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This PayPal review is intended primarily for small business owners who accept credit card payments on a regular basis and for any new businesses that will need to accept credit cards. Due to this focus, the content of this review will cover the factors that are most important to established business owners who are interested in using PayPal for the purpose of accepting credit card payments from their customers.
Is PayPal Holding Your Funds Right Now?
Thousands of merchants have had their payments frozen by PayPal. If you’re one of them, then you might find these resources helpful:
- How To Make Your Payment Processor Release Your Money
- How to Fight Chargebacks
- Best PayPal Alternatives
A Titan of E-Commerce
PayPal began as a wholly-owned subsidiary of eBay, where it was heavily used for payments between buyers and sellers of eBay auctions. In mid-2015, PayPal split off from eBay to become its own independent company. The service is one of the most accessible electronic payment methods in the industry because it allows anyone with an email address to sign up to send and receive payments from other individuals. Additionally, PayPal has a merchant services division that allows businesses of all sizes to accept credit card payments.
PayPal Credit Card Processing
PayPal is unlike traditional credit card processors because merchants cannot use PayPal with typical credit card processing equipment. Instead, PayPal offers several other services including shopping cart integration, “buy now” buttons, and donation buttons that are primarily targeted towards merchants with an online presence. The company also offers a virtual terminal with an optional credit card reader that plugs into the USB port of most computers. The virtual terminal allows merchants to enter credit card data themselves.
Paypal Point-Of-Sale (POS)
Paypal utilizes an all-in-one POS solution called Zettle, which provides portable in-person acceptance of chip, swipe, and contactless payments. The company focuses on the small handheld POS for most of their physical payment processing, but they also offer larger register-style POS and scanning equipment for managing inventory. The device can operate off customers’ smartphones and other USB devices. It integrates with an existing PayPal merchant account as well as Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, and Android Pay. The advertised rate for Zettle is 2.29% + .09$ per transaction, with added costs for additional equipment.
PayPal Requires a Separate Account
One important difference between PayPal and a merchant account supplied by a credit card processor is that business owners must request the transfer of funds from their PayPal accounts to their bank accounts. Typically, most merchant account providers transfer the money to their merchants’ bank accounts as “batches” automatically within 48 hours of the close of a business day. PayPal also offers payments by check and a debit card that can be used for purchases or withdrawing money from an ATM. Merchants who would like to avoid this arrangement are better off using PayPal alternatives instead.
Location & Ownership
Daniel Schulman is the CEO of PayPal, which is headquartered at 2211 North First Street, San Jose, California 95131.
Table of Contents
- Competitors and Comparisons How does the company square up against…
- Costs & Contract: Offers a month-to-month contract with no early termination fee and…
- Complaints & Service: Has received thousands of public complaints regarding…
- BBB Rating: Has a “B” rating with the BBB but has received 25,978 complaints and 2,182 reviews in the past 3 years in regards to…
- Sales & Marketing: Does not hire independent sales agents and has not received any complaints about its…
PayPal Competitors and Comparisons
PayPal vs Venmo
PayPal and Venmo, while technically the same company, are competing as an alternative option for small businesses to take payments online and in person. Many merchants aren’t aware that PayPal actually owns Venmo when making this decision.
It’s also important to note that both PayPal and Venmo were not originally designed to be the primary payment processing service for most merchant accounts. Originally Paypal was the payment backbone for the online auction giant eBay before it split off in 2015. Venmo was created to transfer funds between family, friends, and other trusted individuals. Paypal acquired Venmo as part of its purchase of startup Braintree in 2013 for $800 million.
However, they have seen an uptick in use in recent years from smaller merchants who do not wish to maintain an account with one of the larger payment processors. This shift has been embraced by both brands, and we’ve seen a recent introduction of new products and services aimed at appeasing their growing number of clients who use the services as their primary form of payment service provider. Venmo in particular has changed its platform to begin allowing businesses to create profiles and provide transactions with more transparency and security. There are some key differences between the two brands when it comes to payment processing.
