Cash Faces a New Challenger in Zelle, a Mobile Banking Service


The days of cash as king may be a step closer to ending.

After six years of laying a foundation, major banks are ready to introduce Zelle, a digital payments network that will allow people to send money instantly through participating banks’ mobile apps.

But Zelle faces competition. Since the banks began experimenting with peer-to-peer mobile payments, several upstarts like Venmo entered the field, building a loyal following.

What makes Zelle (pronounced “zell,” as in “gazelle,” the nimble creature that inspired the service’s name) stand out from rivals — most prominently, Venmo, the currency of choice for many millennials — are the big banks backing it. More than 30 of them, including Bank of America, Citibank, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo, have teamed up to create the new network and throw their combined weight and marketing power behind it.

“Nearly all banked Americans will be able to access this,” said Michael Moeser, the director of payments at Javelin Strategy, a financial industry research firm. “That’s a huge breakthrough.”