PayPal vs. credit cards for shopping online in the UK

Gert Svaiko

Love a little online shopping? If you’re a fan of buying online, you’ll need to know the best way to pay.

Here in the UK, there are a few different payment options available at checkout (although it depends on the retailer). Two of the most popular are PayPal and credit cards, along with debit cards of course.

In this guide, we’ll be looking at PayPal vs. credit cards, to see which is the best choice to pay for your online purchase. We’ll run through pros and cons, and compare the two on security, fees, buyer protection and much more.

We’ll also show you a great alternative for making online and real-world purchases in multiple countries and currencies - the Wise card from the money services provider Wise.

card

Please see the Terms of Use for your region.

Pros and cons for using PayPal

First up, we have PayPal, the popular online payment service. Let’s dive straight into PayPal pros and cons.

Pros:

  • Widely accepted, especially when shopping online
  • Very secure
  • No device restrictions - use PayPal on any phone, tablet or laptop
  • Can be used to send and receive online payments too - including international payments
  • Easy to use accounts with multiple features
  • Pay in-store with the PayPal app and QR codes
  • Free to open an account and free for many UK transactions (including online shopping in GBP)¹
  • Buyer and Fraud Protection policies²
  • PayPal Credit options available (subject to eligibility)

Cons:

  • Fees of 3% for currency conversions, required when buying from an overseas website in a different currency¹
  • Complicated fees structure for other types of payments
  • Must open a PayPal account to use it as a payment method
  • Not as easy and convenient for in-store payments as contactless mobile wallets

Pros and cons for using credit cards

Now, let’s give credit cards the same treatment. Here are the main pros and cons to consider before using a credit card to shop online.

Pros:

  • Spread the cost of large purchases
  • Widely accepted
  • Secure payments
  • Buyer protection for purchases between £100 and £30,000, under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act³
  • Some cards offer cashback or other rewards
  • Can be used for in-store purchases too

Cons:

  • Interest is payable on credit card balances (unless your card has a 0% interest promotional period)
  • Credit cards charge high fees for late or missed payments
  • Some retailers charge their own extra processing fee for credit card payments

Another thing to bear in mind - if you want to shop in a different country or currency, you’ll need to choose the right credit card for spending abroad. Some are great for overseas spending, others not so much.

📚 Read more: Virtual debit cards you can open in the UK

PayPal vs. credit cards – the comparison

To help you make up your mind, here’s a full comparison of Paypal vs. credit cards on things like fees, security, limits and buyer protection:

Apple PayPayPal
Market shareUsed by 69% of mobile wallet users⁴Used by 31% of mobile wallet users⁴
AvailabilityiOS users onlyAll users (age 18+)
FeesNoneNone for domestic transactions (inc. paying in-store)

5% fee for international transactions³

LimitsNone - although some retailers may have £100 contactless limitNone
SecurityPayments completed with Face ID or Touch IDUses data encryption and has Buyer Protection policies⁵
PrivacyUses tokenisation so card details aren’t shared with merchants⁶Protects data with encryption and secure servers⁶
Buyer protectionPayment protection provided by card issuerBuyer and Fraud Protection policies⁵
Customer supportApple Support website and phone support⁷PayPal Resolution Centre, message and phone support⁸
Payment typesOnline shopping

In-person (app)

Online shopping

In-person (app)

Send and receive payments

Tips for safe online shopping

Here are some tips to keep you safe while shopping online:

  • Use a secure private Wi-Fi or mobile data connection - avoid public Wi-Fi
  • Check that the website is genuine. Look for the padlock symbol and ‘HTTPS’ in the website address bar, which tells you that the website uses an encrypted connection.
  • Do some research. If the website is unfamiliar, use sites like TrustPilot to check customer reviews and see if there’s anything to be concerned about. You can also look the business up on Companies House.
  • Use a strong password, if you’re creating an account (and especially if you also choose to save your card details for next time).

Wise – An alternative to PayPal and credit cards

Want to shop online in your choice of 40+ currencies? And how about spending like a local in 150+ countries? The Wise card could be just what you’re looking for.

Open a Wise account online and you can order your own contactless Wise card or get it as a virtual card.

It’s an international debit card that can be used worldwide, including online. Whenever you spend in a different currency, the card automatically converts the currency at the mid-market exchange rate – with no margin added on top.

You’ll only pay a small fee for a currency conversion, or it’s free if you already have the currency in your Wise account. There are no commission charges, foreign transaction fees or other hidden costs.

Sign up with Wise today 💰

Please see the Terms of Use for your region or visit Wise fees & pricing for the most up-to-date information on pricing and fees.


So which is the best choice for shopping online - PayPal or a credit card? It may all depend on what options are available with each particular retailer, and which credit card you have.

But both offer secure payments and buyer protection, which should give you some peace of mind when shopping online.

Just remember to follow our tips for safe online shopping. If unsure of a particular website, it could be safer to steer clear until you can do some further research.


Sources used for this article:

  1. PayPal - PayPal fees
  2. PayPal - PayPal Safety and Security
  3. Money Helper - How section 75 and chargeback protection work for your credit and debit cards
  4. Journalism - PayPal vs Apple Pay: the battle for your digital wallet
  5. PayPal - Contact Us

Sources checked on 14-Nov-2023.


Please see terms of use and product availability for your region or visit Wise fees and pricing for the most up to date pricing and fee information.

This publication is provided for general information purposes and does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from Wise Payments Limited or its subsidiaries and its affiliates, and it is not intended as a substitute for obtaining advice from a financial advisor or any other professional.

We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether expressed or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

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