By Tim McNicholas

CHICAGO (CBS) — Is your holiday budget tight? Imagine losing $500 because of a Zelle transfer gone wrong. That’s what happened to a mother on the West Side, and like others the Morning Insiders have talked to, her bank wouldn’t refund her money at first.

It’s not easy raising a 2-year-old, but Laura Quinonez and Eduardo Ascencion are making it work. They often use Zelle to pay each other back for their bills, and funds for little Noah.

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“We have a 2-year-old, and we’re buying necessities for him. Holidays are right around the corner, you know, so it’s money that we work hard for because we need it,” Quinonez said.

In mid-October, Quinonez tried to send Ascencion $500 through Zelle. The money left her Fifth-Third account, but Ascencion’s records showed it never entered his Chase account.

“I called Zelle, and they were like, ‘Oh, your payment was failed, and it should be returned to your bank within 14 days,’” Quinonez said.

Fourteen days came and went, but the couple never got the money.

“Very important, because we could use it for [Noah’s] diapers, his milk,” Ascencion said.

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Fifth Third Bank told Quinonez to file a dispute claim, and she did, only to receive a letter dated Oct. 29 telling her the “payment processed successfully,” and she would have to “resolve this matter with the Zelle recipient.”

“The fact that I have to sit there and explain myself five, ten times to the people I’m calling – that I trusted with my life – basically, you know, you have control of my money,” Quinonez said.

CBS 2 emailed both banks and Zelle. Within hours, Fifth Third gave Quinonez a $500 credit, and a spokesperson said, “We will fully investigate what took place.”

The bank pointed out Quinonez used the Zelle app, not Fifth Third’s app. Fifth Third said, if you use their app to transfer money through Zelle, the bank has “more direct access to information about the transaction.”

In this case, Zelle blames a system error for the missing money.

A change for Zelle users is coming: Most major banks that offer Zelle as a feature, will now require customers to use the bank’s app. Customers of smaller banks can still use the standalone Zelle app.

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Tim McNicholas