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There are three costs associated with PayPal merchant services: software costs, hardware costs, and payment processing fees. Most PayPal software is free to use, although there are monthly fees for providing a self-hosted checkout experience. In terms of hardware, PayPal sells a variety of mobile credit card readers ranging in price from $14.99 to $99.99. Credit card processing fees are 2.7% for in-person transactions and 2.9% + $0.15 for digital transactions.
When PayPal launched in 1998, it made digital payments available to the masses. Since that time the company has grown considerably, and now provides a full range of merchant services. Among PayPal’s offerings are credit and debit card processing, payment gateways, invoicing, recurring payments, in-person payments, and mobile point of sale. Furthermore, PayPal accepts a variety of different payment options, and is generally considered an extremely trustworthy processor.
Having said all that, the question many small business owners have is how much it will cost them to work with PayPal. The answer is multi-faceted, and depends upon what your business needs in terms of merchant services. Let’s take a look at PayPal’s rates and fees across all of their different merchant services. This way, you can understand exactly what kind of expenses you will face if you decide to work with PayPal.
Generally, there are three different costs associated with PayPal merchant services: software costs, hardware costs, and payment processing fees. Software costs are monthly fees you’ll pay to be able to run payments from a webpage, mobile application, or over the phone. Hardware costs are one-time expenses for the purchase of hardware needed to process a payment, such as a card reader. Payment processing fees are a small percentage of the payment being processed, plus an additional flat-rate fee for an online transaction.
The good news is that PayPal does not lock you into any long-term commitments. Pricing is pay-as-you-go, and if you ever want to cancel your service, you can do so without incurring an account termination fee.
Photo credit: PayPal
What you’ll pay for PayPal software depends on what kind of software you need for your business. PayPal offers its basic software at no cost whatsoever, and only charges monthly fees for more advanced options. Here are the different software options PayPal provides for merchants, and their associated costs.
The Payments Standard plan is a free service from PayPal that allows subscribers to add “buy” and “donate” buttons to any website. When a user clicks on the button, they will be directed to a PayPal checkout screen.
Payments Standard can accept debit and credit card payments, plus 25 currencies from over 200 countries. The service is also PCI compliant, offers fraud protection and encryption, and works with most ecommerce platforms.
Payments Pro is an upgrade to Payments Standard that costs $30 per month. With Payments Pro you can host the checkout process on your own website, and accept payments from PayPal and Venmo as well as credit and debit cards. Payments Pro also comes with its own payment gateway, and a virtual terminal that allows you to take payments over the phone.
If you wish to be able to process recurring payments, you can add the automatic billing feature to your Payments Pro account for an additional $10 per month.
PayPal Checkout is another free service from PayPal that allows you to integrate PayPal, Venmo, PayPal Credit (PayPal’s financing product), and regular credit and debit card buy buttons on almost any mobile device. When a user clicks one of the buttons, a PayPal pop-up window appears where they can complete checkout. When the payment is complete, PayPal will pass along the customer’s contact and shipping information to you.
When you integrate PayPal Checkout you’ll also get access to PayPal Marketing Solutions, an analytics dashboard that provides you with insights into how customers shop on your website.
PayPal Here is a free application for iOS and Android phones that processes in-person payments via a mobile credit card reader. The app basically functions like a mobile point of sale, allowing you to set up a business profile, customize e-receipts, track sales and inventory, create invoices, and assign roles and permissions for your employees.
Note that you need a mobile credit card reader to process payments with PayPal Here. Mobile card readers are sold separately (more on this later).
When you sign up for a free PayPal business account, you’ll be able to send an unlimited number of digital invoices. Invoices can be paid via a credit or debit card or with a PayPal account. PayPal invoices offer a lot of functionality, including the ability to customize invoices, arrange recurring invoices, send reminders and follow-ups, and accept partial payments.
Another feature you get when you sign up for a PayPal business account is PayPal’s mass payment option, PayPal Payouts. This service allows you to send payments to up to 5,000 people at once in a variety of different currencies. There is no payment processing fee here. Instead, PayPal charges a flat rate of $0.25 per transaction or 2% of the total payout.
