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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.
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.
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.
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 method||Destination country||Fees|
|PayPal balance or linked bank account||South Africa||R0|
|Credit card, debit card or PayPal Credit||South Africa||3.4% of transaction amount + a fixed fee|
|PayPal balance or linked bank account||Any other country||5% of the transaction (US$0.99 minimum, US$4.99 maximum)|
|Credit card, debit card or PayPal Credit||Any other country||5% 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
|Australian dollar||0.30 AUD|
|Brazilian real||0.60 BRL|
|Canadian dollar||0.30 CAD|
|Czech koruna||10 CZK|
|Danish krone||2.60 DKK|
|Hong Kong dollar||2.35 HKD|
|Hungarian forint||90 HUF|
|Israeli shekel||1.20 ILS|
|Japanese yen||40 JPY|
|Malaysian ringgit||2.00 MYR|
|Mexican peso||4.00 MXN|
|New Zealand dollar||0.45 NZD|
|Norwegian krone||2.80 NOK|
|Philippine peso||15 PHP|
|Polish zloty||1.35 PLN|
|Russian ruble||10 RUB|
|Singapore dollar||0.50 SGD|
|Swedish krona||3.25 SEK|
|Swiss franc||0.55 CHF|
|Taiwan new dollar||10 TWD|
|Thai baht||11 THB|
|UK pounds sterling||0.20 GBP|
|US dollar||0.30 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 rate||PayPal’s markup|
How to check PayPal’s exchange rates:
- Log in to your PayPal account.
- Click Wallet, which should be near the top of your screen.
- Click Currencies Calculator, which is under your PayPal balance.
- 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.
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:
- Visit PayPal’s website and click Sign Up for Free.
- 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.
- Enter your name, email and a password then click Next.
- You’ll then be asked for your address and phone number — these help PayPal confirm you’re a real person.
- 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:
- Visit PayPal’s website and login.
- Click Wallet at the top of the screen.
- Click Transfer Money, and then select Add money to your balance.
- 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:
- Log in to your account and click Send & Request.
- Enter your recipient’s phone number or email address, the amount you want to send and a description of the transfer.
- Review the total cost for your transaction, including transfer fees, your payment method and possible fees depending on transfer destination and speed.
- 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
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 score||1 out of 5, based on 9,985 customer reviews|
|BBB rating||A, with 10,765 complaints in the last 3 years|
|PCMag.com||4 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?
- 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 Store||4.4 out of 5, based on 1,347,478 customer reviews|
|Apple App Store||4.8 out of 5, based on 3,324,851 customer reviews|
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?
How long do PayPal transfers take?
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