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PayPal vs credit card payments

Compare the features and benefits of using PayPal or credit cards when you're making online purchases.

You can make fast, secure payments with both PayPal and a credit card – and many retailers let you use either one. So how do you decide between them? The best option is to just choose the one you prefer.

If you don't have a preference or aren't sure whether PayPal or a credit card is better for you, let's take a look at the features of each.

Is it better to use PayPal or a credit card?

Here’s a quick guide to the different types of protection you’ll get when you use PayPal or a credit card. As features can vary depending on the credit card you’re using, we’ve focused on the key options most Australian cards offer.

Security featurePayPalCredit cards
Fraud monitoringYes.Yes.
24/7 customer serviceNo. PayPal’s customer service hours are 8am to 8pm (AEST) Monday to Friday and 8am to 7pm Saturday and Sunday.Yes. American Express, Mastercard and Visa credit cards all offer 24/7 emergency hotlines for lost or stolen cards as well as for suspected fraud.
2-factor authenticationYes. You can choose to have a one-time PIN sent to your mobile phone by turning on PayPal Security Key.Yes. With Mastercard SecureCode, Visa Secure or American Express SafeKey, you can authorise the transaction with a PIN or other security step.
Reimbursement or chargebackYes. You can be reimbursed up to $20,000 if your purchases are not delivered or are significantly different to the seller’s description.Yes. If your purchases are not delivered or are not as they were described, you may be able to reverse the transaction by requesting a chargeback.
Encryption technologyYes. PayPal offers encryption for all financial details stored in your account.No. While credit cards offer encryption for in-store purchases, most rely on encryption used by online stores for payments over the internet.
Pre-set transaction limitsNo.Yes. Some cards allow you to set a customised limit for different types of transactions, such as those made online.
Return shipping costsYes. PayPal offers to refund the cost of return shipping for eligible purchases, up to $45 per return, 8 times per year.No.

Should I use a credit card for online shopping?

Using a credit card is an incredibly popular payment method for a lot of Australians. In fact, there are more than 13 million credit cards in circulation in Australia. Just about any online store you visit will give you the option of paying by card. With this method, you’ll need to provide the following details:

  • Your name (usually as it appears on the card)
  • The card number

The CVV helps protect your account from fraud when you use the card for online purchases – or for other card-not-present transactions, such as those made over the phone.

Similar to in-store purchases, card acceptance may vary depending on whether you’re using an American Express, Mastercard or Visa credit card. Depending on the card and your provider, you could also get an added layer of security through text alert systems or services like Visa Secure, which adds another form of authorisation to payments before they are approved.

Pros and cons of using a credit card

Pros

  • 24/7 fraud monitoring. Most Australian credit cards have security systems that detect and flag suspicious activity as it happens. Your card can be locked or cancelled if fraudulent activity is suspected.
  • Zero-liability policies. Also known as a fraud protection guarantee, this feature covers the cost of any fraudulent transactions made on your account.
  • Protect your actual money. Credit card providers will reimburse your money when things go wrong and protect your money if your account is compromised.
  • Fee-free options. Some cards offer 0% foreign transaction fees when you make purchases with an overseas business, potentially saving you 2-3% per online purchase.
  • Rewards. If you have a reward or frequent flyer credit card, you can earn points per $1 spent.

Cons

  • Online fraud risks. Most credit card fraud in Australia happens online. Data from the Australian Payments Network shows card-not-present (CNP) fraud made up 91% of all card fraud in the year to 30 June 2022.
  • Entering card details. You may have to type your card’s details each time you make a purchase, which could increase the risk of fraud if your internet connection isn’t secure or if you’re in a public place.
  • Potential interest charges. If you carry a balance from your online shopping, you’ll be charged interest at the card’s purchase rate.
  • Unexpected fees. If an online store is based overseas, you may be charged foreign transaction fees even if the purchase is shown in Australian dollars.

Tips for using your credit card to safely shop online

Should I use PayPal for online shopping?

Unlike a credit card, PayPal lets you store your chosen payment details in a secure account. You can then make payments through PayPal when you shop with a store that accepts it.

When you choose this option at the online checkout, you’ll need to log in to PayPal and choose the account you want to make a payment from. PayPal will then process the transaction through an encrypted network.

This set-up means you can store your credit card, debit card or even your bank account details in a PayPal account, and then choose which of these options you use when paying through PayPal. As a result, you don’t have to enter your payment details every time you make a purchase.

Pros and cons of using PayPal

Pros

  • Payment encryption. Every payment made through PayPal is encrypted so that your details are kept safe, reducing the risk of personal or payment information being stored in places you don’t want it.
  • Fast payments. You don’t need to enter your card or account details when you make a payment through PayPal. You can also set up PayPal One Touch, allowing you to make payments without entering your PayPal login details on an authorised device.
  • Refund options. PayPal offers reimbursement for return shipping costs (up to $45, 8 times per year) as well as for items that aren't delivered or items that differ from the retailer's description.
  • Credit card rewards. If you add a rewards credit card to your PayPal account, you’ll be able to earn points per $1 spent on eligible purchases.

