Does Zelle Work Internationally?

Last Updated on July, 2024

Zelle stands tall as a domestic financial leader, effortlessly connecting major bank accounts within the United States.

But what if your financial needs stretch beyond borders? Can Zelle accompany you on this global expansion? 

NOT REALLY!

This comprehensive guide will reveal why Zelle’s services are strictly domestic and explore the best Zelle alternatives to help you receive or transfer money internationally across borders.

Quick Summary

Zelle is a popular domestic money transfer service in the United States but does not support international transfers due to regulatory restrictions and technical limitations.

Zelle has a below-average rating on Trustpilot, but higher ratings on the Play Store and App Store, and requires US bank accounts and mobile numbers for transactions to ensure safety and security.

Alternative options for international money transfers include digital transfer providers like Wise and OFX, as well as international banks like Western Union and Citibank.

Does Zelle Work Internationally? Quick Answer

The short answer is NO! Zelle primarily focuses on domestic P2P (peer-to-peer) transfers within the US ONLY. Due to its regulatory restrictions and technical limitations, Zelle is not qualified to handle international money transfers at this time.

We’ll look at why Zelle is not available internationally and the best alternative to consider in a bit. Before that, let’s look at what Zelle is and how it works.

What is Zelle? A Brief Overview

zelle logo

Zelle is a money transfer service app that allows users to receive or send money between bank accounts in the US almost instantly. Owned by Early Warning Services, Zelle is used by over 1800 financial institutions and is available in over 2000 banking apps.

Overall, Zelle users have mixed opinions about its service. On Trustpilot, users have a below-average rating of 1.1/5 out of 853 reviews. However, on the Play Store and App Store, the user ratings are significantly better, such as 4.0/5 from 137k reviews and 4.8/5 from 515.2k ratings, respectively.

How Does Zelle Work?

Getting started with Zelle is a simple and straightforward process:

  • Check Your Bank: The first step is to see if your bank uses Zelle. Check the Zelle website or app for the complete list of supported banks and credit unions.
  • Register: If your bank is supported, you can enroll through your banking app or website. If not, download the Zelle app for Android or IOS separately and sign up. When registering, enter your US mobile phone number and email address.
  • Add Recipients: Once enrolled, you can send money by entering the recipient’s email address, phone number, and a short memo. If the recipient isn’t a Zelle user, they will receive instructions to enroll to receive funds quickly. 

Pro Tip: Money sent through Zelle cannot be canceled or reversed once it is sent. So it’s best to send paymentsonly to people you trust. 

  • Receiving Money: To receive money if you’ve already signed up with Zelle, payments go to your account within minutes. If not, click the payment notification link from Zelle and select your US bank account. Then follow the instructions to sign up for Zelle or use your online banking app.
  • Requesting Money: To request money from Zelle, enter the email address and mobile number of the person you’re requesting money from, select an amount, and confirm the request. 

By following these steps, you can easily set up your Zelle account and use it to make secure and convenient transactions. 

Zelle Fees and Limit

a screenshot of the zelle website homepage

Zelle promises no hidden fees for sending and receiving money, and all payments are free and instant. 

FOR REAL?? YES. 

How is that possible? Unlike competitors, Zelle doesn’t aim to profit directly but rather retain users within the banking system. In addition, the other supported financial institutions and credit unions that use Zelle may pay Zelle costs. 

However, some banks and credit unions may incur additional charges for using Zelle. Always review your transaction before sending it to a recipient.

When it comes to transfer limits, the weekly send limit is $500, and the weekly receive limit is $5000 in the Zelle mobile app if your bank or credit union does not offer Zelle.

Suppose your bank or credit union offers Zelle. You can contact them directly to learn more about their sending and receiving limits or any applicable fees. Please note that limits cannot be changed and are in place for safety and security reasons.

Why isn’t Zelle Available Internationally?

Back to the burning question. As mentioned earlier, the main limitation of Zelle is that it does not currently support international money transfers beyond US borders. 

Here are some key reasons why:

  • US Bank Account and Mobile Number Requirement: Zelle can only be used if the sender and recipient have US-based mobile numbers and bank accounts. 
  • Domestic Focus and Partnerships: Zelle operates through partnerships with Central American banks rather than having direct access to foreign bank accounts, which limits their ability to handle cross-border transactions effectively.
  • Regulatory Limitations: Zells’s unavailability for international use is also influenced by the need to adhere to domestic financial regulations and complex global policies such as AML (Anti Money Laundering) checks.
  • Geographical Limitations: Zelle’s services are exclusive to the United States, and they are not available for use internationally or in US territories, including the US Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Northern Marina Islands, Guam, and American Samoa.

Hence, users needing to receive or send money abroad must rely on something other than Zelle, as it remains a convenient option only for US domestic money transfers.

In the following section, we will explore the alternative solutions to Zelle that meet your cross-border financial needs.

Zelle Alternatives for International Money Transfers

When it comes to sending money abroad, as you already know now, Zelle is out of the cards. Perhaps you’re seeking a solution with low-cost international transfers, faster transfer times, or better exchange rates. Whatever your reason, several alternatives to Zelle can suit your needs.

We’ll explore popular digital transfer providers and international banking institutions that offer competitive services.

