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BofA Reports Booming Zelle Numbers as America Copes With Stay-at-Home Policies

If the first quarter of the year is any indication, person-to-person payments might be getting a big lift as stay-at-home consumers look for safe ways to pay in the face of the Covid-19 outbreak. Bank of America Corp. reported Wednesday transactions on its Zelle platform shot up 76% compared to 2019’s first quarter, to 102.3 million. Users paid $27 billion on BofA’s Zelle service, a 69% rise from $16 billion in the year-ago period. BofA ended the quarter with 10.4 million Zelle users.

Zelle is a P2P service of Early Warning Services LLC, a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based company controlled by BofA and five other big U.S. banks. Early Warning has not yet released first-quarter numbers for overall Zelle usage. For the fourth quarter of 2019, Early Warning reported in January total Zelle volume of $56 billion on 230 million transactions. These volumes were growing at 14% and 17%, respectively, over the third quarter.

Still, it’s hard to know how much self-isolation contributed to BofA’s Zelle results. Its Zelle usage was rising fast before the onset of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. Also, stay-at-home orders did not take effect in most places until relatively late in the quarter.

Even so, digital banking is generally growing fast at BofA. The Charlotte, N.C.-based banking giant reported its count of mobile-banking users reached 29.8 million in the first quarter, up 10% year-over-year. The current count includes 12.2 million users of the bank’s Erica virtual assistant.

By comparison, rival banking giant Citigroup Inc. on Wednesday reported 12.7 million active mobile customers in North America, with another 11 million overseas. These numbers were up 13% and 31%, respectively.

In other results, BofA reported $153 billion in combined credit and debit purchase volume for the quarter, up 3.5% from the same quarter last year.

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