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PayPal is a giant, the de facto online payment service that we automatically gravitate to, thanks in no small part to its connection with eBay. But is it really the best and most secure method of making online payments? We look at 5 PayPal alternatives that you might consider switching to, or using in conjunction.

The “Strength” of PayPal?

Why do you use PayPal? It might be because you signed up to pay a seller on eBay, or because you run an online store that uses PayPal to take payments, something that is now possible offline.

The fact is, PayPal is an immense presence that many people around the world rely on. However, there is evidence that the crown is beginning to slip. More and more PayPal alternatives are appearing, giving consumers a new way to pay, one that might be cheaper, more flexible, more reliable, with better customer service or simply offering a better way of doing things.

Reasons to Consider PayPal Alternatives

There is a good chance that you’re happy with PayPal. Perhaps you’re fully invested in their way of doing things. Well, let’s think about that for a moment.

PayPal accounts regularly get blocked 5 Popular Services & Companies Blocked By PayPal 5 Popular Services & Companies Blocked By PayPal The PayPal versus BitTorrent battle always plays out in my mind like a Wild West showdown: "We don't want your kind in our town," PayPal says as he raises his gun. Women scream, men hide,... Read More , either because they’ve been hijacked (although in my experience, PayPal are always slower to act than the user) or because (according to those who have had their accounts blocked) someone at PayPal made a decision that didn’t reflect that facts. Whatever the case, it makes no sense to have a solitary online payment service relationship. Just as you use cash and plastic in the bricks and mortar stores, use a PayPal alternative wherever you can.

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After all, some people can’t always make or receive PayPal payments, and the fees the company charges can be prohibitive in some cases.

Perhaps the most important reason to choose an alternative to PayPal is that it isn’t the most secure method of payment. While useful for small amounts, if you regularly send larger sums you should rely on a service more suited to this.

Big names and new have got involved in the online payments market. Let’s look at the five alternatives.

Google Wallet

The US-only payment system enables users to employ credit cards, debit cards, loyalty cards and even gift cards to make purchases through their mobile phones, and on NFC-enabled smartphones make electronic payments in person, in addition to settling bills online.

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Available for iPhone and various Android devices (among them, the HTC One, LG Nexus 5, Motorola Moto X, various Samsung Galaxy handsets), Google Wallet has yet to hit the big time worldwide, but is among the top PayPal alternatives for US users. It’s free to send and receive money from your linked bank account or from your Google Wallet balance (a $500 limit per 30 days), while credit card transactions have a 2.9% fee.

Interestingly, Google Wallet has started offering users free debit cards Google Wallet Now Offering All Its US Users A Free Debit Card For Offline Purchases Google Wallet Now Offering All Its US Users A Free Debit Card For Offline Purchases Google Wallet is now offering their US users a free debit card for offline purchases anywhere that accepts Mastercard or debit cards, as well as withdrawing cash from your Wallet account at ATMs and banks. Read More so that they can use the service offline.

Nochex

Based in the UK, Nochex is a relatively small service compared to the others mentioned here, but there is a strong chance that you have used it as an alternative to PayPal already, or at least seen it listed as a payment option. Integrated into over 50 shopping carts and online store applications, Nochex is also listed as an acceptable payment method on eBay, although its full integration into the system has taken some time.

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Suitable for sending money to contacts as well as shopping online, Nochex is a strong alternative to PayPal  – but you need to be aware that it does not get involved in disputes, so making a purchase via the service is something that you should do only when there is a robust dispute resolution system in place for you to use in the event of problems with the seller.

Amazon Payments

Think of a version of PayPal where you don’t have to pay the service as well as the seller. That’s Amazon Payments, which has been around since 2008 Amazon Payments - The new PayPal Alternative from Amazon Amazon Payments - The new PayPal Alternative from Amazon Read More .

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If you’re already using Amazon, there’s a very good chance that the online marketplace already holds your credit card details. With Amazon Payments, you can use your Amazon account credentials to login and make purchases on thousands of websites and apps with the Login and Pay system, without scrambling around for your credit card.

With Amazon’s usual protection also safeguarding the transaction, this is one of the stronger alternatives to PayPal. We’re just a little surprised it hasn’t been more widely adopted.

Dwolla

Several new and unheard of services have cropped up over the past few years as competitors to PayPal. While the big guns of Amazon Payments, Google Wallet and Apple Pay have had all of the attention, startups like Dwolla have been able to work relatively anonymously, perfecting their model.

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This particular PayPal alternative offers something different, namely the absence of credit card and debit cards. Rather than linking a card to your account, it requires linking directly to your bank account.

Happily, for sellers there is no fee for using Dwolla for online shopping, and although it is free to send receive up to $10 to and from friends, amounts above this limit have a $0.25 fee. Dwolla offers telephone support to new signups.

Apple Pay

Completing the triumvirate of trusted brands expanding into online payments, Apple Pay – like Google Wallet – is currently restricted to the USA and is limited to certain iOS devices. Specifically, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are the only devices that can be used for Apple Pay in stores, while these along with the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3 can also use Apple Pay for payments within apps.

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In addition to an iCloud account, you’ll also need a supported card from a participating bank linked up to Apple Pay.

Again, like Google Wallet, the app supports NFC for contactless payments What Is NFC & Should You Buy a Phone That Has It? [MakeUseOf Explains] What Is NFC & Should You Buy a Phone That Has It? [MakeUseOf Explains] If you’re in the market for a new phone in 2013, you’re probably going to hear about something called NFC, and how it’s apparently changing the world. Don’t be fooled by the sales talk though.... Read More , and offers tools to add, remove and manage the cards you have associated with the service. Should your device become lost or stolen, Apple Pay can be suspended by signing into iCloud and activating Lost Mode.

Apple Pay is easy to use How To Use Apple Pay To Buy Things With Your iPhone How To Use Apple Pay To Buy Things With Your iPhone Your iPhone may some day be the only device you need to purchase products and services, but first you need to start using Apple Pay. Read More , and when we polled readers in 2014, 25 percent said they planned to use it, with almost 17 percent already doing so.

Avoiding Poor PayPal Alternatives

Just a few years ago, PayPal had the honour of being the online payment solution that everyone used, whether they wanted to or not. With the arrival of Apple, Google and Amazon into the arena, more and more people are realising that actually, they don’t need to use PayPal, especially if they’re already invested in the ecosystem of one of the three big competitors.

Just as importantly, however, has been the rise of the smaller competitors. Such competition offers opportunities for consumers, with the potential for strong innovation.

Sadly, some of these competitors fall short. For instance, WePay, an option that has been around since 2008 and cornered the market in donations to charities and crowdfunding projects, is particularly painful to use for some business owners. Payoneer, Skrill (which we’ve looked at previously Is It Worth The Switch? What PayPal Users Ought to Know About Skrill Is It Worth The Switch? What PayPal Users Ought to Know About Skrill Skrill, known in another life as Moneybookers, advertises fees and commissions that are often much lower than PayPal's. Their services very often trump PayPal's but at what cost? Read More ), Payza and Paymate all offer something new and different, but struggle to bring the same sort of competence and trust to online payments as PayPal’s more established competition. They’re promising alternatives, but lack the resources to provide comprehensive support.

Have you had problems with PayPal and switched to a new payment system? Perhaps you’re more interested in using just Apple Pay for all eventualities? Do you use a smaller service which we overlooked? Let us know in the comments.

Image credits: Yeamake / Shutterstock.com, Denys Prykhodov / Shutterstock.com, Gil C / Shutterstock.com, Denys Prykhodov / Shutterstock.com

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