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You Can Use Your Credit Card Through PayPal, But Should You?

You can still earn credit-card rewards, but just watch out for fees when sending money to friends.

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Using your credit card to make purchases can be risky -- especially online. Even though most cards come with purchase and identity-theft protections, each time you input your credit card information with a different merchant, your personal data is at an even higher risk for scams, fraud and cyberattacks.  

One way to protect your credit card data when making purchases online is to link your credit card to PayPal. The payment platform offers security measures to help protect your data from merchants and scammers. Plus, you’ll have access to purchase protection through PayPal for eligible stolen or damaged items -- a feature that many, but not all, credit cards offer.

But, even when shopping with PayPal, there’s still a risk. PayPal experienced a cyberattack in December of 2022, and roughly 35,000 customers had their personal information exposed. While PayPal is still considered safer than using your credit card directly online, we recommend opting for two-factor authentication to better secure your account.  

Below, we’ll show you how to add your credit card to PayPal and other options worth considering, too. Plus, we’ll cover fees and scenarios where paying with your card via PayPal may not be worth it. 

How to add your credit card to your PayPal account 

To make purchases or send money to friends or family through PayPal using your credit card, you’ll need to link your credit card to your PayPal account. Here’s how to do it from the mobile app and website: 

On the mobile app 

  • Log on to your PayPal account via the mobile app
  • Tap the Wallet icon at the bottom of the screen
  • Tap the + sign next to Banks and cards
  • Select Debit and credit cards
  • Select Debit or credit card to manually enter your card’s information, or choose from the list of banks to login into your bank account and sync your credit card


  • Log on to your PayPal account online 
  • Select Wallet, then Link a card to add your credit card information (you can do so manually or select from the list of banks to log into your account)
  • Add your credit card information, then Link card to confirm that the information is added

After you add your card, PayPal may send you a link next to your credit card details in the app or online. You’ll need to verify the card belongs to you. PayPal accepts most credit card networks, including Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, Diners Club and more.  

If you always want to use your linked credit card when checking out through PayPal, you can set it as your default payment option.  

PayPal credit card fees to keep in mind 

When paying for a product or service online through PayPal with your linked credit card, you won’t have to worry about paying any additional fees.

But if you’re transferring money to someone using a credit card, you’ll pay a 2.90% transaction fee, plus a fixed fee of 30 cents for US currency. Compared to other payment apps, like Venmo and CashApp, this credit card fee is common. Sending money directly from a bank account, however, is free via PayPal.

PayPal also doesn’t charge cash-advance fees, although your credit card issuer might. It’s best to check beforehand. 

Read more: Best Payment Apps for 2023: Apple Cash, Cash App, PayPal and More

Should I use PayPal or a virtual credit card? 

PayPal and virtual credit cards have similar security measures to protect your personal data. When choosing between the two, it all comes down to convenience and your personal preference. 

PayPal offers end-to-end encryption to protect your card data, and you’ll get purchase protection. It’s also convenient -- you can pay at checkout by selecting the PayPal option and simply log into your PayPal account to complete the purchase. You don’t have to type in credit card numbers or enter other financial information. 

A virtual credit card, however, works a little differently. These digital cards give you a unique credit card number, expiration date and CVV that can typically only be used one time. By masking your real credit card number, a virtual credit card decreases the likelihood your actual credit card information will be exposed in a data breach. But they’re not entirely fraud-proof.

Not all credit card issuers offer virtual cards, but Capital One and Citi currently do.

Read more: Best Payment Apps for 2023: Apple Cash, Cash App, PayPal and More

Can you use PayPal for in-store purchases?

While PayPal has been primarily used for online purchases to date, many merchants now let you pay via PayPal in-store anywhere that Mastercard is accepted. To use PayPal for point-of-sale transactions, you can link your card and pay through PayPal using your mobile wallet or PayPal balance. Before you do, remember to turn on in-store checkout in your PayPal account. 

PayPal also offers its own debit and credit products. The PayPal Debit Card lets you make in-personal purchases, withdraw cash from ATMs and even earn cash back. And the PayPal Cashback Mastercard®* lets you pay online and in-store, and you can earn unlimited 3% cash back on PayPal purchases and unlimited 2% on all other purchases. 

Can I earn credit card rewards when shopping through PayPal?

When you link your credit card to PayPal, you’ll still earn rewards the same way you would when you use your credit card directly to pay for a purchase. And in some cases, you may earn additional rewards when checking out with PayPal.

Some credit cards have rotating bonus categories that allow you to earn a higher rewards rate when you make purchases in that category. For instance, the Chase Freedom Flex℠* offered PayPal as a rotating bonus category in 2023.

Depending on the card issuer, you may have to activate the bonus category to earn the higher value rewards, and the category usually has a spending cap. If your credit card has bonus rewards categories, keep an eye on your issuer’s calendar for the year to see if PayPal pops up on the list.

Should I use my credit card through PayPal? 

Linking your credit card to your PayPal account can offer a smooth and safe checkout experience. PayPal’s end-to-end encryption, two-factor authentication and other security features can help protect your card information. But if you’re looking for a way to send money from your credit card, PayPal may not be the best option.

For instance, you could use PayPal and your linked credit card to send money to friends, family or roommates to pay for dinner bills, gas or your share of other bills. And you could earn credit card rewards when doing this. But the fees PayPal charges may offset any potential rewards. If you have a flat-rate 2% cash-back card linked to PayPal, for instance, and transfer $500 to a friend, you could earn up to $10 cash back. But PayPal will charge you $14.80 for using your credit card to transfer funds. In this case, it doesn’t make financial sense to send money from your credit card on PayPal.


Using the website, click Send and Request. Next, enter the name, PayPal username and email address. After you add the amount, you can choose your payment method to select your credit card. Keep in mind that you or the recipient will be responsible for additional fees when sending money and using your credit card.

You don’t have to link a credit card to use PayPal. Instead, you can add your bank account or debit card to your PayPal account for transactions, sending and receiving money.

Earlier this year, PayPal’s cyberattack exposed the Social Security numbers and other personal information of approximately 35,000 account holders. No financial information was breached or compromised. To protect your information, we recommend using two-factor authentication for your PayPal account.

Every time you use your credit card, whether through PayPal or directly at checkout, you increase the balance on your credit card. As long as you keep your balance within your budget and pay it off in full and on time, your credit score should go up. Using PayPal to pay for items through your bank account or debit card, however, does not impact your credit score. If you apply for PayPal Credit or one of PayPal’s credit cards, it can impact your credit score.

*All information about the PayPal Cashback Mastercard® and Chase Freedom Flex has been collected independently by CNET and has not been reviewed by the issuer.

The editorial content on this page is based solely on objective, independent assessments by our writers and is not influenced by advertising or partnerships. It has not been provided or commissioned by any third party. However, we may receive compensation when you click on links to products or services offered by our partners.

Dashia is a staff editor for CNET Money who covers all angles of personal finance, including credit cards and banking. From reviews to news coverage, she aims to help readers make more informed decisions about their money. Dashia was previously a staff writer at NextAdvisor, where she covered credit cards, taxes, banking B2B payments. She has also written about safety, home automation, technology and fintech.
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