Zelle: A Beginner's Guide to Digital Payments, here's how to use it
Zelle: A Beginner’s Guide to Digital Payments, here’s how to use it

If you’ve been looking for an easier way to send money to friends and family – for example, giving back for a friend’s coffee or giving a loved one some cash – then Zelle might be worth considering.

Cell is a peer-to-peer (P2P) payment service, similar to other apps like Venmo and Cash App. Unlike many other apps, Cell will most likely come with your bank account without the need to download a third-party app.

Additionally, zelle payments can be made much faster than payments sent through other P2P applications, appearing in the recipient’s bank account almost instantly, at no additional cost. In most cases, once a payment has been sent, it cannot be cancelled.

Here’s what you should know about Cell and how to use it to send payments.

what is a cell

Cell is a P2P payment service that allows users to send money to each other digitally. More than 1,000 banks and credit unions work with Zelle, and for those that do, the service is automatically included in the institution’s app.

Cells work by connecting to a U.S. checking or savings account and transferring funds to another U.S. bank account. The payer and payee do not need to have accounts at the same financial institution, but both must be registered with Zelle. Users send money through their banking app or mobile app, and the money is automatically deposited into the recipient’s bank account linked to their mobile account.

Mobile payment transfers are usually completed within minutes and there are no fees. Please note thatzelle does not apply to business debit cards, credit cards, international accounts and gift cards.

Some banks may allow businesses to set up business cell phone accounts that can be used for merchant transactions. However, banks may charge businesses a small fee for using the phone, and consumers must sign up for the service in order to pay.

Who owns the cells?

Zelle is owned by Early Warning Services, a fintech company developing payment and risk management solutions.


Fintech, in turn, is owned by the seven largest U.S. banks:

  • Bank of America
  • JPMorgan Chase
  • Capital One
  • PNC Bank
  • U.S. Bank
  • Truist
  • Wells Fargo

Which banks use mobile phones?

However, banks with mobile phones aren’t the only ones using it. More than 1,000 banks and credit unions work with Zelle to provide payment services to their customers. If your bank is one of them, the cell is already included in the bank’s app.

Some of the popular banks that use cell phones are:

  • Citizens Bank
  • Ally Bank
  • Fifth Third Bank
  • Discover Bank
  • TIAA Bank

Some popular credit unions with Zelle are:

  • Quorum Federal Credit Union
  • Bethpage Federal Credit Union
  • SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union
  • VyStar Credit Union
  • Star One Credit Union

Find out if your financial institution uses cells by searching their online database. Even if your institution is not on the list, you can still use your phone by downloading a separate phone app and linking it to your bank account.

Are cells safe?

Cell is considered a safe option for sending and receiving funds. You don’t have to worry about lost or stolen money in the mail and eliminate the risks associated with sending cash or checks.

Like other P2P payment services, unit transfers are protected by data encryption. When using the service through a banking app, it also adds protections for multi-factor authentication and suspicious activity alerts that banking apps can provide.

There is always a small risk in providing your personal information to fintech applications. Cell acknowledges that it collects and shares personal information with third parties for research and analysis purposes. Consumer Action, a nonprofit advocating for consumer rights, suggests some additional steps you can take to reduce the risk of this information falling into the wrong hands:

  • Sign up for bank or mobile security alerts.
  • Monitor your account for suspicious activity.
  • Only send money to people you know and trust.

Scammers sometimes pretend to be banks to call consumers and then use the consumer’s banking information to make mobile transfers from accounts. It is unlikely that a real financial institution will call you and ask for your personal information. Only provide personal information after you have verified that the financial institution is legitimate by calling the official number on its website or on the back of your debit card.

How to use cells

Cell is primarily app-based, so you’ll need a smartphone to get started. If offered through your bank, zelle may be available through your bank’s online portal.

Follow the steps below to send money via mobile.


1. Check if your bank or credit union offers cell phones

There are several ways to find out if your financial institution offers a cell phone. If you downloaded a bank or credit union mobile app, there should be a designated cell tab in the app for those that come with the payment service. Cells may also be located in the transfer section of a banking application.

Another way to find out if your financial institution offers zelle is to search zelle’s online partner database. You can also contact the financial institution directly and ask if they provide a cell phone.

How to get cells

Although the cell is available as a standalone application, users may not be able to use the standalone application if the cell is provided through their financial institution.

If the financial institution does not automatically include the cell in its own app, you can use the standalone cell app by downloading it from the Apple or Google Play Store.

2. Register your email address or phone number

If you are using Zell for the first time through a banking app or mobile standalone app, you will need to register an email address or phone number (or both). This allows other users to verify who they are sending money to.

If you previously signed up for Zelle with another bank or credit union, you must delete your email address or phone number from that account before you can use it to re-register with the new institution.

Standalone app users who don’t have access to Zelle through their financial institution must also enter debit card information for the card they want to use for payment. It must be a US issued debit card, not a business card.

3. Select who you want to send money to and how much to send

Once registered, you can choose to send money or request payment to other mobile phone users. After selecting Send or Request, add the recipient’s contact information to create a new contact for them, including first name, last name, and email or phone number.


It is necessary to obtain the recipient’s email address or phone number, as every cell phone user must register with one of these two to verify their identity. This helps ensure your money is sent to the right person.

Be sure to check the recipient’s information, because if you send the money to the wrong person, you may not be able to cancel the payment. Payments can only be cancelled if the recipient has not registered, i.e. the payment has not been debited from your account.

After verifying and selecting a contact, enter the payment or requested dollar amount.

4. Remittance

The app will ask you to verify transaction details before sending money or making a request. Verify the transaction amount, the recipient’s contact information, and the account from which your funds will be withdrawn.

There is also an optional memo or “reason” text field that allows the user to enter a reason for payment before submitting.

If all information is correct, click Submit. Money sent over a mobile phone usually arrives in the recipient’s account within minutes. However, if the recipient hasn’t registered on the phone, it may take a few days. The recipient must be logged in to receive the payment.

Bottom line

Cell is a great option for sending money to other people’s bank accounts, even if they have accounts with other financial institutions. It’s offered by many banks and credit unions, and it’s free.

As an alternative to mailing cash or checks, the phone is faster, protected by online encryption, and can be done with just a few taps of your phone.

Always make sure you know who you’re sending money to by checking the recipient’s contact information and monitoring your account activity for unauthorized cell phone payments. You don’t have to worry about personal information being leaked if you take some simple precautions.

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Jake Smith

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Jake Smith

He is the editor of Eragoncred. Previously, he was editor-in-chief of Eragoncred and a financial industry reporter. Jake has spent most of his career as a Digital Media journalist and has over 10 years of experience as a writer and editor.