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Zelle posts another big quarter of growth as banks take on Venmo, Square Cash

10:10 am ET January 24, 2019 (MarketWatch)

By Emily Bary

Average dollar amount per transaction was a staggering $258

Money-transfer service Zelle -- banks' answer to Venmo -- continues to gain traction with users and financial institutions, showing that there's much room to run in the peer-to-peer payments space.

Early Warning Services, the operator of Zelle, reported fourth-quarter payment volume of $35 billion on Thursday. That was up 12% from the third quarter and up 61% from a year earlier. The network processed 135 million transactions during the period.

PayPal Holdings Inc. (PYPL), which owns Venmo and offers peer-to-peer payments on its core service as well, doesn't report its fourth-quarter numbers until next Wednesday. In recent quarters, Zelle has outpaced Venmo in terms of volume but fallen short of the larger PayPal network when including PayPal-branded money transfers. Square Inc. (SQ), which runs the peer-to-peer Cash app, gives out volume details sparingly.

Helping to drive Zelle's growth is a steady stream of new financial-institution partners that are beginning to offer the service to their customers. Zelle is having particular success lately with smaller community banks and credit unions that want to improve their technology offerings, said Lou Anne Alexander, the group president of payments at Early Warning.

The most striking figure from Zelle is its average transaction amount: $258. Whereas Venmo is thought to be mainly for younger users who want to pay their friends back for dinner or groceries, Zelle seems to have found an audience that is using the service for more serious transactions.

"Certainly those rent and utility payments are keeping it at higher dollar volumes," Alexander told MarketWatch, though Zelle's average transaction amount has come down from the $400 range just over a year ago. Alexander said that the recent drop suggests consumers are increasingly using Zelle for more everyday transactions rather than exclusively big payments at the beginning of the month.

Zelle is "becoming a formidable competitor in P2P," Mizuho analyst Thomas McCrohan wrote in a note to clients last week after Bank of America Corp. (BAC) shared its Zelle statistics in conjunction with its latest earnings report. Bank of America, perhaps the most vocal proponent of Zelle in conversations with the investment community, reported 52 million Zelle peer-to-peer payments amounting to $14 billion in the fourth quarter.

-Emily Bary; 415-439-6400;

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 24, 2019 10:10 ET (15:10 GMT)

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