Bank-sponsored P2P transfer service Zelle recently followed up on promises of increasing momentum behind the service with the launch of a standalone app. Already available in the mobile apps of certain participating banks, Zelle’s new app brings the service to nearly every U.S. bank account holder with a linked debit card. At launch time, the service was boasting an average of 50,000 new registrations per day and 100,000,000 total transactions over a six-month period. Despite these promising statistics, poor reviews from users indicate that the app’s release may have been premature.
Zelle’s network, formerly called clearXchange, stands out from other P2P services by offering secure, direct transfers between bank accounts integrated into native bank mobile apps. Users’ funds are never stored in a separate wallet, but instead are transferred from one bank account to the other, instantly if the recipient has already registered their contact method. With a solid infrastructure built in partnership with banks, the P2P service should dominate the market, but an inconsistent and often problematic user experience continues to hold it back.
When it works as advertised, the new app offers some innovative features, like a built-in calculator on the send money screen. Yet, the rushed app leaves much to be desired. Not only does the app deliver an experience unlike interfaces integrated into partner banks’ mobile apps, the app’s 1.5- and two-star ratings on the App Store and Play Store, respectively, signal further problems.
Zelle App Send Money and Money Sent Screens
While some complaints focus on the lack of support for users’ financial institutions, most one-star reviews criticize an app struggling to function. The app greets every user with a generic landing page that offers a Get Started button—confusing language for returning users—with loading times that often cause the screen to time out. Though it supports fingerprint login, the app often resets and forgets this feature was enabled. Meanwhile, the ability to take a picture of a debit card to autofill during registration does not work, with no error message after a failure.
Beyond not functioning as promised, the new app also lacks functionality that could greatly improve the service. While many institutions allow concurrent use of Zelle in their mobile app and in the standalone app, some banks, such as Chase, don’t allow customers to use the standalone app at all. The app also lacks Zelle’s unique split function, offered by Bank of America and TD Bank, that allows users to customize requests from multiple contacts at once. Meanwhile, users with accounts at multiple institutions are underserved, as the app can only be linked to one account at a time, discounting a sizable population of users with accounts at multiple institutions.
In the five years since its sponsor banks first launched the service as the clearXchange network, Zelle lost significant ground and market share to Venmo and Square Cash. Despite increased marketing and attempts to expand the service to more banks in recent months, a lack of consistent focus and functionality continues to hold Zelle back.