Zelle may not have its own clothing line or suggest emojis when you pay your friend, but the peer-to-peer payment service is moving serious money, and that seems to be raising eyebrows these days.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been taking aim at Zelle — and the big banks behind it — for not doing enough to protect consumers from fraud on the platform. She chewed out banking executives at a September congressional hearing and more specifically lit into Wells Fargo & Co.
on Thursday by saying that the company has higher rates of Zelle fraud than other banks.
(Zelle said in a release that the “recent statements regarding Wells Fargo’s fraud and scam rates are inaccurate” and that more than 99.9% of payments made on the broader Zelle network are sent without being reported for fraud or scams.)
All this attention apparently has some consumers taking a closer look at Zelle as well, with one Twitter user highlighting that Zelle processed $490 billion in volume last year, compared with $230 billion for PayPal Holdings Inc.’s
Venmo and $15 billion for Block Inc.’s
Unlike Venmo and the Cash App, Zelle isn’t a pop-culture phenomenon. Perhaps that’s why one Twitter user seemed surprised by the platform’s relative scale.
“I don’t know anyone who uses Zelle..but it’s handling 2x Venmo and Cash App combined,” read a Thursday Twitter post that’s been liked more than 5,200 times. “Wild.”
Zelle’s strong volumes shouldn’t come as too big a shock, however, given that the service has a key advantage. It’s run by Early Warning Services LLC, which is owned by the big banks. Those banks are among more than 1,700 financial institutions that allow their customers to easily use the service through their own platforms.
“People are a lot more likely to use that just because they don’t have to download a whole new app,” said Bill Hardekopf, the chief industry analyst at Moneycrashers.com. “That might deter some people from using a PayPal or Venmo.”
Peer-to-peer platforms depend on network effects, and Zelle’s place within banking apps gives it an edge. The person you want to pay may not have the Cash App, but they probably bank with one of Zelle’s partner institutions.
Matt Schulz, the chief credit analyst at LendingTree, noted that bank representatives actively mentioned Zelle to him during recent branch visits. “This is certainly something a lot of people are using and that’s being pushed by the financial institutions, but ultimately there’s still a lot of risk involved with using these things,” he said.
Twitter users offered various other reasons for Zelle’s impressive volume numbers, with some seeing Zelle as the service of choice for larger transfers like rent payments or home-improvement deposits, while users might be prone to use Venmo more for splitting a dinner check. Bigger transaction amounts skew volume numbers regardless of how many people are using a given platform — and how often.
The original poster took the feedback in stride. “Way more people use Zelle over Venmo/Cash than I ever realized…and also people seem to care a lot about using Zelle,” he wrote.
The built-in nature of Zelle’s service might also help it appeal to older users especially concerned about the security of their financial information online. While Venmo and the Cash App are popular with many younger users, Zelle is thought to appeal to the older crowd a bit more successfully.
“Zelle being built into the banking system in a lot of banking systems gives it a leg up in terms of perceived security,” Hardekopf said.