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Personal Finance Reports

Forget Challenging Venmo, Zelle Has an Identity Crisis

In June, Zelle was formally introduced as a new P2P (peer-to-peer) mobile payment platform that could challenge Venmo’s supremacy in the digital payment market space.

After all, more than 30 financial institutions, including banking heavyweights JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America, put aside their differences to create a P2P payment app that could rival PayPal’s Venmo.

As of now, Zelle can be used through the mobile applications of nine banks, including Bank of America, Capital One, and PNC Bank. Over the next 12 months, more than 30 partnered financial institutions will honor their commitment to roll out Zelle on their apps. At some point in 2017, Zelle will launch a standalone app that will allow consumers of non-Zelle network banks and credit unions to use the P2P payment service.

However, no matter how many banks join the Zelle Network, the app will not succeed if it cannot fix two major issues: People do not know what Zelle is, and it will be an extremely hard sell to try to switch Venmo users into Zelle users.

This problem was exposed in a poll commissioned by LendEDU where we asked Venmo users a series of questions pertaining to Zelle.

To lead off the survey, we asked 500 Venmo users the following question: “Have you heard of Zelle?”

A whopping 93.9 percent of Venmo users have never even heard of Zelle. Only 6.1 percent have gotten wind of the newest P2P app on the digital payment block.

This is obviously not good for Zelle and the banking industry that is working so hard to cut into Venmo’s market share. The Zelle Network needs to do a better job of getting the word out about this app, or it will fall by the wayside.

In the next question, the same pool of Venmo users were asked to answer the following: “Do you know what Zelle is?”

Once again, the results of this question produced results that will not be met with smiles from the Zelle Network. 88.1 percent of respondents simply answered “No.”

Only 7.6 percent of Venmo users that were polled knew or guessed that Zelle was an app for P2P payments. 2.3 percent believed it was an app for ordering food, while 0.7 percent believed it was a competitor to Uber and Lyft.

So what exactly is Zelle?

Aside from being a mobile app for P2P payments, Zelle uses a bank membership model for its users. Zelle wants to become the mobile payments industry’s first unified consumer brand. The millions of Americans that are customers of Zelle’s partner banks will be able to seamlessly send money to another consumer’s bank account, even if they use a different bank than the sender.

The third question in this poll aimed to discover if Venmo users were willing to make the switch from Venmo to Zelle. We asked 500 Venmo users “Zelle is a new peer-to-peer payment app launched by the major banks. Do you think you would switch from Venmo to a mobile payments app, like Zelle, inside your native banking app?”

The majority of Venmo users, 63.42 percent, said they would not give Zelle a try. “No, I love Venmo,” was the exact answer they chose. Only 36.58 percent answered “Yes, I would give it a try.”

Getting consumers to move away from Venmo and towards Zelle is going to be a challenge for the new P2P payment app. Venmo works fine, is easy to use, and has a social media flare to it that appeals to users, especially millennials. Venmo has become so ingrained into our society that the word “Venmo” has become a verb, similar to the way people say “just Google it.” The old saying goes “if it is not broke, why fix it?” and that adage can be used to describe the favoritism of Venmo over Zelle.

The only way Zelle is going to be able to convert Venmo users is by differentiating its app so that it has features that Venmo lacks, which is where our next few questions come into play.

One of Zelle’s main selling points is that transferred funds will be available in your bank account to use instantly. Funds transferred via Venmo are not available for immediate use, but instead take one business day (usually) to show up in your bank account. This is a perceived weakness of Venmo that Zelle is looking to exploit.

We asked Venmo users their take on the subject. “Do withdrawals from Venmo take too long to get to your bank account?” was the question posed to our respondents. The majority of poll participants, 60.62 percent, answered “No, withdrawals from Venmo are quick and fine.” Meanwhile, 39.38 percent stated that they thought Venmo withdrawals take too long.

So, it appears that Zelle’s immediate withdrawal feature is not as amazing of a selling point as one might have thought. For what it’s worth, Venmo is planning to roll out an instant withdrawal feature at a later date; to use this feature, Venmo users will have to pay an extra 25 cents per transaction.

Well, Zelle is partnered with major U.S. banks, so they can pitch security as a reason to use their app over Venmo, right?

Wrong. We asked the same pool of respondents to answer the following, “Are you worried about the security of your banking and personal information on Venmo?”

The vast majority of Venmo users, 78.51 percent, are not worried about their personal and banking information being unsecure on Venmo. Only 21.49 percent responded by saying they were worried about sensitive information getting leaked via Venmo.

>> Read More: How to avoid Venmo scams

In a similar question related to security, we asked this question: “Would you feel more secure making peer-to-peer mobile payments with an app supported by your bank or an independent app like Venmo?”

Finally Zelle received some favorable statistics from our poll. 57.30 percent of Venmo users answered “Yes, I would feel more secure.” In comparison, 42.70 percent of respondents stated “No, I would not feel more secure. I trust the security of independent apps.”

Venmo users using a mobile payment platform would feel more secure using Zelle, an app supported by the banks, over Venmo. But, that does not mean security is a huge selling point for consumers, and even if it was, users are not overly concerned with Venmo’s security safeguards. More than three quarters of respondents said they were not worried about their information getting stolen on Venmo. Additionally, more respondents said they would feel more secure with a bank-backed payment app over Venmo, but the margin was slim.

It will be interesting to monitor Zelle’s performance for the remainder of 2017 and beyond, but judging off of LendEDU’s poll, it does not look good for the P2P mobile payment app. The app faces two major obstacles: No one knows what Zelle is, and Zelle will have a hard time convincing consumers that its unique selling points make it worthwhile to stop using Venmo.


LendEDU commissioned this poll that was conducted by online polling company WhatsGoodly. In total, 500 Venmo users were asked to answer the six aforementioned questions truthfully. This poll was conducted from July 9, 2017 to July 28, 2017.

See more of LendEDU’s Research