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Review: PayPal’s international money transfers

Domestic transfers are fast and free. But you'll find lower fees and stronger rates on international transactions elsewhere.

Review by


Zak Killermann is a writer at Finder who’s been specializing in cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology for four years — covering everything from ICO booms, crypto winters, memecoins and more. He’s mined and minted cryptocurrencies, and remembers the days when DOGE was just for fun. Zak’s focus is in breaking down technical concepts (like yellow papers) for the average folk to digest on their morning commute. Before diving into all things crypto, Zak contributed to Finder’s money transfers vertical.

Expert review

PayPal is one of the most well-known ways to pay online, particularly helpful for users who want an added layer of security when online shopping. Although PayPal is a popular option for buying and selling online domestically, you can also use it to send money both domestically and internationally.

When it comes to sending money to loved ones both near and far, PayPal may not be your best bet due to higher fees and weaker exchange rates. Using PayPal to send money within South Africa is a viable option as long as you use the Friends and Family option, but when sending money abroad be sure to shop around to save some money.

What is PayPal?

PayPal is a digital payment system that can be used by both individuals and businesses to send and receive payments through the internet without having to share personal data. Although PayPal has long been associated with being the primary payment system for eBay, PayPal has since separated itself and expanded to offer global services that include money transfers, international payments and more.

How does PayPal work?

PayPal works similar to a bank account, in that it allows you to send, receive and store money digitally. PayPal integrates with many online merchants to make shopping online more seamless and private, and users can see a full history of transactions in their PayPal account history. Overall, PayPal can be used in a lot of the same places you’d shop with a credit or debit card.

Why should I consider PayPal?

  • Fast transfers to other PayPal users. Transfers direct from one PayPal account to another are almost always instant.
  • Security. PayPal monitors all transactions for fraud, uses industry-standard encryption and has many dispute resolution options. Additionally, AI systems add to PayPal’s resiliency against fraudulent transactions.
  • Worldwide network. PayPal is available in more than 200 countries around the world, but you’ll be limited to the 20+ currencies that PayPal supports.
  • Free domestic transfers. When sending domestically from one PayPal balance to another your transaction will be free if you send through the “Friends and Family” option.

What should I be aware of with PayPal?

  • Expensive international transfers. You face a layer of fees that vary by method, amount and country. Many transfers to recipients outside South Africa come with fees based on your transfer amount in addition to a flat fee in the currency you’re transferring to.
  • Weak exchange rates. When sending money to foreign currencies you’ll be forced to accept an exchange rate below the mid-market rate.
  • Fees when using credit and debit cards. Expect yet more fees if your plan to fund your transaction with plastic, rather than your PayPal account or a linked bank account.
  • Extra steps when receiving money. When someone pays you on PayPal you have to manually go into your account and request a bank payout — further increasing the time it takes for that money to hit your bank account.
  • Does not support South African rand. You’ll need to transfer money in an alternative currency as PayPal does not currently support the rand.

Compare money transfer services now

PayPal’s exchange rates and fees explained

PayPal international transfer fees depend on where you’re sending money to, how you’re sending it and how you plan to fund it. For international deliveries you face layers of fees that include flat rates and percentages of your transaction amount. PayPal does not have any hidden fees, but its fee structure is complex to say the least. When using PayPal, pay close attention to fees and exchange rates to avoid feeling like hidden fees snuck up on you.

PayPal fees in ZAR

The following fees apply when sending money to friends and family.

Funding methodDestination countryFees
PayPal balance or linked bank accountSouth AfricaR0
Credit card, debit card or PayPal CreditSouth Africa3.4% of transaction amount + a fixed fee
PayPal balance or linked bank accountAny other country5% of the transaction (US$0.99 minimum, US$4.99 maximum)
Credit card, debit card or PayPal CreditAny other country5% of the transaction (US$0.99 minimum, US$4.99 maximum) + 3.4% of the transaction amount paid using a credit card, debit card or PayPal Credit + a fixed fee based on currency

Fixed fee based on currency

CurrencyFee
Australian dollar0.30 AUD
Brazilian real0.60 BRL
Canadian dollar0.30 CAD
Czech koruna10 CZK
Danish krone2.60 DKK
Euro0.35 EUR
Hong Kong dollar2.35 HKD
Hungarian forint90 HUF
Israeli shekel1.20 ILS
Japanese yen40 JPY
Malaysian ringgit2.00 MYR
Mexican peso4.00 MXN
CurrencyFee
New Zealand dollar0.45 NZD
Norwegian krone2.80 NOK
Philippine peso15 PHP
Polish zloty1.35 PLN
Russian ruble10 RUB
Singapore dollar0.50 SGD
Swedish krona3.25 SEK
Swiss franc0.55 CHF
Taiwan new dollar10 TWD
Thai baht11 THB
UK pounds sterling0.20 GBP
US dollar0.30 USD

PayPal’s exchange rates

When we checked on May 11, 2020, PayPal’s exchange rate markups were anywhere from 3 – 4% or more, depending on the currency. For this example, we went with USD as the currency since PayPal doesn’t support transferring South African rands. This means you will have to convert your rands to a different currency – like USD – first before you’re able to transfer money.

