I've used PayPal as a customer for 16 years and never had a problem. However, the terrible stories of accounts being frozen and funds seized lead me to be wary about recommending PayPal as your payment gateway provider.
The fact is that PayPal is a monster company. It is huge. And with big business come lots of complaints. It's inevitable.
However for getting payments processed and quickly without any red tape or forms to fill PayPal is seriously good at what it does and since being spun off from its parent company eBay in 2015, it has begun to address some of the problems that were holding it back.
Namely the slow approach to rapidly changing technology and its lack of customer service.
How PayPal works
If you have an email address, then you can sign up for a PayPal account, and within minutes of set-up, you can transfer funds to someone else with a PayPal account. Over the past couple of years, the time to withdraw funds to your bank account has diminished to becoming almost instant, and fees have become more competitive as the market matures.
From PayPal's perspective, the nature of providing its service is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you have the entire population who has an email address as your potential customer, and on the other, you have fraudsters, shysters and hucksters all trying to hustle a quick buck. It's quite a high wire act to pull off.
Services For Merchants
The advantage of PayPal over anything else in the marketplace is the simplicity with which you can accept payments, be it simply providing an email address to send funds or by sending an invoice, or using some cut and paste the code to embed in your website to produce a “buy now” button.
PayPal also integrates with nearly every shopping cart system ever developed including Shopify and Bigcommerce, and it is very easy to set up. You can be up and running and accept payments in literally a few minutes.
There is no contract and no termination fee, and it interacts with Kashflow Accounting so that you can automatically import your entries without having to laboriously type them in individually which is a massive boon for eBay sellers for example.
The downside is that because you have no ongoing contract your account can be shut down at any moment, for example, if the company suspects that you have engaged in fraud and no matter how innocent you may be it can take a while to get it back online again if you have a problem.
Telephone support is a very hit and miss affair, to say the least.
PayPal offers two levels of support for merchants.
PayPal Standard and PayPal Pro
With both plans, you can accept all credit and debit cards and also use a chip and pin reader (which costs £69.95), but with the paid for £20 per month service you get the bonus of free telephone support, and you can host the payment page on your own server if you wish.
This makes the payment system seamless as the customer has no need to leave your website and be redirected to the PayPal gateway page.
Also, with the Pro version, you can use a virtual terminal to process MOTO payments (Mail order, Telephone Order).
Transaction fees begin at 3.4%+ 20p so they are not the cheapest but if you are doing low volume then the costs could be offset by negating any set-up or contract fee you'd get from using Sage pay or similar provider.
Since divorcing with its long-term partner eBay, PayPal has begun to make strides forward as a business where in the past you felt it was falling backwards.
“Contextual Payments” is the promise on offer from Modest – putting payment buttons where none currently exist but should or could.
Now, if we could just convince it to purchase a decent call centre...
For small businesses who want to begin accepting card payments then PayPal is a good option. For those with larger fish to fry, it can be used as an alternative payment system or even backup to your payment gateway.