Zelle vs. Venmo: What’s the Difference and Which Is Better?

Zelle vs. Venmo apps on smartphone display screens
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It’s common to split a bill with friends and family nowadays by sending them a mobile payment, and likewise, it’s not unusual to send mobile payments to others who might have bought you something you couldn’t buy yourself. Many of these payments are sent through Zelle and Venmo. Both are peer-to-peer payment apps that let you send money fast and for free by looking up your friend’s email address or mobile phone number, entering an amount and hitting send.

Zelle and Venmo make sending and receiving money easy but in different ways. Zelle works as a service to move money between linked bank accounts free of charge but doesn’t hold money in your Zelle account. Venmo holds funds in your account that you can access. You’re not limited to only using your bank account for transactions with Venmo, either — you can also use a debit card or, for a fee, use a credit card to send money.

Compare Zelle and Venmo to decide which app works best for you and your friends.

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How Zelle and Venmo Compare

Zelle and Venmo share the same concept: sending and receiving money electronically. But there are important differences.

What Is Zelle?

Zelle is a great tool if you and your network of family and friends have accounts with banks that participate in the app. With Zelle, you can transfer funds between bank accounts in minutes for free. The money transfers don’t sit in a holding account in Zelle but instead get withdrawn or deposited directly into your or your recipient’s bank accounts. Most banks participate in Zelle, but even if a bank doesn’t, you can still use Zelle to move smaller amounts of money.

What Is Venmo?

Venmo is more like a digital wallet that works similarly to PayPal. Your money collects in Venmo and you can move it to other accounts, spend it or reload your Venmo balance. Some of the transactions come with fees.

Features of Zelle and Venmo

If you’re still unsure about whether to use Zelle or Venmo, compare their features:

Feature Zelle Venmo
Payment/transfer methods Transfers between linked bank or credit union accounts Venmo funds, credit, debit and bank transfers
Mobile app Yes Yes
Availability U.S.-only transactions U.S.-only transactions
Fees for sending money using bank transfer or your account balance Free Free for standard transfers (1-3 business days); 1.5% for instant transfers
Credit card transaction fees N/A 3% fee
Debit card transaction fees N/A Free
Transaction limits Ask your bank about its limits; sending limit of $500 for accounts with banks that don’t participate in Zelle $299.99 weekly transaction limit for unverified users; $4,999.99 person-to-person sending limit for verified accounts
Bank account transfer times Takes only minutes Instant for a fee; otherwise within 1-3 business days free of charge
ATM withdrawal fees N/A Free MoneyPass network withdrawals; $2.50 charge for out-of-network withdrawals
Security Authentication and fraud monitoring Data encryption

How Secure Are Zelle and Venmo?

As you can see in the comparison chart, both Zelle and Venmo have built-in security features to make money transfers safe. Zelle’s team monitors transactions and uses authentication to ensure your banking information is protected. Venmo also monitors transactions to catch fraud and uses data encryption to protect your personal data. Both services are safe, although Venmo could be considered the more secure of the two because you can add a PIN and enable multifactor authentication in the app.

Is Zelle Faster Than Venmo?

Both peer-to-peer apps are fast, but Zelle is the fastest — and it’s free. Zelle transfers happen almost instantly. Venmo funds take one to three business days unless you pay a 1.5% transaction fee for an instant transfer, which is available in minutes.

Can Zelle Send Money to Venmo?

You will not be able to use Zelle to send money to a Venmo account. The two services work completely differently. Venmo funds are held as a Venmo balance in your account for you to spend or transfer, but Venmo is not considered a bank. Zelle is a peer-to-peer app designed to transfer funds between bank accounts. Since Venmo is not a bank account, you won’t be able to transfer funds to Venmo from Zelle.

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The only workaround to this limitation would be to send money to the bank account a Venmo user has linked to their Venmo account. Once the user receives your Zelle transfer into their bank account, they can then transfer the funds from their linked bank account straight into their Venmo balance.

Is There a Fee To Use Zelle?

There is no fee to send or receive money via Zelle. Check with your bank to make sure it doesn’t charge fees for using Zelle’s service.

Are Zelle Transactions Reversible?

The reason Zelle transfers are so fast is that both users have typically set up the service through their participating banks and are enrolled in Zelle. All you need is the other person’s email address or mobile phone number to send the funds, and you’re done. This is a big plus, but the ease of sending someone cash so quickly can also be an issue if you click on the wrong person. You won’t be able to reverse transactions between enrolled accounts. However, if the recipient has not enrolled with Zelle, you can cancel a transfer to them.

Zelle vs. Venmo: What’s the Difference and Which Is Better?

The main difference between Zelle and Venmo is where the funds are held. Zelle is limited because the service only moves money between bank accounts. In contrast, you can receive money into your Venmo account, which can then be withdrawn, transferred and even topped up if you need more.

Takeaway

If you’re looking for an alternative to the services your bank account offers, Venmo is the better of the two. You’ll be able to grow your Venmo fund account, link your credit and debit cards, withdraw funds from your Venmo account for free using MoneyPass ATMs nationwide and make bank transfers.

Information is accurate as of Sept. 29, 2021.

About the Author

Cynthia Paez Bowman is a personal finance writer with degrees from American University in international business and journalism. Besides writing about personal finance, she writes about real estate, interior design and architecture. Her work has been featured in MSN, Brex, Freshome, MyMove, Emirates’ Open Skies magazine and more.

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