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

Byron Mühlberg, writer at Monito.com
Jun 3, 2022
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 pond to the UK, you'll probably not have had much luck.

This is because, sadly, Zelle is only available in the US and doesn't work in the UK. If you want to transfer your money to the UK, you'll need to pick a money transfer provider for transfers to the UK, such as Wise.

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

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

Why Isn't Zelle Available in the UK?

As we saw above, Zelle is not available in the UK, 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 the UK if you're an American in that country, you won't be able to transfer money via Zelle to a UK-based bank.

So why exactly doesn't Zelle work in the UK?

In a nutshell, Zelle international transfers 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.

Simply put, this leads to many mobile payments 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 do get involved in foreign exchange usually charge exorbitant fees to cover the costs (e.g. Paypal).

Zelle UK Transfer Alternatives

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. On Monito, the best for transfers from the US to the UK are Wise, CurrencyFair, and Instarem. 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 to the British pound 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 money transfer providers are online platforms that have grown in popularity in recent years 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 a number of reasons:

  • Savviness: The user-friendly, seamless experience is usually slick and similar to Zelle in terms of accessibility and convenience.
  • Cost: They're (by far) the cheapest way to send money to the UK, 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, take a look at our bank vs digital provider comparison.

In the end, 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:

CurrencyFair

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

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

Transfer time: 1-3 business days.

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

Wise

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 UK): 0.8% on average

Transfer time: 1-2 business days.

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

Instarem

An excellent service with easy and fast transfers, Instarem is another good option for sending money from the US to the UK instead of Zelle. Instarem's fees are usually one of the cheapest on Monito.

Transfer cost (US to UK): 0.9% on average.

Transfer time: 2-3 business days.

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

Option 2 — Banks and PayPal

The second (and generally the far worse) alternative to using Zelle for transfers to the UK is to use 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 UK-bound transfers.

For example, our research revealed that sending $1,000 from the US to Europe 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 the UK with your bank, your funds will go over SWIFT, meaning third-party banks (called correspondent banks) can potentially 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 Wise 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 the UK. 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 alternatives for UK transfers.

Get started now by comparing your options below: —

Compare leading digital providers:

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