Credit & Debit Processing
While we remind our readers that neither service was initially designed to handle large volumes of transactions, both allow this in one form or another. Both companies offer electronic invoicing services, QR scanning, keyed-in transactions, and account-to-account transfers, but PayPal has a lot more to offer in terms of physical POS systems and virtual terminal options when it comes to taking cards. Venmo does not seem to have some of the consumer protections in place for chargebacks and consumer disputes, as indicated by the numerous warnings to only deal with trusted accounts and individuals.
Venmo allows merchants to accept credit card payments but will charge an additional 3%. PayPal charges the same fee outside of account-to-account transfers. Venmo does not have a credit card scanner currently, and transactions must be made through the app. PayPal has several tiers of physical POS systems with card and chip readers depending on your needs, something Venmo can’t currently offer.
Paypal also issues debit cards tied to their accounts, which Venmo plans to offer in the future, according to their site.
Neither brand charges a monthly fee or early termination fee, making them both very attractive to merchants who make few or sparse transactions. While it can be difficult to gauge Venmo and Paypal’s direct cost difference on services Venmo doesn’t offer, we can look at QR-based transaction fees and costs. QR codes are most likely going to be the primary payment method for Venmo users, considering their lack of physical card readers. Venmo charges 1.9% + $0.10 per QR transaction, whereas Paypal is slightly more expensive at 2.29% + $0.09 per transaction. This percent difference comes with a lot of consumer protections on PayPal’s end. PayPal does offer several optional monthly services, such as added fraud protection for additional costs.
Pros & Cons
One of the biggest drawbacks to both services is the inability to automatically transfer funds to your bank. This might be the main distinguishing feature from a normal credit card processing company. While both companies make it easy for users to transfer funds to their bank in a few clicks, there is usually a delay of 1-3 days before the funds are released. PayPal in particular has received large amounts of complaints related to this delay, and it’s also where funds can get frozen for one reason or another.
While Venmo can typically take 1 to 3 business days to transfer money to a bank account for free, the company also has an instant transfer option. It allows merchants and other users to instantaneously transfer funds. However, a 1% fee is attached to these transfers, with a minimum of $0.25 and a maximum of $10. PayPal offers a similar service for 1% with no fee ceiling. These very small nuances can mean the difference of hundreds of dollars over the lifetime of using PayPal versus Venmo.
Both services offer a large amount of flexibility, and that seems to be the main attraction for merchants. While PayPal boasts one of the largest payment networks out there, Venmo can really shine as a low-maintenance and highly mobile payment platform. It’s also more accessible to users, allowing them to simply download the app to pay. While PayPal technically matches all these services on paper, the end-users and mobile market seem to prefer Venmo. We think there’s room for both services depending on a merchant’s needs; however, it will be interesting to watch the two brands trying to stay off of each other’s toes as Venmo steadily approaches merchant account territory.
We invite our readers to check out our Venmo review for more in-depth information.
PayPal Reviews and Complaints
Here's What Their Clients Say
Total Online Complaints
Live Customer Support
Most Common Complaint
Millions of Users, Thousands of PayPal Complaints
The grade for this section is difficult to assign because of PayPal’s unique position in the credit card processing industry. Unlike traditional merchant accounts, virtually anyone can sign up for a PayPal account, and PayPal has over 100 million users. As one can imagine, PayPal has received thousands of customer reviews. The two types of complaints that are most common among actual business owners are of sudden account freezes that disable the merchant’s ability to accept further transactions and withdraw money, and poor experiences with customer service.
Moderate Risk of Fund Holds
Business owners who complain of funding holds often report difficulty in getting explanations as to why the hold was established. They also state that the money was held for long periods of time. Holds are a common practice in the credit card processing industry and are often used on “high-risk” merchants who would be better served by high-risk processing specialists. Many merchants do not transfer their PayPal funds on a daily basis, so days’ or weeks’ worth of sales can get locked up during an account freeze. However, holds and account freezes are never a problem for most merchants, even though there are quite a few reported cases online.
