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PayPal vs. credit cards: Which is safer to use online?

Both payment methods offer security features and purchase protection.

Online fraud has made many people think twice about how to pay when online shopping. Both PayPal and credit cards offer features and services that help protect you, including fraud-monitoring systems and ways to get your money back if a purchase isn’t delivered as promised.

There are many similarities and some differences between using PayPal or a credit card so choosing between them comes down to your own preferences. Let’s take a look at how each option works so you can decide which one is better for you.

PayPal vs. credit card security features

Here’s a quick guide to the different types of protection you’ll get when you use PayPal or a credit card. We’ve focused on the key options most credit cards offer as features can vary depending on which card you’re using.

Security featurePayPalCredit cards
Fraud monitoringYes.Yes.
24/7 customer serviceYes. PayPal’s customer service hours are 6:00 a.m. PT to 6:00 p.m. PT Monday through Sunday.Yes. American Express, Mastercard and Visa credit cards all offer 24/7 emergency hotlines for lost or stolen cards as well as for suspected fraud.
Two-factor authenticationYes. You can choose to have a one-time PIN sent to your mobile phone by turning on PayPal Security Key in your account’s security settings.Yes. If you have a card that offers Mastercard SecureCode, Verified by Visa and American Express SafeKey and shop with participating brands, you’ll be prompted to authorize the transaction with a PIN or other security step.
Reimbursement or chargebackYes. If an item doesn’t get delivered or if it arrives and is significantly different from the seller’s description, PayPal offers reimbursement for the cost of the item and the original shipping costs.Yes. If your purchases are not delivered or are not as they were described, you may be able to reverse the transaction by requesting a chargeback.
Encryption technologyYes. PayPal offers encryption for all the financial details you have stored in your account.No. While credit cards offer encryption for purchases you make in-store, most of them rely on the encryption used by online stores when you make payments over the Internet.

Which option is more secure?

PayPal offers slightly better encryption, which on some websites could provide you with slightly better protection. However, both credit cards and PayPal offer a number of security features and benefits for when you’re shopping online.

woman's hand with red nails holding a white credit card on top of a laptop

Using a credit card for online shopping

Just about any online store will give you the option to pay with a card. With this method, you’ll provide the following details:

  • Your name, usually as it appears on the card
  • The card number
  • The expiration date
  • The Card Verification Value, known as the CVV or CVC or security code

Similar to in-store purchases, card acceptance may vary depending on whether you’re using an American Express, Mastercard or Visa credit card.

Pros

  • 24/7 fraud monitoring. Most credit cards have security systems that detect and flag suspicious activity as it happens. Depending on the card, you will also have the ability to lock or freeze your card if you suspect it’s been used for fraud.
  • Zero-liability policies. This feature covers the cost of any fraudulent transactions made on your account so you’re not left out of pocket if your card is compromised.
  • Protect your actual money. If your purchases don’t show up or are different from the item descriptions, your credit card provider may be able to help you get your money back.
  • Fee-free options. Some cards offer 0% foreign transaction fees when you make purchases with a business based overseas, potentially saving you 1% to 3% per online purchase.
  • Rewards. If you have a rewards credit card, you’ll be able to earn points for your purchases and redeem them later on.

Cons

  • Online fraud risks. Online credit card fraud has been steadily increasing as more people use cards to make purchases via the web.
  • Entering card details. You may have to type your card’s details each time you make a purchase. As annoying as this can be, this could also increase the risk of fraud if your internet connection isn’t secure or if you’re in a public place. As a general rule, never enter your credit card details on a website that starts with http://. It should always begin with https://.
  • Potential interest charges. If you carry a balance from your online shopping, you’ll be charged interest at the card’s purchase rate.
  • Unexpected fees. If you’re using a card that does charge foreign transaction fees, it may not always be clear when this fee will be charged. For example, if an online store is based overseas, this fee may apply even if the purchase is shown in Canadian dollars.

Using PayPal for online shopping

Unlike a credit card, PayPal lets you store your chosen payment details in a secure account. You can then make payments through your PayPal account when you shop with a store that accepts it.

