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The Best Free or Cheap PayPal Alternatives

PayPal’s platform has a total of 277 million active users, 9.3 million of whom joined the network during Q1 2019, according to PayPal’s latest Q1 financial report. 

The best way to save money is to find and switch over to cheaper money transfer and payment networks. If you’re one of the 277 million PayPal users who’s tired of PayPal, there are plenty of more inexpensive online services that mimic what PayPal has to offer.  

Quick Look: The Best PayPal Alternatives

  • Amazon Pay
  • Shopify Pay
  • Transferwise
  • Skrill
  • Square

What’s PayPal?

PayPal is a service that enables you to send money and accept payments without revealing your financial details. PayPal’s platform uses those features to help individuals, small businesses and even large companies do more online invoicing, execute credit transactions and conduct virtual eCommerce.

Why PayPal May Not Be for You

While PayPal might be popular with many businesses and individuals, here are a few reasons why it may not necessarily be the right payment/money transfer solution for you.

Limited Currency Options

PayPal supports 25 currencies worldwide. Some of the alternative platforms discussed here offer transactions in many more currencies. PayPal may not be a suitable platform if you want greater flexibility. 

No Integrated Solution

Though PayPal is great at managing payments and receipts (a core part of any online business), it lacks an integrated built-in website and storefront features. 

Sure, PayPal makes up for it by offering add-ins like Express Checkout and partners with other companies to bridge that gap. Why complicate your business model by working with two vendors (PayPal plus another vendor) when some PayPal partners competitors have an all-in-one, seamless integrated solution?

High Fees and Complex Fee Structure 

If you wish to send the occasional “gift money” to friends and family, then PayPal is as good as some of the alternatives out there. However, if you make personal money transfers on a regular basis, then PayPal might not be the most cost-effective or expeditious platform to use. 

PayPal’s dominance of the online money transfer business enables it to charge premium rates for its service, which could be up to 2.9% of the transaction value, plus $0.30 per transaction. Its fee structure also isn’t the simplest to understand. PayPal may therefore not be the platform for you if you want a more simple, competitive fee structure.

What to Look for in an Alternative

Here are some key features to look for before you move from PayPal to an alternative payment processor.

Reliability 

PayPal is a well-reputed subsidiary of online shopping giant eBay, so any other PayPal alternative needs to have an equally well-established reputation. After all, the alternative you select will have access to your most private data, including banking and credit card information.  

Broad Coverage

The level of geographic coverage that the alternative services enjoy will determine where you can send and receive money, and in how many currencies you can transact. It’s important for you to evaluate whether you’re dealing with a widely-accepted alternative service before you make the switch. 

For instance, if you want to send money from the U.S. to Japan through an alternative source that’s widely accepted across 150 countries but not Japan, that coverage is of no use to you. It would make more sense to partner with a service provider that has a presence in that particular country.  

Simplicity of Fee Structure 

Whether you’re looking for a PayPal alternative for personal or business use, look for a simple, easy-to-understand fee schedule. Complex fee structures sometimes hit you with sneaky hidden fees.

Our Picks for PayPal Alternatives

Here are 5 PayPal alternatives for consideration. While some of them are great retail/commercial-use alternative platforms, others are good for personal money transfer and individual payment transactions.

Amazon Pay

Source: pay.amazon.com

Are you a small business operator with an Amazon eCommerce storefront? Why not consider Amazon Pay instead of PayPal?

This is Amazon’s integrated payment facilitator that lets you pay for third-party goods and services on other websites in 60+ currencies. Best of all, if you already have an Amazon storefront and account, you’ll have automatic access to Amazon Pay.

The fee for Amazon Pay, which is between 2.9% + $0.30 to 3.9% + $0.30 for web and mobile transactions, are highly competitive and comparable to other payment processors, including PayPal’s. If your customers don’t typically pay with a credit card, Amazon Pay will also let them use a U.S. checking account. 

Backed by one of the internet’s most trusted names, Amazon Pay is available globally. You’re also guaranteed to receive exceptional support and it comes with Amazon’s formal dispute resolution process. In the event of a valid claim, users of the “A-Z Guarantee” feature may also be eligible for reasonable compensation/refund (of up to $2,500) from Amazon.

Shopify Pay

Source: shopifypay.com

Want to save on third-party payment processor service fees, operate an online merchant store or just want an integrated payment processor? Shopify Pay might be worth exploring. 

You’ve likely heard of Shopify in the context of selling products through an online and eCommerce store. Through the platform’s Shopify Pay network, you can also securely pay hundreds of thousands of vendors. The platform allows you to accept and make online transfers without connecting to third-party payment networks and serves as a great PayPal alternative for online businesses.   

The payment processor integrates into your store, which means you won’t need to disclose your credit information to third-party payment platforms. And, by integrating Shopify Pay with your Shopify store, you also don’t pay transaction fees on your orders. You’ll just pay credit card transaction fees, which you’d also pay if you used PayPal.

Here’s a bonus feature: Your customers can continue paying via PayPal without paying extra fees for transactions.

Shopify integrates with 100+ global payment gateways, delivers 24/7 support for its platform, protects its customer data by adopting strict PCI standards and encrypts all data that goes through its network.  The simplicity of Shopify’s pricing structure, shipping discounts of up to 74% and no transaction fee (for accounts with integrated Shopify Pay) makes it a cheap and appealing PayPal alternative. 