In 2017, PayPal was sued in the matter of Zepeda v. PayPal Inc., a class-action lawsuit that alleged the company had improperly handled disputed transactions, placed holds, reserves or limitations on customers’ accounts without notice, and closed merchant accounts without notice. The company agreed to pay a sum of over $4 million to plaintiffs who were part of the class action.
2021 saw a flurry of legal activity concerning PayPal. It began in February 2021, when the company announced that it was under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
According to Bloomberg, “The SEC is investigating whether the swipe fees paid to the banks that issue PayPal’s debit cards are consistent with Federal Reserve guidelines, the San Jose, California-based company said Thursday in a quarterly regulatory filing. The agency is also investigating how PayPal reports marketing fees earned from its branded-card program. […] Separately, PayPal said it received a civil investigative demand from the CFPB in connection to the marketing and use of PayPal Credit in connection with merchants that provide educational services. The regulator asked PayPal to produce documents, written reports and answers to written questions. The company said it is cooperating.”
Following the announcement of this investigation, PayPal Inc. stock dropped significantly. This led to a bevy of class-action suits being announced against the company. With such heavy legal action underway against one of the world’s largest and most well-known payment processors, these cases are sure to set standards for the industry going forward.
PayPal Customer Service Options
PayPal offers several options for resolving customer service problems, including a phone helpline. The basic support line is open to all account types and appears to suffer from periodic long wait times and poor service. Merchants can get higher levels of customer support by paying either $159 per month for “13X7 Enhanced” support, or $495 per month for “24X7 Premium” support.
We have located multiple Paypal customer service numbers:
(888) 221-1161 – Toll Free General Customer Service
(402) 935-7733 – Report Unauthorized Transactions
(888) 914-8072 – Español
(402) 935-2050 – For customers calling from outside the US
Paypal does not offer a dedicated email support address, however it does offer live chat support through its website.
Average Service Overall
PayPal earns a “C” in this section because of the sheer volume of negative PayPal reviews filed online, but the company does a decent job of providing many customer service options and maintaining a small proportion of complaints in comparison to its user base.
PayPal BBB Rating and Report
Our Better Business Bureau Profile Assessment
Product & Service Complaints
Billing & Collection Complaints
Advertising & Sales Complaints
Guarantee & Warranty Complaints
Note: We have adjusted this company’s BBB rating according to our own standards. To better understand why we adjust BBB ratings, please see our Rating Criteria.
More Than 25,000 Better Business Bureau Complaints
As of this review, PayPal is accredited with the Better Business Bureau and maintains a “B” rating despite having 25,978 complaints filed in the last 36 months. This is a massive increase from the 13,904 complaints at the time of our last review. Of the complaints, 20,186 are related to problems with the service, 4,039 with billing and collection, 605 with advertising and sales issues, 755 with delivery issues, and 393 have to do with guarantee or warranty complaints. Only 13,257 of these 25,978 complaints were resolved by the company to the satisfaction of the merchant. The remaining 12,721 were resolved to the dissatisfaction of the merchant or received no final response.
What Merchants Say
The company has also received 2,182 informal PayPal reviews, with the vast majority being negative. Again, this is a massive uptick from the 1,551 when we last reviewed the company. However, many of these reviews are from customers, as opposed to merchants. One recent review from a merchant related to held funds and a poor customer service experience:
Worst outcome ever. Have been using ****** for transaction with a distributor of mine. I have had done numerous transactions with him over the last month. At least 4 of the transaction were 4 digits. Even single one of those transactions was flagged and held. Even after the first few cleared no problem. I’m not about to loose my largest clients and probably my business because of this….. the first time I understood. The second I was frustrated, the third I was mad and now I’m just done. And the support staff is of no help. My distributor can not even ca them and tell them to release it. Beyond ridiculous
Merchants should review their options for merchant accounts with a history of great customer service to avoid situations like this.