Pros

  • Payment encryption. Every payment made through PayPal is encrypted so that your details are kept safe. This reduces the risk of personal or payment information being stored in places where you don’t want it.
  • Fast payments. You don’t need to enter your card or account details when you make a payment through PayPal. Instead, you’ll just be prompted to log in to your account and select your preferred payment option.
  • Refund options. PayPal offers reimbursement for items and their original shipping costs when they are not delivered at all or when they are delivered in very different form from the seller’s description.
  • Credit card rewards. If you add a rewards credit card to your PayPal account, you’ll be able to earn points on eligible purchases. What’s more, most major credit cards are accepted by PayPal.

Cons

  • Currency conversion costs. If you shop with retailers that don’t accept foreign currencies, PayPal will use its own conversion rates for the transaction. This often comes with additional fees. PayPal will show you the conversion rate at the time of the transaction.
  • Confusing payment details. A transaction that’s processed by PayPal could show its billing details, instead of the details of the company you made your purchase with. If you’re not aware of this, you could mistake the payment for fraud when checking your credit card or bank account transaction history.
  • Acceptance. Not all online stores accept PayPal, so using it will often depend on the business you’re shopping with.

Compare credit cards

Name Product Welcome Offer Rewards Purchase Interest Rate Annual Fee Min. Credit Score Description
American Express Cobalt Card
30,000 points
Up to 5 points per $1 spent
19.99%
$120
Min. recommended credit score: 700
Earn up to 30,000 bonus Membership Rewards points in your first year as a new Cobalt Cardmember.
Tangerine World Mastercard
1.95% rate on balance transfers for 6 months
Up to 2% cash back
19.95%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 680
Get a 1.95% interest rate on balance transfers for the first six months (valid within the first 30 days of account opening).
BMO CashBack Mastercard
5% cash back
Up to 3% cash back
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Get 5% cash back on all eligible purchases in the first three months of card membership (up to max. spend of $2,000). Plus, get a rate of 1.99% on balance transfers with a 1% balance transfer fee for nine months.
BMO Preferred Rate Mastercard
3.99% rate on balance transfers for 9 months
N/A
12.99%
$20
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Get a rate of 3.99% on balance transfers for 9 months with a 1% transfer fee. Plus, get the $20 annual fee waived in the first year.
Scotiabank Value Visa Card
0.99% rate on balance transfers for 6 months
N/A
12.99%
$29
Min. recommended credit score: 650
Get a 0.99% introductory interest rate on balance transfers with a 0% transfer fee for the first 6 months. Apply by July 1, 2021.
SimplyCash Card from American Express
1.25% cash back
Up to 2.5% cash back
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 700
Earn 2.5% cash back on all eligible purchases in your first three months (up to a maximum spend of $6,000, or $150 in cash back).
Choice Card from American Express
10,000 points
1 point per $1 spent
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 700
Earn 10,000 Bonus Membership Rewards points within the first 3 months as a new Cardmember.
Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
1.95% rate on balance transfers for 6 months
Up to 2% cash back
19.95%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 680
Get a 1.95% interest rate on balance transfers for the first six months (valid within the first 30 days of account opening).
HSBC +Rewards™ Mastercard®
20,000 Points
2x points per $1 spent
11.9%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($25 thereafter)
Min. recommended credit score: 630
Get 20,000 Points (up to $100 in value), plus get a 1st year annual fee waiver. Apply by September 27, 2021.
BMO Rewards Mastercard
10,000 points
Up to 2 points per $1 spent
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 725
Get a bonus of 10,000 BMO Rewards points when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months. Apply by October 31, 2021 . Plus, get a rate of 1.99% on balance transfers for 9 months. A 1% fee applies to transferred balances.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Name Product Balance Transfer Rate Balance Transfer Fee Purchase Interest Rate Annual Fee Min. Credit Score Description
Tangerine World Mastercard
1.95% for the first 6 months (then 19.95%)
3%
19.95%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 680