1 USD =Mid-market ratePayPal’s markup
AUD1.48181.543.78%
CAD1.34881.43.66%
EUR0.8920.923.04%
GBP0.77810.813.94%
MXN22.890623.894.18%
PHP48.844450.373.03%

How to check PayPal’s exchange rates:

  1. Log in to your PayPal account.
  2. Click Wallet, which should be near the top of your screen.
  3. Click Currencies Calculator, which is under your PayPal balance.
  4. Select the currencies you want to convert to see rates.

Compare PayPal to other money transfer services

Most other services that send money overseas will be able to offer you a better exchange rate than PayPal. Check out the table below to see what your transfer could look like with another company.

Min. Transfer Amount Transfer Speed Online Transfer Fee Rate Amount Received Description CTA Details
AUD 2,000 2 days ZAR 0.00 0.095 NZD
95,003
CurrenciesDirect makes transferring money abroad simple with bank-beating exchange rates. Go to site Show details
EUR 8 3 - 5 days EUR 3.00 0.095 NZD
94,708
Special offer: Zero fees on your first 10 transfers.
CurrencyFair has bank-beating exchange rates and fast transfer times on 15+ popular currencies.
Go to site Show details
USD 2,000 1 day ZAR 0.00 0.095 NZD
95,003
TorFX guarantees to match any competitor's exchange rate. Conditions apply.
TorFX sends money overseas in 30+ currencies, with competitive rates for transfer amounts over $2,000.
Go to site Show details

Compare up to 4 providers

Disclaimer: Exchange rates change often. Confirm the total cost with the provider before transferring money.

How to use PayPal

One of the most popular uses for PayPal is to send and receive money online. Whether you’re sending this money to businesses or friends, the process is similar. In general you’ll have to create your account, add money to it and then choose who to send it money to. Here are the steps:

Making a PayPal account

Creating a PayPal account can be done for free and with little verification needed. To begin, follow these steps:

  1. Visit PayPal’s website and click Sign Up for Free.
  2. Next, you’ll be prompted to choose between a Personal Account and a Business Account. Chances are you want a personal account — if you’re planning to use the account to shop online or transfer money to a family member or friend.
  3. Enter your name, email and a password then click Next.
  4. You’ll then be asked for your address and phone number — these help PayPal confirm you’re a real person.
  5. Now you’re ready to add money to your PayPal account.

Once your account is created you can start receiving money right away, but you’ll have to add a payment method and bank account if you want to withdraw funds.

Adding money to PayPal

There are a few different types of PayPal accounts for personal use, including PayPal Cash and PayPal Cash Plus in addition to the standard PayPal account. PayPal Cash and PayPal Cash Plus accounts allow you to manage a PayPal balance, but aren’t required to use PayPal.

To add money to a PayPal account from your computer:

  1. Visit PayPal’s website and login.
  2. Click Wallet at the top of the screen.
  3. Click Transfer Money, and then select Add money to your balance.
  4. Choose your preferred bank account, enter the amount to transfer and click Add.

Transfers into your PayPal balance typically take 3-5 business days and incur no PayPal fees. However, it is always worth double checking with your bank beforehand to make sure your bank won’t charge any fees.

How to send money through PayPal

Money can be sent both domestically and internationally with PayPal. Different fees may apply depending on who you are transferring to, the purpose of the transfer and what country they live in. In general, to send a domestic PayPal transfer:

  1. Log in to your account and click Send & Request.
  2. Enter your recipient’s phone number or email address, the amount you want to send and a description of the transfer.
  3. Review the total cost for your transaction, including transfer fees, your payment method and possible fees depending on transfer destination and speed.
  4. Click Send Payment Now if you’re ready to transfer your funds.

