Can I Use a Debit Card for PayPal?

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PayPal is a great tool for making payments. While it started as an online service, you can also shop at brick-and-mortar retailers using your PayPal account – and you can fund those purchases with your debit card.

PayPal can even protect your card information: instead of punching in your card number everywhere you shop, there’s a layer between merchants (possibly an online vendor that you don’t know anything about) and your checking account.

In a world of hackers and constant data breaches, it’s nice to insulate your checking account from trouble.

Note: this page is about using a debit card to fund purchases you make through PayPal. If you’re looking for a new debit card issued by PayPal (which might let you spend from your PayPal balance), skip to PayPal debit and credit card options.

Do you ​​Need to Add a Debit Card to PayPal?

If you’re just planning to use your debit card as your “funding method” at PayPal, you might be adding unnecessary steps. PayPal wants you to link your bank account anyway – the same account that your debit card pulls from – and some PayPal transactions are cheaper if you use your bank account (as opposed to using your debit card).

How to Get Set Up

To use your debit card on PayPal, you’ll need to add it to your Profile. To do so, log into your account and click on “Wallet.” Next, find the section to “Link a card or bank.” Select the type of card you’re using, and provide the card information.

Entering debit card information is the same as entering credit card information: the format for card numbers and expiration dates is the same.

You’ll get the most functionality if you use a real debit card issued by a bank or credit union: one with a billing address that matches your home address, and one that has a 3 or 4 digit security code on the back.

You can’t use ​certain prepaid debit cards, but you can use some Visa, MasterCard, Discover, or American Express prepaid gift cards for one-time purchases.

Note that you can only link a debit card to one PayPal account. If you and your spouse use cards with the same card number (this is common for credit cards, but less common for debit cards) and your spouse has linked the card already, you can’t use that debit card on your own PayPal account.

When you pay for goods or services, verify that you’re using the funding method that you want: check on the “Review your Payment” page to see if the charge will go to your debit card (or if it’ll come from your bank account, another card, or your PayPal balance).

Moving Money

Since your debit card pulls funds from your checking account, you’ll need to have money available in your account in order to make a purchase. If you’re low on funds, remember that any purchase will instantly reduce your checking account balance, increasing the odds that you’ll bounce checks or be unable to make payments from that account.

If you fund a payment with your debit card and get a refund (because you return an item, for example), the refund should be applied to your debit card.

If that doesn’t happen, the refund will go into your PayPal balance, and you can either spend that money elsewhere (using PayPal), or transfer the funds to your bank account.

You can’t move your PayPal balance to your debit card, but transferring the money to your bank account accomplishes the same thing: the money will be in your checking account and you’ll be able to spend it using your debit card.

To move money to your bank, go to your Wallet and choose the option to transfer money to your bank account.

Fees are Optional

If you like debit cards because they’re inexpensive, make sure you don’t pay unnecessary fees to PayPal. For purchases from merchants – including individual sellers on eBay – PayPal doesn’t charge you fees, so it doesn’t really matter how you pay (although the merchant has to pay, and those fees might lead to higher prices).

If you make personal payments (repaying friends for pizza night, for example), PayPal charges you a fee for using your debit or credit card – but funding the payment with your bank account is free. With a debit card, the money comes from your checking account anyway, so you might as well fund directly from your bank account.

Is it Safe to use a Debit Card with PayPal?

Your debit card is linked directly to your checking account. Any charges to the card pull money out of checking more or less immediately. If there's an error (or fraud), you might be protected, but it may be hard to pay bills until things get cleared up. A credit card would be safer to use than a debit card (assuming you don't rack up debt).

That said, paying with your debit card through PayPal is safer than just using your debit card. Merchants (as well as hackers, thieves, and employees) only see your email address – your PayPal username – and certain personal information instead of getting your card number. It's harder for them to use your PayPal account fraudulently. Plus, PayPal offers buyer protection and other features that might go above and beyond what your debit card offers.