Have you ever found yourself in one of these situations?

You’ve had a busy day at work, and a kind coworker agrees to grab you some lunch while they’re out. When they get back, you realize the only cash you have is a few cents buried in your desk drawer. So you rush to get cash to pay them back.

You’ve gone out to dinner and a movie with friends. The meal has taken a little longer than expected, so now you’re in a hurry. Instead of waiting on everyone to pay separately, you decide to pay the entire bill and have everyone pay you back. Then you have to figure out everyone’s portion and wait for them to collect cash to give you.

You’ve added a family member to your phone plan, and the bill has come due. You call them up and ask them to send you their portion. Then they have to run and get cash or write and check, and you have to wait for it to arrive.

Each of these scenarios are mine. I personally experienced them. The first one made me feel even more flustered than I already was. The second one made me do math outside work (I’m a banker, I use a calculator), then I had to wait for my money. The third one left my family member needing to get cash and me waiting for my money (it’s a theme!).

But then the miracle of miracles happened. The bank added Zelle® to its vast array of products and services and so it begins. Zelle is a banking product that’s found within online and mobile banking, it lets you make digital payments straight from your bank account to other people’s bank accounts, and vice versa. Today, it’s my go-to way to pay people I know and request money from friends and family members.

It’s fast, easy and free to use, and has made my life so much better. I’m sure it can do the same for you. Before we talk about how, a quick note:

Over 1,000 banks and credit unions have adopted Zelle as of 2020. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s found in online and mobile banking. For Bank of Utah customers, you can find it in the “Payments” tab. To start using the service, click on “Bill Pay/Zelle”, then “Send Money with Zelle” and follow the instructions to enroll. You can visit Zellepay.com to see other institutions that offer the service.

Now, on to the good part …

4 Ways Zelle Can Make Your Life Easier

1. You can send a payment quickly (or schedule a future or recurring payment) — for free.

To make a payment to someone you know and trust, all you need to do is log in to online banking or open your mobile app, go to Zelle and enter their U.S. mobile phone number or email address.

If the person you’re sending money to has already enrolled in Zelle, the transfer usually just takes minutes — a few clicks, and the money simply moves. If they don’t already have Zelle, they get an email with a link to enroll (which they can do through their bank, if their bank offers it, or they can also sign up for the Zelle app to accept the payment). If they have to enroll, the transfer could take from 1 to 3 days.

Because Zelle is so fast and goes straight from your bank account to someone else’s (no holding accounts involved), it makes it even more important to know the person you’re sending the money to — a friend, family member, someone you know and trust, like the coworker who brought you lunch.

So go ahead and pay them for your food! It will be zapped into their account just like that! {Finger snap!}

With Zelle, you can also schedule a payment for the future — don’t want to forget about your friend’s birthday in a month, schedule it now! When you go to make a payment to someone in Zelle, add the amount, then click “Change” beside the calendar, select one-time payment, and add the date you’d like it to send.

2. You can split bills evenly.

To split a bill, select the contacts splitting the tab with you. If they’re a new contact, add them to your Zelle contacts. Enter the total you’re requesting, and Zelle will calculate each person’s share. Then, just tap “Request” and your contact(s) will all receive a notification by text or email that you have requested money.

You also have the option to adjust the amount if needed ... maybe your friend got lobster and steak, and you just had a salad. Easy. No math required on your part!

3. You can request money easily.

To request money, simply share your enrolled email address or mobile number with a friend or person you trust and ask them to send you money with Zelle. When they send the money, it will move directly into the bank account associated with the email or phone number you provided them.

So, don’t worry about waiting on people to get you cash. Make the request in Zelle and you could get your money in minutes.

Again, I can attest to this one personally. My mother-in-law’s phone is on my plan. Every month she likes to pay me for her portion through Zelle. I request the amount, and she “Zelles” me the money. She’s 81 and loves how the technology is so easy for her. If you’re the person paying, you can even schedule a recurring payment if the amount is the same every time. In Zelle, select the contact you’re paying, add the amount, click “Change” beside the calendar, select the frequency, then add the date you’d like it to start.

4. You can transfer money securely.

To be safe when using Zelle, you need to understand a few more things about it.

Because Zelle is located within online and mobile banking, your information is protected with the same technology that keeps your bank account safe (unlike other person-to-person payment apps). While that gives you peace of mind, it’s always best to exercise great caution when it comes to your money and your personal information.

You might have noticed that I’ve repeated a couple of phrases throughout this article, including “people you know and trust” and “friends and family.” That’s because it’s important. ONLY USE ZELLE WITH THESE PEOPLE — not a stranger, not a seller on eBay or Etsy, not someone who emails you offering amazing concert tickets if you pay them through Zelle.

I can’t reiterate this enough because Zelle is a lot like cash. The money is exchanged quickly. The only way to cancel a payment is if the person you’re sending money to isn’t enrolled in Zelle yet.

Again, this is so important I want to offer a few additional tips on how to safeguard your money when using this service.

3 Tips for Sending Money Safely Through Zelle

1. Make sure you have the correct contact information.

When you’re sending money to someone, make sure you have their current U.S. mobile phone number or email address. When in doubt, it never hurts to double check. Zelle will also ask you to review your transaction before you hit send. Always look, to confirm you’re sending the right amount of money to the right person.

2. Beware of scams.

As someone who has been in banking for almost 35 years, I have probably said this line the most: “If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true.” If a stranger offers to sell you something or provide a service for a discounted price, and insists you pay with Zelle, don’t do it. Remember: Only send money to people you personally know and trust.

Also, remember that banks, financial institutions or Zelle will never call, email or text you to ask for your account numbers, passwords, PIN numbers or Social Security numbers. If you get a suspicious message, go to the source. Call the institution or the company using a verified phone number (never call the number that popped up on caller ID or was included in a suspicious text or email). As always, if you’re afraid you’ve become a victim to fraud, call your bank or financial institution right away — we’re here to help.

3. Consider other payment options if paying someone you don’t know.

Knowing and trusting the person (yes, I said it again!) you’re sending money to is absolutely critical. Again, you can’t cancel a payment once it’s been sent, just like you can’t with other person-to-person apps, BUT you have live people at the bank you can call and ask for help and direction.

Remember, if the recipient is not enrolled with Zelle, you can cancel the transaction from the app or online. If you don’t know a person or aren’t sure you’ll get what you paid for, use a credit card or debit card instead. Those offer better consumer protection than digital payment services.

A Final Thought

One last thing about Zelle: Because it is a banking product, it comes with a bank-full of friendly people who can help you navigate it and answer your questions. Give us a call or come in to any branch, and let’s talk Zelle !

David Kuhni Bank of Utah’s Dave Kuhni is branch manager for the Lindon and Orem branches. He has worked for Bank of Utah for almost 3 years and has over 34 years of banking experience.