If you want to accept online payments with PayPal you’ll need to use PayPal’s payment gateway—PayPal Payflow. There are two Payflow options: Payflow Link is free and provides a PayPal-hosted checkout experience. This is the payment gateway used in Payments Standard, PayPal Here, and PayPal Checkout. If you want a self-hosted checkout experience, you’ll need to sign up for Payflow Pro, which costs $25 per month. This option allows you to create a custom, PCI compliant checkout page. Note that Payflow Pro is built into Payments Pro.
Although PayPal does not offer its own point of sale (POS), it does integrate with many other POS providers at not cost. Here are the POS providers that PayPal works with, and their costs:
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If you’re only using PayPal for digital transactions, you won’t have to worry about any hardware costs. But if you want to use PayPal Here, or you are going to integrate PayPal with a third-party POS, you’ll need to invest in some POS hardware. Given that PayPal doesn’t offer POS software, its hardware offerings are limited to card readers and some accessories.
Card reader prices range from $14.99 for a dongle that plugs into a mobile device to $99.99 for a card reader that can take swipe, dip, and contactless payments. Other hardware products sold through PayPal include register stands, receipt printers, and cash drawers. For an all-in-one POS hardware solution, PayPal recommends the Elo Paypoint, a combination register, cash drawer, and card reader.
As you can tell by now, PayPal doesn’t charge a lot to use their services. Instead, it makes its money via payment processing fees. The processing fees you will pay depend on the transaction type (in-person, digital) and the service you are using (PayPal Here, Payments Pro). Before we talk about specific rates, it’s important to understand how PayPal does payment processing.
PayPal is what is known as an aggregator. This means that PayPal aggregates payments from all its clients into one giant merchant account. Using an aggregator means you won’t face the same strict underwriting standards that you would if you went to a bank to open your own business merchant account. However, your account will be more heavily scrutinized when working with an aggregator, given that rejected and fraudulent transactions impact the larger pool of clients. Because of this, delayed payments, account holds, and account terminations can happen. We recommend familiarizing yourself with PayPal’s terms of service before signing up, so you won’t face disruptions in your service.
Now that you understand how payment processing works, here are the costs associated with PayPal payment processing: For merchants who use PayPal Here or integrate PayPal with a third-party POS app, your payment processing rate will be:
For digital payments, including payments using Payments Standard, Payments Pro, Payments Checkout, and PayPal invoices, your fee will be:
For the most part these are the only rates you have to worry about. However, there are a few caveats for specific transaction types. If a majority of your payments are under $10, you can opt for PayPal’s micropayments plan, which gives you the following payment processing rates:
If you are a qualified 501(c)(3) non-profit, PayPal will offer you the following rate:
Other fees to be aware of with PayPal payment processing include:
If you’re curious what’s the lowest possible rate you can pay to use PayPal, the answer is 2.7% for in-person transactions and 2.9% + $0.15 for digital transactions (unless you’re a nonprofit). These rates are slightly lower than what you would pay to work with competitor payment processing services. Here are PayPal’s competitors and their rates:
Note that there are some exceptions to these rates. Shopify, for instance, lowers your processing rates if you sign up for one of their more advanced software plans. Generally speaking though, PayPal offers some of the best processing rates on the market.
As we mentioned earlier, you can use PayPal without incurring any monthly fees whatsoever. Payments Standard, PayPal Here, and PayPal Checkout are all free services that will only charge you when you process a transaction. If you want to use Payments Pro or Payflow Pro, you’ll be charged a monthly fee, but you would only need them if you want to offer a self-hosted checkout experience.
For businesses that sell primarily online and are comfortable with PayPal hosting their checkout, you’ll be charged no monthly fees whatsoever.
Now that you have a good idea of what PayPal charges for its merchant services, the only thing left to decide is if it is a good fit for your business. Generally speaking, if you are looking for low-cost payment processing with minimal commitments, PayPal offers a great solution.
If you’d like to compare PayPal to some other options, check out our list of the best credit card processing companies for small business.