In Q3 2018, there were over 254 million active PayPal users in the world. It appears that people don’t realize—or simply don’t care—that there are several online payment processor alternatives to PayPal that are safer and better.
Sadly, convenience and availability tend to trump everything else.
And that’s true of the PayPal Credit Card as well. Despite its mixed reviews, a lot of people have and use a PayPal Credit Card. Should you start using one too? Here’s what you need to know to make an informed decision.
How the PayPal Credit Card Works
PayPal actually provides three different forms of credit:
- PayPal Credit (formerly called Bill Me Later)
- PayPal Extras MasterCard
- PayPal Smart Connect Card
As we learned in our overview of PayPal’s consumer services, PayPal Credit isn’t actually a credit card. It’s simply a credit line that’s part of your online account and comes with some benefits. The Smart Connect Card is similar, except you get a physical card.
When people talk about PayPal’s credit card, 99% of the time they’re referring to the PayPal Extras MasterCard, which is an actual credit card provided by Synchrony Bank. This is what we’ll be focusing on for the remainder of this article.
Here’s a quick rundown of what you get with a PayPal Extras MasterCard:
- There is no annual fee for this card.
- 3 points per $1 spent at gas stations and restaurants.
- 2 points per $1 spent at PayPal and eBay.
- 1 point per $1 spent anywhere else, online or offline.
- Redeem points for rewards. (More on that below.)
- MasterCard’s built-in protections against various inconveniences, including identity theft, fraudulent purchases, and price drops within 60 days.
How to Get a PayPal Credit Card
In order to get a PayPal credit card, you must voluntarily apply for one, be at least 18 years of age, and live within the United States. Application approval is subject to credit approval by Synchrony Bank.
Depending on your credit score and history, Synchrony Bank will determine whether you get the PayPal Extras MasterCard (21.99%, 25.99%, or 28.99% APR) or the Smart Connect Card (26.99% APR and no rewards program). Even if you apply specifically for the PayPal Extras MasterCard, there’s no guarantee you’ll get it.
However, after using the PayPal Smart Connect Card responsibly for a while, PayPal may decide to upgrade your account to an PayPal Extras MasterCard. This could take between 12 and 18 months, depending on your credit-worthiness.
Should You Get a PayPal Credit Card?
There are lots of choices you should consider when choosing a new credit card, particularly for online shopping, and by now, the PayPal Extras MasterCard probably seems like an awesome deal. There aren’t any fees to using it, you get reward points no matter what you buy, and you get the same level of protection as you’d get from any other MasterCard credit card.
But should you apply for one? There are valid reasons to do so, of course, but there are just as many reasons why you shouldn’t. Depending on your answers to these five questions, you’ll know whether getting one is in your best interests or not.
1. Do You Already Have Consumer Debt?
If you’re already swimming in debt, grabbing another credit card is one of the last things you should do. Even if the debt you have is so-called “good debt”—such as a mortgage loan or student loans—you should be wary about taking on more debt.
It’s easy to tell yourself that you’ll be responsible with a new credit card, but the only way to know for sure is by being honest with yourself and your current credit situation. Are you responsible with your current finances? If not, you probably won’t be with any new debt.
In 2014, PayPal’s VP of Credit noted that “[consumer spending] goes up 30% after a customer adopts a PayPal credit vehicle,” citing previous studies at the company. That was true whether the credit vehicle was PayPal Credit or a PayPal credit card.
2. What Is Your Personal Credit Score?
As is true any time you apply for a new line of credit, Synchrony Bank will want to know your credit history before approving or rejecting your application. This means a hard credit inquiry, which will remain on your credit report for two years.
This means you shouldn’t apply unless you’re confident you’ll be approved. Getting a hard credit inquiry on your report and failing the approval process will leave you in a worse state than before.
Nobody knows the exact criteria, of course, but the general consensus seems to be a minimum credit score of 600 for the PayPal Extras MasterCard. Note that nothing is guaranteed and you may be rejected for other reasons unrelated to credit score.
3. Can You Get a Better Credit Card?
The rewards program for the PayPal Extras MasterCard is pretty good, but there are other credit cards with better rewards programs out there. If you qualify, you might as well shoot for them instead.
The Blue Cash Preferred Card by American Express is one of the most coveted cards for reward seekers. It has a $95 annual fee, but you get 6% cash back at supermarkets, 3% cash back at gas stations and department stores, and 1% everywhere else.
The Discover It Card by Discover is another good one, earning 5% cash back on select categories that change every three months, including gas stations, restaurants, Amazon, wholesale clubs, department stores, and others. It has no annual fee.
On the other hand, if you’re going to carry a balance from month to month (which you should NOT do if you can help it), then a low-interest option like the Barclaycard Ring MasterCard might be better, which has a 13.99% variable APR and no annual fee.
You may decide that the PayPal Extras MasterCard is still best for you. Just make sure you explore what else is out there first.
4. Are the Rewards Appealing to You?
The only reason to choose a PayPal Extras MasterCard over another credit card is if you prefer its rewards program, especially if you shop frequently with PayPal and/or eBay.
Indeed, a lot of people don’t realize that PayPal actually has its own shopping portal and directory where you can find a bunch of deals that you may not find elsewhere. On top of that, you get 2x reward points per $1 spent in the PayPal shopping portal (and on eBay).
Obviously, this only matters if you actually care about the stuff you can redeem using your PayPal reward points. Here are some of the more interesting things you can get:
- At 800 points, you can get gift cards for restaurants, gas stations, retail stores, and more.
- At 3,000 points, you can get direct merchandise of various kinds, including houseware, kitchenware, sports gear, electronics, gadgets, and more.
- At 6,000 points, you can get a direct cash back reward with money deposited straight into your PayPal balance.
- At 15,000 points, you can get travel vouchers for hotels, airfare, and car rentals.
5. Do You Support PayPal’s Business Practices?
Just because it’s popular and used by millions all over the world doesn’t mean that PayPal is doing things right—at least in terms of ethics and trust.
It’s no secret that thousands of people have been burned by PayPal in one way or another: frozen funds, lost transactions, closed accounts, and poor customer support. Maybe you’ve been okay so far, but you could be the next unsuspecting victim.
In a more abstract sense, you have to decide whether you’re willing to do business with PayPal while knowing that they aren’t treating their customers as well as they could be. Do you want your hard-earned money going to a company like that?
Maybe you don’t care, and that’s fine too. This is a personal decision and only you can make it, but for many it’s been bad enough to warrant boycotts against PayPal.
Is a PayPal Credit Card Worth It?
I have a PayPal Debit MasterCard that’s tied to my PayPal balance, but I haven’t used it in years. I’d personally never consider the PayPal Extras MasterCard—but only because I have better credit cards available to me within my credit score range.
When would I consider a PayPal credit vehicle? If the only cards available to me had annual fees (such as the Capital One QuicksilverOne Rewards) or those with weak or no rewards (such as most student-level credit cards).
And for what it’s worth, I’ve never had an issue with my PayPal accounts.