustrate anybody who needs to speak to a customer representative, my problem was nothing related to any of their press this for that/press that for this and once I pressed anything the system just disconnected me. After the gargantuan effort of getting a live person, the issue was resolved but my bank was more helpful, the Zelle rep did not help me understand anything except how they could not help me with this and they were not able to help me with that. I was on and off the phone all day bouncing between my bank and Zelle. Classic customer service nightmare .

    • My tenant sent me $1500 using Zelle. After 2 days and 4 hours on the phone there was no way to get the money to my account. They offered to give me a ticket number and they would submit a request to thier IT people. I told my tenant to use paypal, a proven secure method. Zelle was totally useless with zero support to resolve issues.

  14. Zelle is the preferred app for internet scammers. The service offers not protection for consumers, and eventually, everyone that uses it will be ripped off. I know multiple people that have had money stolen through this app. Don’t do it. Just say ” I’ll see you in hell Zelle!”

    • I agree totally that this is one of the easiest places for internet scammers. there is absolutely no protection if someone takes your money. Horrible. I can see why people say they think Zelle is just a front for scammers.

  15. My neighbor paid her housekeeper with a check. The housekeeper’s daughter’s boyfriend got ahold of the check and using easily available software printed several bogus checks. Using Zelle to pay individuals is much safer than checks. Paying with cash does not give an audit trail in case of dispute.

    • not true. You are protected from fraud via the bank. There is no such protection using Zelle. A holding company like PayPal and Venmo is safer than this.

      • Not true. I was ripped off and never even heard of Zelle. My bank refuses to credit my account. I’ve contacted Morgan & Morgan to start a class action lawsuit being so many ripped off due to a commonality.

        • If I don’t get my money back I would love to join your lawsuit. I am missing 419.00 they authorized more than two months after I made a one time payment to the contractor who received the pay. He filed a request to return the money but it’s lost in Zelle between the two banks. In 2020…in a pandemic

  16. zelle is bs if the person sender does not use the same bank as you its takes forever for the funds to transfer…checks are faster…

  17. Fraud, avoid zelle like the plague. All those commercials of security are a joke. Backed by the banks? Guess what? My chase account is frozen with $3500 in limbo…. So pissed off…

    • CHASE BANK RECOMMENDED ZELLE WE have used it to send and receive funds it has helped my daughter and my nieces so much never have had any problems since I use it to help with college funding gifts it’s fast never had any problems and CHASE employees are always willing to help I get confirmations etc I’m informed by CHASE they can and will refund money if I disagree with any way funds are transferred. All I have to do is dispute the transactions just like I would do if the payments were made using my credit card or my checking account. CHASE is and will be there to help you IV banked here for over 30 years and I always get friendly courteous assistance from all CHASE employees. I trust CHASE and I throughly trust the ZELLE payment system

      • Your crazy to trust Zelle or your bank if they use Zelle. Get out from under a rock before you get ripped off and the bank sends you to Zelle and then Zelle says contact your bank. I know, im in that dilemma now and the bank refuses to credit my account. I never even signed up for Zelle and never heard of them until I was frauded.

  18. I had never heard of Zelle but I reached out to a friend today to help me out monetarily. He said he uses Zelle to make transfers. I downloaded the app and since I belong to a credit union had to use my telephone number and credit union debit card to set up my account. I belong to a credit union of a large University on the East Coast. My friend belongs to a large bank. Once I set up my Zelle account, the transfer went through to my Credit Union within 30 seconds. It was perfect. I am a completely happy camper and can only recommend it.

  19. I used zelle once and will not be using it again. I was given the wrong email address to send money of which belonged to someone else who accepted it. Now I’m out that money after going through zelle’s “customer service” to find out that it’s not possible to reverse a payment.

  20. The stand-alone app crashes, is not intuitive and is as worthless a piece of crap as I have ever used. I do not trust it and I do not like it. It has way too many permissions and customer service apologized over and over about how the app continuously stalled. Want to read the truth about this app? Google it and read user reviews. Nobody should be allowed to put such an unwieldy app on the market dealing with money. I now use square cash and it’s a breeze. Intuitive and secure. Works with any, and I said “any” bank. Ignore this shill.

  21. I just got a message on my phone that a “WILLIAM” sent me $500 and to go register at this Zelle site. I replied “STOP” as I do not know a William.


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