Option 01 – Digital Transfer Provider

#01 Wise (Formerly Known as TransferWise)

wise logo in a laptop screen

Wise is a digital transfer provider that offers transparent pricing, low fees, and real exchange rates for its users. It supports international money transfers to over 70+ countries and provides a borderless multi-currency account to hold, receive, send, and convert 50+ foreign currencies.

Key Features and Benefits:

  • Transparent and low fee structure
  • Mid-market exchange rate as shown in Google without added markups
  • Wise international debit card can be used to spend and withdraw cash in over 170 countries
  • Wise has dedicated fraud and security teams that work to keep your payments safe

Limitations:

  • Bank account transfers can take up to 1 week
  • Do not offer cash pickup options

if you want to learn more about Wise, read this article.


#02 OFX

ofx logo in a laptop screen

If you’re looking to send larger sums of money overseas (above $1000) for minimum or no fees, OFX is the ideal choice for you. OFX has a global reach, with transfers available in over 190 countries and 55 currencies.

Key Features and Benefits:

  • No transfer fees (third-party banks may incur a cost for transfers)
  • No cap on the maximum transfer limit 
  • 24/7 customer support
  • Lock in competitive exchange rates for future payments

Limitations:

  • Bank-to-bank transfers only
  • $1000 minimum transfer limit

If you want to learn more about OFX, read this article.


#03 PayPal

paypal logo in a laptop screen

PayPal is a widely used payment platform that offers a convenient and secure way to make payments online, purchase goods and services, and send money abroad to friends and family. 

Key Features and Benefits:

  • PayPal has low minimum transfers starting from $10
  • Payments arrive within seconds to the recipient’s PayPal account
  • Paypal supports over 200 countries or regions and 25 currencies around the globe

Limitations:

  • Transfer fees are higher compared to other competitors
  • High exchange rate margins for major currencies
  • Recipients need to have a PayPal account to receive funds

Option 02 – International Banks

#01 Western Union

western union logo in a laptop screen

Western Union, founded in 1851, is one of the oldest and largest money transfer financial institutions. Transfers can be sent to Western Union agent locations worldwide or via their website or mobile app. 

Key Features and Benefits:

  • Western Union has an extensive network of 500,000+ agent locations worldwide in over 200 countries.
  • Recipients can collect transferred funds in their local currency in a nearby Western Union location.
  • Fast transfers are available for cash and debit card-funded transactions (received within minutes)

Limitations:

  • Understanding the fee structure can be complicated and usually high fees.
  • Sometimes, huge exchange rate markup is added depending on currency and amount.

if you want to learn more about Western Union, read this article.


#02 CitiBank

citibank logo in a laptop screen

Citibank offers different kinds of accounts to suit different financial needs. They have options for daily spending, savings, fund transfers, etc.

Citibank also maintains a large nationwide network of ATMs. Account holders can do transactions like withdrawals, deposits, and balance checks without costs when using ATMs in the network.

Key Features and Benefits:

  • Citibank offers access to over 65,000 fee-free ATMs worldwide.
  • You can send money online with Citibank in person at one of their agent locations or by bank transfers and mobile wallets.
  • Citibank offers a mobile app to manage accounts, pay bills, use card services, and deposit checks.

Limitations:

  • Most priority and benefits are given to premium account tier users.
  • High minimum balance requirements to avoid high fees ($5,000)

Other useful guides:

Final Thoughts

While Zelle has emerged as a popular choice for sending money within the United States, it currently lacks the capacity to move funds across borders due to various limitations. 

Suppose you need to receive or transfer money from overseas. In that case, you’ll need to consider alternative transfer services that support international transactions.

Some of the best options to consider are digital transfer providers like Wise, OFX, Paypal, or international banks such as Western Union and Citibank.

This is not the end of the list, so be sure to compare fees, exchange rates, and transfer speeds before making your choice.

Frequently Asked Questions About Zelle

No, you cannot use Zelle as a non-US resident. Zelle requires a US-based bank account and mobile phone number for usage within the domestic US only. International transfers are not allowed.

No, Zelle currently only offers money transfer within the United States and has not announced any plans to expand globally. They are focused on preventing fraud and scams within the US. For international transfers, alternative money transfer providers should be used instead.

Yes, in most cases, Zelle may refund money if you are scammed. Victims should report the incident to Zelle by calling 844-428-8542 or using the app, and keep their bank or credit union informed for unauthorized transactions. Zelle reviews each claim on a case-by-case basis and will return funds to your account according to your bank’s policies.

The cheapest way to send money internationally depends on factors like the transfer amount, destination, and currency. Some low-cost options are Wise, OFX, Remitly, and Xe. It’s important to compare conversion rates and fees from different providers, which can be easily done using websites like Wise and Monito.

Zelle is primarily supported in the United States. It is used by many U.S. banks and credit unions for domestic money transfers.

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Author
Allen Morning
I'm Allen Morning, with a background spanning over 15 years in international finance and education from Harvard and Stanford. I founded Currenciap with a vision to demystify and streamline global financial transactions. My journey in finance has fueled my commitment to creating a platform that is both user-friendly and efficient, making international finance accessible to everyone. You can find more about me here.

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