FTC Venmo Settlement
At the time of a previous update, the BBB had posted a note regarding a February 2018 settlement between PayPal and the FTC:
“The Federal Trade Commission has reached a settlement with PayPal, Inc. over allegations that the company told users of its Venmo peer-to-peer payment service that money credited to their Venmo balances could be transferred to external bank accounts without adequately disclosing that the transactions were still subject to review and that funds could be frozen or removed.
In its complaint, the FTC also charges that Venmo misled consumers about the extent to which they could control the privacy of their transactions. In addition, Venmo misrepresented the extent to which consumers’ financial accounts were protected by “bank grade security systems,” and violated the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act’s Safeguards and Privacy Rules, the complaint alleges.”
Although we consider Venmo one of the best mobile apps for sending money, it is clear that it faces some of the same criticisms as its parent company.
A “C” Performance So Far
The BBB justifies its rating by citing the length of time PayPal has been in business, the complaint volume versus PayPal’s size, the company’s response to complaints, the rate of resolution of those complaints, and the fact that the BBB has sufficient background information on PayPal. Based on PayPal’s complaint count, resolution ratio, and size, we are adjusting this section’s rating to a “C” for the purposes of this review.
PayPal Fees and Rates
A Closer Look at the Contract
Don't Fall Into An Expensive Trap. See Who The Worst Processors Are.
Flat Rate (Online)
2.9% + $0.30 Inside US/4.4% + $0.30 Outside US
Flat Rate (In Store)
2.7% + $0.30 Inside US/4.2% + $0.30 Outside US
2.2% + $0.30 Inside US/3.7% + $0.30 Outside US
Early Termination Fee
PCI Compliance Fee
PayPal’s Merchant Services
In this section, only PayPal fees, rates, and contract terms associated with accepting credit card payments are being considered. We will not be covering personal accounts in this review, nor will we be assessing PayPal’s value as an eBay payment method.
Basic Merchant Setup (aka: PayPal Payments Standard)
This account type does not allow business owners to enter credit card data manually using their computers but does allow for customers to buy products by credit card through a merchant’s website. If a merchant has set up a PayPal Here account, they can accept credit cards directly through the mobile app. For customers looking for an easy way to accept online payments, PayPal offers this basic setup with a few advantages over traditional merchant accounts.
Basic Merchant Pricing
PayPal Standard comes with no setup cost, no monthly fee, no time commitment, no PCI Compliance fee, and no cancellation fee. PayPal Payments Standard allows merchants to easily accept payments through their websites using “buy now,” “add to cart,” and “donate” buttons as well as recurring payments from other PayPal users ($10 monthly fee). This account is also compatible with most popular shopping carts. One of the disadvantages is that the customer must leave the merchant’s website and be redirected to PayPal to complete the transaction, which can reduce conversion rates and confuse customers. With no monthly fees, PayPal credit card acceptance does come at a higher-than-average processing rate. As of this review, PayPal Payments Standard charges 2.7% plus $0.30 for all domestic in-store transactions, 2.9% plus $0.30 for all domestic online transactions, 4.2% plus $0.30 on all international in-store transactions, and 4.4% plus $0.30 on all international online transactions. Businesses registered as 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporations receive a discounted rate from PayPal of 2.2% plus $0.30 per transaction domestically and 3.7% plus $0.30 for international transactions.
Transferring from PayPal Merchant Accounts to Bank Accounts
Transfers made to bank accounts from PayPal will be deposited on the next business day. Merchants using PayPal can also transfer their balances to a bank account instantly. Instant transfers do have limits of $50,000 per transaction, $100,000 per day, $250,000 per week, and $500,000 per month. Each instant transfer is subject to a 1% fee which may not exceed $10.