Get a 1.95% interest rate on balance transfers for the first six months (valid within the first 30 days of account opening).
BMO CashBack Mastercard
1.99% for the first 9 months (then 22.99%)
1%
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Get 5% cash back on all eligible purchases in the first three months of card membership (up to max. spend of $2,000). Plus, get a rate of 1.99% on balance transfers with a 1% balance transfer fee for nine months.
BMO Preferred Rate Mastercard
3.99% for the first 9 months (then 12.99%)
1%
12.99%
$20
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Get a rate of 3.99% on balance transfers for 9 months with a 1% transfer fee. Plus, get the $20 annual fee waived in the first year.
Scotiabank Value Visa Card
0.99% for the first 6 months (then 12.99%)
N/A
12.99%
$29
Min. recommended credit score: 650
Get a 0.99% introductory interest rate on balance transfers with a 0% transfer fee for the first 6 months. Apply by July 1, 2021.
Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
1.95% for the first 6 months (then 19.95%)
3%
19.95%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 680
Get a 1.95% interest rate on balance transfers for the first six months (valid within the first 30 days of account opening).
BMO Rewards Mastercard
1.99% for the first 9 months (then 22.99%)
1%
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 725
Get a bonus of 10,000 BMO Rewards points when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months. Apply by October 31, 2021 . Plus, get a rate of 1.99% on balance transfers for 9 months. A 1% fee applies to transferred balances.
BMO AIR MILES Mastercard
1.99% for the first 9 months (then 22.99%)
1%
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Get 800 AIR MILES Bonus Miles (enough for $80 towards purchases with AIR MILES Cash). Get a rate of 1.99% on balance transfers for 9 months. A 1% fee applies to transferred balances.
BMO AIR MILES Mastercard For Students
1.99% for the first 9 months (then 22.99%)
1%
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Get 800 AIR MILES Bonus Miles (enough for $80 towards purchases with AIR MILES Cash). Get a 1.99% introductory interest rate on balance transfers for 9 months. A 1% fee applies to balance amounts transferred.
BMO CashBack Mastercard For Students
1.99% for the first 9 months (then 22.99%)
1%
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Get up to 5% cash back in the first three months (up to max. spend of $2,000). Plus, get a rate of 1.99% on balance transfers for 9 months (with a 1% transfer fee).
Scotia Momentum Visa Card
2.99% for the first 6 months (then 22.99%)
N/A
19.99%
$39
Min. recommended credit score: 650
Earn 7.5% cash back on all purchases for the first 3 months (up to $2,000 in total purchases). Plus, get a 2.99% introductory rate on balance transfers and a 0% balance transfer fee for the first 6 months. Apply by August 31, 2021.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Name Product Welcome Offer Rewards Purchase Interest Rate Annual Fee Min. Credit Score Description
American Express Cobalt Card
30,000 points
Up to 5 points per $1 spent
19.99%
$120
Min. recommended credit score: 700
Earn up to 30,000 bonus Membership Rewards points in your first year as a new Cobalt Cardmember.
Choice Card from American Express
10,000 points
1 point per $1 spent
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 700
Earn 10,000 Bonus Membership Rewards points within the first 3 months as a new Cardmember.
HSBC +Rewards™ Mastercard®
20,000 Points
2x points per $1 spent
11.9%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($25 thereafter)
Min. recommended credit score: 630
Get 20,000 Points (up to $100 in value), plus get a 1st year annual fee waiver. Apply by September 27, 2021.
BMO Rewards Mastercard
10,000 points
Up to 2 points per $1 spent
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 725
Get a bonus of 10,000 BMO Rewards points when you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months. Apply by October 31, 2021 . Plus, get a rate of 1.99% on balance transfers for 9 months. A 1% fee applies to transferred balances.
BMO World Elite Mastercard
30,000 points
Up to 3 points per $1 spent
20.99%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($150 thereafter)
Min. recommended credit score: 760
Get up to 30,000 points and the $150 annual fee waived in the first year. Apply by October 31, 2021
Brim Mastercard
Up to $200 worth of bonuses
1 point per $1 spent
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 700
Earn up to $200 worth of bonus points when you shop with Brim retailers for the first time through the Brim mobile app.
