Normally, if I want to initiate transfer of funds from a bank I have to at least login to their secure banking website to initiate it. Sometimes it has to be by phone or in-person for smaller banks.

PayPal, Cash, and Venmo seem to have some "magic" where you can sometimes just give them the routing + account numbers, then they can initiate the transfer of funds for you. My question is - what do you call that kind of transfer/tech and what other sites or apps have it?

  • Which country is this? Are you transferring money out of an actual PayPal account balance, or out of a bank account that you have linked to your PayPal account? – hmakholm left over Monica Sep 12 '19 at 23:48
  • USA. It's not really specific to PayPal necessarily, but what I'm asking about is the technology that PayPal uses to initiate a transfer from your bank to PayPal. Traditionally you have to go to your bank to initiate a transfer. – eyemsusa Sep 13 '19 at 0:10

They interface with the Automated Clearing House (ACH) run by NACHA. There's a standard that defines how software must interact with the ACH.


PayPal, Cash, and Venmo (and Zelle) are a layer above direct bank-to-bank transfers.

This extra layer of "indirection" adds security, since you don't have to tell anyone else your routing and account numbers.

All you tell other people is your phone number or email address, which aren't secrets (and which PayPal, Cash, Venmo and Zelle know, along with their bank routing and account numbers because these people also signed up for the services).

These services then initiate the (as @mbhunter mentioned) the ACH transfer between your bank and the other person's bank.

  • There is no ACH transfer between your bank and the other person's bank. Instead, there's an ACH transfer from your bank to the service provider (and another from the service provider to the recipient's bank). – Ben Voigt Sep 13 '19 at 17:54
  • @BenVoigt whether direct (like with Zelle) or indirect (PayPal, etc), ACH transfers money between the two accounts. – RonJohn Sep 13 '19 at 18:04

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