TransferWise

Source: transferwise.com

If you frequently send and receive money internationally via PayPal and worry about currency exchange rates and transfer fees, TransferWise might be right for you. Also, PayPal’s money transfers and currency conversions (from/to banks and PayPal and vice versa) can take up to 5 days for completion. TransferWise conversions occasionally take a maximum of 2 working days. The actual transfer time depends on the receiving bank.

PayPal uses rates set by outside financial institutions when converting foreign currencies, plus a conversion service charge, which typically adds a markup of 4.5% to the final conversion rate. That makes foreign exchange conversion transactions more opaque and costly. TransferWise uses what’s called the mid-market rate, which you can independently verify on your own from open-market data (available at Google Finance, Yahoo Finance or Xe.com, for instance).

If you use the platform’s Borderless account, it lets you transfer to 47 states, in 40+ currencies and from/to 50+ countries at the real exchange rate and no fees. Typical currency conversion rates range from 0.35% to less than 3%, and you can get USD, EUR, GBP, AUD and NZD in your account for free. 

Unlike PayPal, you can access local bank credentials from the TransferWise network to facilitate your inter-currency conversions. The secret to low-fee transfers is the use of technology to match transfers from across the world and make them local transfers instead of international ones. This eliminates many transaction fees that you’d otherwise have to pay if you executed the same transfers via your bank. You can also use its money transfer app to make transfers.

TransferWise counts some of the world’s most trusted financial figures, including Virgin’s Sir Richard Branson and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel as early investors in its platform. Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) also closely monitors the platform for fraudulent or suspicious activity, like regulatory bodies from the U.S., Australia, Canada, Hong Kong and many other countries. 

Skrill

Source: skrill.com

You’ll find Skrill to be a great PayPal alternative if you do a lot of business in Europe (or vice versa). The eCommerce payments solution provider facilitates both personal money transfers as well as commercial buying/selling transactions online. Simple to set up and use, Skrill has been around for nearly 2 decades and is a safe platform to use. 

Previously known as Moneybookers, Skrill transformed into what it is today in 2001 and became Europe’s first FCA-regulated e-money issuer in 2002. Based out of London, Skrill also has a presence across Europe and in the U.S. Since 2009, the company has established partnerships with PayPal’s parent eBay in 2009 and ranked #25 in Deloitte’s 2011 Fast 50 list.  

Regulated by Britain’s FCA and adopted by millions of customers around the world, the platform allows users from 200+ countries to transact 40+ currencies.

PayPal’s fee structure is difficult to understand but typically works out to be 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. International sales can cost 4.4% plus currency transfer/exchange fees. Sending to other countries can cost you a transaction fee of up to 5% of the amount sent plus funding fee of 2.9% of the transaction amount.

Skrill has a comparatively flat fee structure. Receiving money is always free, and there is no fee when using Skrill money transfer service to send money directly to a bank. It costs you 1.45% of the transaction amount to send money. There’s a 3.9% fee added to the applicable exchange rate involving currency conversions.

Skrill Wallet holders can still send funds to friends/relatives there for a 1.45% fee if it doesn’t have a presence in a specific country. All you need is the recipients’ email address. Unlike PayPal, you can even use Skrill for currency speculation transactions and can buy/sell cryptocurrencies through this platform.

The platform also supports a broad array of payment methods, including AmEx, Diners Club, Master, Visa and SWIFT, all for a low 1% price. You can also get a Skrill Prepaid Mastercard and Skrill Virtual Prepaid Mastercard. The prepaid Mastercard costs you 1.75% in fees. 

Square

Source: square.com

If you do a lot of your business on the go and are looking for a highly competitive mobile credit card processing platform for small businesses, Square is a great alternative to consider. Transparent fee structures and flexible solutions make it a great choice for small businesses and online store owners.

The brainchild of Jack Dorsey, who also co-founded Twitter, Square is a publicly-traded entity on the tech-heavy NASDAQ stock exchange. Heavyweight financial backers include Morgan Stanley, Blackrock Inc. and Vanguard Group.

The Square platform can process a broad range of credit, debit and prepaid cards, including Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, JCB, UnionPay and most internationally-issued cards. You can also use corporate, rewards and health savings accounts (HSA) and flexible spending accounts (FSA) to conduct transactions on the platform. Square also processes international invoices or eCommerce-enabled receipts from your clients abroad. 

For the most part, Square fees match or are lower than PayPal fees. Both charge 2.9% + $0.30 for online invoices and 3.5% + $0.15 for keyed transactions. A PayPal card reader swipe costs 2.7% and Square terminal taps cost 2.6% + $0.10 per transaction. While fees are comparatively similar, the Square platform has many more tools and features built to specifically support small businesses and eCommerce.   

Making Your Move

What might seem like a great alternative to PayPal for one person or company might not be so for someone else Ask yourself what your primary purpose is for your PayPal alternative.

For instance, if your primary purpose for an alternative is money transfers to friends and family, then TransferWise may be a good option. However, for small businesses and online merchandising applications, Shopify’s integrated store, payment processing and competitive fee structure might be a better PayPal alternative.

Want to learn more about the best personal finance products? Check out Benzinga’s guides to the best budget apps, the best home inventory apps and the best banking apps.

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