How to receive money on PayPal

There is only one way to withdraw money from your PayPal account and you’ll need either a First National Bank (FNB) bank account or an FNB Profile linked to your bank account if you bank with another banking service to do it. You’ll also need to link your PayPal account to your FNB account – this also applies if you have an FNB account but don’t have internet banking.

Transfer to your FNB bank account. Log into your FNB bank account. Click PayPal services and click Withdraw from PayPal. Enter in the amount you want to withdraw in US dollars and remember to check that you have enough money to complete the withdrawal. Follow the instructions and then carefully review the exchange rate, the amount in South African rand that you will receive and any other fees. You’ll automatically be taken to the PayPal login page where you’ll need to log in and review the amount being transferred out. Once confirmed, you’ll be taken back to the FNB site to complete your transaction.
PayPal typically charges around 2% of the amount being withdrawn. Generally, withdrawals to an FNB bank account are completed within three to six business days although these have been known to take as many as eight business days for the transaction to go through.

Case study: Katia's experience

Katia Iervasi profile photo
Katia Iervasi
Writer
I mostly use PayPal for online shopping. My account is connected to my Australian bank account and debit card, so I rely on PayPal when I’m shopping on my favorite Australian sites so I don’t have to worry about currency conversion.

Thanks to its ironclad security, I also like using PayPal for eBay purchases, or whenever I’m shopping on a site for the first time. I know that if I have any issues, PayPal’s team will step in to help me to recover my money — which they’ve done in the past.

However, PayPal’s fees and charges can seriously stack up, especially if I opt to pay with my card. For that reason, I still turn to trusty Wise whenever I need to send money to and from Australia and my adopted home in the US. I like Wise’s interface better, too.

Is PayPal safe?

PayPal takes many measures to keep your money and transactions safe and secure, but how you use PayPal still factors into whether or not it is safe for you to use. PayPal helps keep you and your money safe by:

  • Protecting your sensitive information. PayPal doesn’t share your full financial information with sellers, which may help protect you from identity theft.
  • Monitoring transactions 24/7. Both humans and algorithms monitor PayPal transactions to spot fraud.
  • Encrypting your data. PayPal uses bank-level encryption, including SSL 3.0 with an encryption key length of 168 bits.
  • Offering fraud prevention. PayPal will never contact you asking for sensitive information by email or telephone — always contact PayPal if anything about your account history seems suspicious.
  • Providing dispute resolution. PayPal will help resolve disputes between buyers and sellers when PayPal is used as the payment method.

What PayPal reviews look like

Reviews accurate as of May 11, 2020.

Trustpilot score1 out of 5, based on 9,985 customer reviews
BBB ratingA, with 10,765 complaints in the last 3 years
PCMag.com4 out of 5, staff reviewed

PayPal is a massive global company that has millions of daily users. When investigating the negative reviews on Trustpilot we saw a trend of customers complaints focused on poor customer service and extremely long wait times on both phone and chat support. To avoid some of these issues, always be sure to read existing reviews on a buyer before making a purchase. Also, thoroughly read PayPal’s buyer protection fine print to fully understand what is and isn’t covered before relying on it to guarantee you a refund. Many of the scams that people face on PayPal common money transfer scams, so read up on our list of common scams and how to avoid them to save yourself time and stress.

Is there a PayPal app?

PayPal app screenshot

PayPal has an app on both Google Play and the App Store. The app can be used to:
  • Send money to loved ones. Send money to friends and family in South Africa using your PayPal balance or bank account for free.
  • Log in using biometrics. Both face and fingerprint recognition can be used to log in.
  • Manage your PayPal Cash Card. Move money between your PayPal Cash Card and your bank account on the go.
  • Send money around the world. Send money internationally through PayPal.

PayPal app reviews

Reviews accurate as of May 11, 2020
Google Play Store4.4 out of 5, based on 1,347,478 customer reviews
Apple App Store4.8 out of 5, based on 3,324,851 customer reviews

Bottom line

PayPal is a strong solution for fee-free direct domestic transfers to other PayPal accounts. But international transfers come with a complicated fee structure you’re likely better off avoiding with a money transfer specialist offering lower fees and stronger rates — especially on large transfers.

Frequently asked questions

Where can I use PayPal?

PayPal can be used in more than 200 countries and thousands of stores around the world. To see if a store you want to shop at supports PayPal, visit our PayPal store list and type the store you want to shop at into the search box. Our list is updated frequently, and is way easier to use than visiting every store individually online and searching its website to find out if PayPal is accepted.

How long do PayPal transfers take?

PayPal transfers between PayPal accounts are instant, but transferring to your bank account may take anywhere from 3-6 business days or more.

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