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The New Economy

Zelle Has Turned Dollar-Starved Venezuela Into a Cashless Test Lab

The money transfer app provides relief from runaway inflation and a worthless currency.
Luis and Gabriela, Caracas.

Luis and Gabriela, Caracas.

Photographer: Andrea Hernandez Briceño for Bloomberg Businessweek

When Federico Suárez made an overnight trip to Valencia last month to visit his boyfriend, the 24-year-old Caracas-based lawyer was in the mood to splurge. Over the course of a weekend, the couple enjoyed an empanada breakfast, shopped for imported cheeses and pasta, and then went out for a romantic sushi dinner.

All were purchased using Zelle, the money transfer service owned by a group of seven of the largest U.S. banks. “I can pay for things everywhere. The only problem is, I buy more than I should,” says Suárez.