This PayPal (paypal.com) review is intended primarily for small business owners who accept credit card payments on a regular basis and for those starting 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 merchants who are interested in using PayPal for the purpose of accepting credit card payments from their customers.
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, much like a normal merchant account.
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 to use PayPal much like a traditional merchant account. Additionally, PayPal has introduced a mobile payment app and card reader dubbed “PayPal Here” that allow anyone with a compatible smartphone to accept credit card payments.
One important difference between PayPal and a merchant account supplied by a credit card processor is that merchants 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.
Sales & Marketing
Key Points - Sales & Marketing
|Uses independent resellers?||No|
|Promotes deceptive rate quotes?||No|
|Discloses all important terms?||Yes|
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. PayPal primarily markets itself online and through its eBay partnership, and in many ways it has become a household name. The company’s policies and pricing are transparent and easily understandable for anyone who takes the time to read them.
PayPal Marketing Example
Costs & Contract
Key Points - Costs & Contract
|Monthly minimum fee:||Variable|
In this section, only PayPal fees and contract terms associated with PayPal’s business account for 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 does not allow merchants to enter credit card data themselves online but does allow for customers to pay by credit card through a merchant’s website. However, if a merchant has set up a PayPal Here account, s/he can accept a credit card directly through the mobile app. For merchants wishing for an easy way to accept online payments, PayPal offers this basic setup with a few advantages over traditional merchant accounts.
First, there is 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 and recurring payments from other PayPal users (to accept recurring payments from non-PayPal customers, there is a $19.99 per month 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 is reporting the following rate structure for basic U.S. accounts transacting in U.S. dollars (international rates may differ):
*Note that PayPal charges different rate tiers based on sales volume whereas traditional merchant accounts charge different tiers based on the customers’ card types.
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 rate tiers 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 is primarily of interest to high volume e-commerce retailers and web developers who want full control over the checkout process because it allows for custom design and self hosting of the checkout pages.
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 other virtual terminals and merchant account providers. In addition to a $30 per month fee, US merchants will pay the follow processing fees:
*The crosses next to the fees indicate that merchants must be approved for those rates.
PayPal also has a “micropayment” fee of 5% + $0.05 for transactions under $10. Even though 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. PayPal’s swipe rates are unusual because nearly all other merchant account providers offer lower processing fees for swiping a credit card through a reader.
Complaints & Service
Key Points - Complaints & Service
|Live customer support?||Yes|
|Most common complaint:||Fund holds|
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 could imagine, PayPal has thousands of complaints. The two most common that appear to come from actual merchants are complaints of sudden account freezes that disable the merchant’s ability to accept further transactions and withdraw money, and poor experiences with customer service.
Merchants that complain of experiencing holds often report difficulty in getting explanations of 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 merchants that are deemed as “high risk,” or that have experienced numerous chargebacks or fraudulent transactions. 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.
As for complaints about customer support, PayPal offers several options for resolving 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.
PayPal earns a “C” in this section because it does a good job of providing many customer service options and has a small proportion of complaints in comparison to its user base, but the company still has room for improvement by working to reduce the amount of complaints being filed online.
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Key Points - BBB
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.
As of this review, PayPal is accredited with the Better Business Bureau and maintains an “A+” rating despite having 5,182 complaints filed in the last 36 months. Of the complaints, 3,161 are related to problems with the service, 1,510 with billing and collection, 222 with advertising and sales issues, and 289 with other issues. PayPal has also received 37 informal reviews, with three being positive and 34 being negative. The BBB justifies its high 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.
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About Phillip Parker
Phillip Parker is a former merchant services agent turned small business advocate and the author of "Fee Sweep," which teaches merchants how to dramatically lower their processing rates, eliminate junk fees, and avoid fine-print scams. He founded CardPaymentOptions.com to help merchants enact positive change in the credit card processing industry. Schedule a Consultation with PhillipSchedule a Consultation with Phillip