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The Wall Street Journal: Banks weigh using Zelle to challenge Visa, Mastercard

Banks are debating a plan to bring Zelle to the checkout at big retailers.

The money-transfer service boomed during the pandemic, when people avoided ATMs and replaced cash and checks with digital money transfers. Zelle recorded some 1.8 billion transactions in 2021 totaling $490 billion, both more than double their prepandemic levels.

That growth has opened up new possibilities for Zelle and sparked a disagreement among the banks that own it — a group that includes JPMorgan Chase & Co.
JPM,
-0.77%
,
Bank of America Corp.
BAC,
-0.08%

and Wells Fargo & Co.
WFC,
-0.17%

At the center of the debate is whether it is in the banks’ best interest to promote a payment option that competes with card networks Visa Inc.
V,
-0.81%

and Mastercard Inc.
MA,
-0.50%
,
according to people familiar with the matter.

Banks collectively earn billions of dollars each year from fees merchants pay when shoppers use credit and debit cards. A payment option that moves funds directly between shoppers’ and merchants’ bank accounts could chip away at that. But Visa and Mastercard set the fees and take some for themselves, and sidestepping the card networks would allow banks to set rules and fees on their own. Zelle’s newfound popularity has some bank executives asking if the service could be the way to do that.

An expanded version of this article appears on WSJ.com.

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