Advanced Merchant Setup (aka: PayPal Payments Advanced)
The next account up from the standard account allows merchants to keep the entire checkout process on their own site. Like PayPal Payments Standard, merchants cannot enter credit card data themselves, but they do get all the same features as the basic setup and can control the user experience throughout the entire online sales process. The PayPal Payments Advanced rates are the same as PayPal Payments Standard, but there is a $5 monthly fee. PayPal also offers additional services for data handling, PCI compliance, and customer support, but these come at extra costs.
Professional Setup (aka: PayPal Payments Pro)
PayPal Payments Pro comes with all of the same features as PayPal Payment Standard and PayPal Payment Advanced but with two extra features. The first feature allows for custom design and self-hosting of the checkout page, which is primarily of interest to high-volume e-commerce retailers and web developers who want full control over the checkout process. Merchants who are interested in this process can also consider using one of the top merchant accounts for web developers.
A Virtual Terminal Option
With the second extra feature of the Pro account, PayPal offers a virtual terminal for merchants who need to enter credit card data themselves for face-to-face transactions and/or mail orders and telephone orders. Merchants who wish to use this service will need to go through an extra application process even if they already have a PayPal account. It takes about 48 hours to find out if you have been approved for a virtual terminal account. Generally speaking, the cost for this service is fairly high in comparison to the best virtual terminals and merchant account providers. In addition to a $30 per month fee, PayPal Payments Pro merchants will pay the following fees:
- 2.9% plus $0.30 per domestic transaction through their websites
- 3.9 plus a fixed fee per international transaction through their websites
- 3.1% plus $0.30 per domestic transaction through the virtual terminal
- 4.4% plus a fixed fee per international transaction through the virtual terminal
- 3.5% per American Express transaction
Volume discounts may also be available on an individual basis. PayPal also has a “micropayment” fee of 5% + $0.05 for transactions under $10.
Virtual Terminal Swiped vs. Keyed
Even though PayPal’s virtual terminal merchants can use an optional credit card reader that plugs into nearly any computer, the processing rates appear to be the same for swiped and keyed transactions through PayPal’s virtual terminal. This is unusual because nearly all other merchant account providers offer lower processing fees for swiping a credit card through a reader.
PayPal Jobs and Employment
Hiring Standards and Ethical Marketing Assessment
Audit Your Current Statement To Find Its Hidden Fees
Processing statements are intentionally complicated so that they can overcharge you. Get clarity before you switch.
Employs Independent Resellers
Advertises Deceptive Rates
Discloses All Important Terms
Full Pricing Disclosure
PayPal scores well in this section because the company does not use independent sales agents or misleading sales tactics. The company clearly outlines its pricing on its website and does not alter its fees for each individual seller. In many ways, PayPal has become a household name and stands out in a crowded field of e-commerce payment processing options. The company’s policies and pricing are transparent and easily understandable for anyone who takes the time to read them.
PayPal Review Summary
Our Final Thoughts and Opinions
PayPal Is Best For New Ventures & E-Commerce
PayPal offers credit card processing and merchant services similar to traditional processors. Numerous PayPal reviews complain of poor customer support and communication regarding the company’s policies. PayPal is a huge company and in some circles has a bad reputation. In spite of this, the company remains one of the best options for easily accepting electronic payments and continues to gain popularity. PayPal is comparable in cost to many traditional merchant account setups but is much more expensive than merchant accounts under the Interchange Pass-through pricing model. Although PayPal has a lot of complaints, most of them are due to the fact that even the most inexperienced and naïve business owners can set up an account in a matter of minutes without understanding of PayPal is truly the best option for them. Overall, PayPal is a solid choice for very small businesses and new ventures who want to accept credit card payments with no commitments. PayPal can also be offered as an additional payment option alongside a normal merchant account and payment gateway setup.
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