American Express Aeroplan Card
15,000 points
Up to 2x points per $1 spent
30% annual interest rate applies to balances not paid in full each month
$120
Min. recommended credit score: 700
Earn up to 15,000 Welcome Bonus Aeroplan points and a bonus Buddy Pass as a new cardmember.
BMO eclipse Visa Infinite
40,000 points
Up to 5 points per $1 spent
20.99%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($120 thereafter)
Min. recommended credit score: 760
Get up to 40,000 points and the $120 annual fee waived in the first year.
American Express Business Edge Card
57,000 points
Up to 3 points per $1 spent
19.99%
$99
Min. recommended credit score: 700
Earn up to 57,000 Membership Rewards points in your first year.
American Express AIR MILES Platinum Credit Card
2,000 Miles
Up to 1 Air Mile per $5 - $10 spent
20.99%
$120
Min. recommended credit score: 700
Earn a Welcome Bonus of 2,000 AIR MILES within the first three months. That’s enough to redeem for $200 towards your purchases with AIR MILES Cash.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Name Product Welcome Offer Cash Back Rate Purchase Interest Rate Annual Fee Min. Credit Score Reward Description
Tangerine World Mastercard
1.95% rate on balance transfers for 6 months
Up to 2% cash back
19.95%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 680
Earn 2% cash back in two categories of your choice (or three categories if you open a Tangerine Savings Account and directly deposit your cash back into the account), and 0.5% cash back on everything else.
BMO CashBack Mastercard
5% cash back
Up to 3% cash back
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Earn 3% cash back on groceries, 1% on recurring bill payments and 0.5% on all other eligible purchases.
SimplyCash Card from American Express
1.25% cash back
Up to 2.5% cash back
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 700
Earn 1.25% cash back on all eligible purchases.
Tangerine Money-Back Credit Card
1.95% rate on balance transfers for 6 months
Up to 2% cash back
19.95%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 680
Earn 2% cash back in two categories of your choice (or three categories if you open a Tangerine Savings Account and directly deposit your cash back into the account), and 0.5% cash back on everything else.
SimplyCash Preferred Card from American Express
10% cash back
2% cash back
19.99%
$99
Min. recommended credit score: 700
Earn 2% cash back on all eligible purchases
BMO CashBack World Elite Mastercard
Up to 10% cash back
1% cash back
20.99%
$0 annual fee for the first year ($120 thereafter)
Min. recommended credit score: 760
Earn 5% cash back on groceries, 4% on transit including ride sharing, taxis and public transportation, 3% on gas and electric vehicle charging, 2% on recurring bill payments and 1% unlimited cash back on all eligible purchases.
Shell CashBack Mastercard from BMO
$50 in cash back + 1% cash back
Up to 1.5% cash back
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Get 1.5% cash back at participating Shell locations in Canada (up to a maximum spend of $2,500 in any monthly billing period), and get 0.5% cash back everywhere else.
BMO Cashback Business Mastercard
10% cash back
Up to 1.75% cash back
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 650
Earn 1.5% cash back on eligible gas purchases, office supplies and on cell phone and internet recurring payments, earn 1.75% cash back at participating Shell stations, and earn 0.75% on all other eligible card purchases.
BMO CashBack Mastercard For Students
5% cash back
Up to 3% cash back
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Earn 3% cash back on groceries, 1% on recurring bill payments and 0.5% on all other eligible purchases.
Shell CashBack World Mastercard from BMO
N/A
Up to 3% cash back
19.99%
$79
Min. recommended credit score: 760
Get 3% cash back per $1 spent at Shells stations, 1.25% cash back on all other spend.
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Compare up to 4 providers

Name Product Welcome Offer Rewards Purchase Interest Rate Annual Fee Min. Credit Score Description
Tangerine World Mastercard
1.95% rate on balance transfers for 6 months
Up to 2% cash back
19.95%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 680
Get a 1.95% interest rate on balance transfers for the first six months (valid within the first 30 days of account opening).
BMO CashBack Mastercard
5% cash back
Up to 3% cash back
19.99%
$0
Min. recommended credit score: 660
Get 5% cash back on all eligible purchases in the first three months of card membership (up to max. spend of $2,000). Plus, get a rate of 1.99% on balance transfers with a 1% balance transfer fee for nine months.