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I'm extremely confused about how Wells Fargo's SurePay transfers money to Bank of America.

I've set up my Bank of America account to use my mobile phone number to receive payments.
Now someone sent me money via Wells Fargo's SurePay money transfer service, using my mobile phone number as the recipient.
I witnessed that the sender never specified my account number or other account information. In fact, the sender never even specified that the receiving bank is Bank of America.
The only information entered was my first name, last name, and phone number.

Next thing I know, I receive a text on my phone from Bank of America saying that my account will be credited with the transferred money (and I confirmed this online on BoA's website).

While this is convenient, I'm extremely confused and a little creeped out at how this was done:
How did Wells Fargo know that my phone number was associated with Bank of America?!
Is there some kind of global database that maps phone numbers to accounts across banks?
What if my phone number was associated with multiple accounts and/or multiple banks? etc.

  • 2
    Wells Fargo sent money to your mobile phone number. When "the money" arrived at your mobile phone, your phone deposited the money into your BoA account because you have programmed your phone to do so. Try "unsetting" what you say you set in the first sentence of your question and see what happens. – Dilip Sarwate Aug 17 '14 at 10:36
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    @DilipSarwate: Huh? I haven't programmed my phone to do anything -- my phone knows nothing about my bank account; it's Bank of America who knows my phone number. The only thing my phone ever did was receive a text message that said the money was deposited. – Mehrdad Aug 17 '14 at 11:04
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    @DilipSarwate ya that's not how it works at all – Andy Dec 27 '14 at 13:54
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Wells Fargo uses a service called clearXchange (update: it is now called Zelle) to do this transfer without an account number. This is the same service Bank of America uses, so when you configured your account to be linked to clearXchange, Wells Fargo customers can use it the same way Bank of America customers can.

This also applies to Chase bank. Since your bank is a member, they've integrated the service into your online bill pay:

If your bank is a clearXchange member, you will need to use your current online or mobile banking service to send and receive payments.

If you hadn't previously configured it through BofA, you'd have been taken to their site to register an account in order to receive the money, it seems. They explicitly point out here that they will automatically deposit any money you receive through their service without your having to "accept" the payment like you would from other P2P pay services.

If you don't want to use this service anymore, I suggest contacting your bank, but if they can't or won't help you, you can contact clearXchange customer service to have your account closed.

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    Ohh I see. So that's the central database that holds the phone numbers and maps them to bank accounts then. Thanks! +1 – Mehrdad Aug 18 '14 at 20:21
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Whatever you did to "set up my Bank of America account to use my mobile phone number to receive payments", most likely registered your phone number in whatever network does the transfers, which both banks are probably a part of.

2

Banks that use this amazing ClearXChange service: BOA, Capitol One, Chase, 1st Bank, Frost, US Bank and Wells Fargo

I have Wells Fargo. There is a tab for SurePay. I had an option to register my phone number and/or email for this service. I wasn't automatically setup.

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