Zelle Canada: Why It's Not Available, and How To Save Money With Alternatives

Byron Mühlberg, writer at
Feb 10, 2023
Affiliate disclosure

If you're a Zelle user, you probably know that it's one of the best ways to send and receive money right from your smartphone. But if you've ever tried to use Zelle to send money across the border to Canada, you'll probably have quickly run into some difficulty.

Sadly, this is because Zelle is only available in the US and doesn't work in Canada. If you want to transfer your money to Canada, you'll need to pick a Zelle alternative instead for transferring to Canada, such as Wise.

In this short guide, we look at why Zelle doesn't work in Canada in the first place. Then, we'll delve into the best Zelle alternatives to help you make the best money transfer choices.

Zelle doesn't work in Canada. Compare digital providers instead:

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Wise is the best alternative to Zelle for handling your international payments from Canada.

Why Isn't Zelle Available in Canada?

As we saw above, Zelle is unavailable in Canada, and the app is currently only available to US residents. —

To use the Zelle app in the first place (let alone send and receive money via online banking), both the sender and the recipient must have US bank accounts. And while you will be able to use Zelle in Canada if you're an American in that country, you won't be able to transfer money via Zelle to a Canada-based bank.

So why exactly doesn't Zelle work in Canada?

In a nutshell, Zelle transfers to Canada aren't possible because foreign exchange is a hugely complex market, with many rules, regulations, and industry standards that companies are obligated to follow. Over and above this, the profit margins tend to be very tight and competitive.

This leads to many mobile payment apps avoiding international transfers altogether. It saves them a lot of time, money, and stress! Zelle isn't the only app to avoid foreign exchange for this reason: Venmo and Square Cash do the same. And those mobile payments apps that get involved in foreign exchange usually charge exorbitant fees to cover the costs (e.g. Paypal).

Zelle Alternatives for Transfers to Canada

The good news is that if you're a Zelle user who'd like to send money abroad, you'll have plenty of options to choose from to send your money overseas instead. In summary, here are the main two:

  1. Transfer via a digital provider: Many international money transfer providers offer low fees, fast transfers, and a great user experience to suit your needs. The best are Paysend for card transfers, and Wise and CurrencyFair for bank transfers.. However, pricing and exchange rates vary constantly, so compare providers on Monito to find the best deal every time.
  2. Send an international bank wire: US banks such as Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citibank, and others charge very high fees and poor exchange rates because they transfer over SWIFT. We therefore don't recommend them for transferring money abroad for most people. You can learn more about bank charges for international transfers here.

We go over both of these options in detail below:

Option 1 — Digital Providers

Digital international transfer providers are online platforms that have grown in popularity as a low-cost, savvy, and safe way to send money across borders. If you're a Zelle user, we think switching over to a digital provider is a natural choice for several reasons:

  • Savviness: The user-friendly, seamless experience is usually slick and similar to Zelle in accessibility and convenience.
  • Cost: They're (by far) the cheapest way to send money to Canada, usually costing between 0.5% and 2% in total fees.
  • Speed: Money usually arrives overseas in a matter of hours or, at most, around one to two days, depending on the provider.

To learn more about digital providers and how they differ from banks, look at our bank vs digital provider comparison.

The digital provider that's best for you will depend on factors such as 1) which country you're sending to, 2) how much you're sending, and 3) how your recipient will receive their funds. According to millions of searches on Monito's real-time comparison engine, here are the three best digital providers for transfers from the US to bank accounts abroad:

Paysend — Great for Card Transfers

A world leader in low-cost international card transfers, Paysend is one of the cheapest international money transfer platforms on Monito and offers excellent rates for US to Canadian dollar transfers.

Transfer cost (US to Canada): 1.4% on average

Transfer time: 2 business days.

More info: See our Paysend review, or visit their website.

Wise — Great for Bank Transfers

One of the most popular and widely-used money transfer services out there, London-based Wise has built a solid reputation on fast, affordable bank transfers over its user-friendly web and mobile platforms.

Transfer cost (US to Canada): 0.9% on average

Transfer time: 1-2 business days.

More info: See our Wise review, or visit their website.

CurrencyFair — Another Great Option

CurrencyFair is an Irish-based money transfer platform that offers some of the cheapest rates for transfers from the US to Canada. Although not as popular as Wise, CurrencyFair nonetheless offers a top-notch user experience and fast, seamless money transfers.

Transfer cost (US to Canada): 0.3-0.9% on average.

Transfer time: 1-3 business days.

More info: See our CurrencyFair review, or visit their website.

Option 2 — Banks and PayPal

The second (and generally the far worse) alternative to using Zelle to transfer money to Canada is using your bank or PayPal.

Not only is using your bank or PayPal the slower and less convenient to transfer abroad, but going this route also comes with high hidden fees, as both your bank and PayPal will typically give you a poor exchange rate on top of the standard service fees for Canada-bound transfers.

For example, our research revealed that sending $1,000 from the US to a Eurozone country with Wells Fargo would cost $30 in service fees and $50 in exchange rate margin fees. Together, these fees amount to around 8% of the amount transferred, which is about 10 times more than the cheapest available service compared on Monito's comparison engine for the same transfer. And given PayPal's similarly high exchange rate margins, the story isn't very different with them either.

But it doesn't stop there. When sending money to Canada with your bank, your funds will go over SWIFT, meaning third-party banks (called correspondent banks) can charge additional fees (called correspondent bank fees) that can further reduce the amount that arrives in your beneficiary's account.

This makes banks a costly way to send money abroad — and finding a cheap solution is as crucial as ever.

As we explored above, by offering bank-beating exchange rates, very low fees, and a top-notch user experience, digital providers are fortunately doing what Zelle does within the US, but internationally! And depending on where you're sending money to, providers such as Paysend, Wise, and CurrencyFair will probably be your best choice. See the table below to understand why:

Last updated: 2022/06/02

In summary, if there were one thing to take away from this article, here's what it'd be:

You cannot use Zelle to transfer to Canada. This means you'll need to find alternatives. Banks (and PayPal) charge high service fees and exchange rates, making them a poor choice for most. Digital providers, on the other hand, are by far the cheapest, fastest, and savviest options, making them the best Zelle alternative transfers to Canada.

Get started now by comparing your options below: —

Compare leading digital providers:

Frequently Asked Questions About Zelle in Canada

Popular Money Transfer Comparisons on Monito

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