Cons

  • Fraud target. PayPal is a well-known online company and has previously been targeted by hackers. While it does regular security updates, there is still some risk involved in storing your card or account details anywhere online.
  • Currency conversion costs. If you shop with retailers that don’t accept foreign currencies, PayPal will use its own conversion rates for the transaction, which can be significantly higher than rates applied by most cards.
  • Confusing payment details. Transactions could show PayPal's billing details rather than the retailer's details. Check each transaction to be sure you made those payments.
  • Acceptance. Not all online stores accept PayPal, so using it will often depend on the business you’re shopping with.

Both credit cards and PayPal offer a number of security features and benefits when you’re shopping online – as well as potential costs and pitfalls. So, if you’re shopping with an online store that accepts credit cards and PayPal payments, choosing between them really comes down to which of the above features and services you prefer.

Compare credit cards with fraud protection guarantees

Every Visa, Mastercard and American Express card has a fraud protection guarantee. If we listed them all, you'd be looking at about 270 cards here. So we've taken our best credit cards and listed them here to help you narrow down your options.

Name Purchase rate p.a. Bonus points Points per $ spent Interest-free period Balance transfer rate p.a. Annual fee
St.George Vertigo Card
Purchase rate p.a.
13.99%
Bonus points
N/A
Points per $ spent
N/A
Interest-free period
Up to 55 days on purchases
Balance transfer rate p.a.
0% for 28 months with 1% balance transfer fee, then 21.49%
Annual fee
$55
Go to siteMore Info
0% Balance Transfer Offer
Get a 0% p.a. interest rate on balance transfers for 28 months (with a 1% balance transfer fee).
Kogan Money Card – Exclusive Offer
Exclusive
Kogan Rewards Program
Purchase rate p.a.
20.99%
Bonus points
N/A
Points per $ spent
1
Interest-free period
Up to 55 days on purchases
Balance transfer rate p.a.
0% for 18 months with 1% balance transfer fee, then 21.74%
Annual fee
$0
Go to siteMore Info
0% Balance Transfer Offer
Get 0% p.a. on balance transfers for 18 months with a 1% balance transfer fee. Plus an ongoing $0 annual fee.
Citi Clear Card - Exclusive Offer
Exclusive
Purchase rate p.a.
14.99%
Bonus points
N/A
Points per $ spent
N/A
Interest-free period
Up to 55 days on purchases
Balance transfer rate p.a.
0% for 24 months with 1.5% balance transfer fee, then 22.24%
Annual fee
$49 first year ($99 after)
Go to siteMore Info
0% Balance Transfer Offer & First-Year Annual Fee Discount
Offers 0% p.a. on balance transfers for 24 months (with 1.5% balance transfer fee) and a $49 first-year annual fee.
Qantas Premier Platinum
Qantas Frequent Flyer
Purchase rate p.a.
19.99%
Bonus points
80,000
Points per $ spent
1
Interest-free period
Up to 55 days on purchases
Balance transfer rate p.a.
0% for 12 months, then 21.99%
Annual fee
$349 first year ($399 after)
Go to siteMore Info
Up to 80,000 Bonus Points
Earn up to 80,000 bonus Qantas Points. Plus, save with a reduced first-year annual fee and 0% p.a. for 12 months on balance transfers. Ends on 01 May 2024.
ING Orange One Low Rate
Purchase rate p.a.
11.99%
Bonus points
N/A
Points per $ spent
N/A
Interest-free period
Up to 45 days on purchases
Balance transfer rate p.a.
N/A
Annual fee
$0
Go to siteMore Info
100% foreign transaction fee rebates
$0 annual fee and 100% foreign transaction fee rebates for customers with an Orange Everyday account who meet the minimum deposit and spend requirements.
ANZ Rewards Black Credit Card
Finder Award
ANZ Rewards Program
Purchase rate p.a.
20.99%
Bonus points
180,000
Points per $ spent
2
Interest-free period
Up to 55 days on purchases
Balance transfer rate p.a.
21.99%
Annual fee
$375
Go to siteMore Info
180,000 Bonus Points & $150 back
Get 180,000 bonus ANZ Reward Points (worth $800+ in digital gift cards) and $150 back when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months.
American Express Qantas Business Rewards Card
Qantas Business Rewards
Purchase rate p.a.
0%
Bonus points
170,000
Points per $ spent
1.25
Interest-free period
Up to 51 days on purchases
Balance transfer rate p.a.
N/A
Annual fee
$450
Go to siteMore Info
170,000 Bonus Qantas Points Offer
(ABN holders w/ $75k revenue). Earn 170,000 bonus Qantas Points when you spend $6,000 in the first 3 months.
Qantas American Express Ultimate Card
Qantas Frequent Flyer
Purchase rate p.a.
23.99%
Bonus points
60,000
Points per $ spent
1.25
Interest-free period
Up to 44 days on purchases
Balance transfer rate p.a.
N/A
Annual fee
$450
Go to siteMore Info
60,000 bonus Qantas Points
Get 60,000 bonus Qantas Points when you spend $3,000 in the first 3 months. Plus, a yearly $450 Travel Credit.
Coles No Annual Fee Mastercard - Bonus Points Offer
Flybuys
Purchase rate p.a.
0% for 6 months, then 19.99%
Bonus points
20,000
Points per $ spent
0.5
Interest-free period
Up to 55 days on purchases
Balance transfer rate p.a.
N/A
Annual fee
$0
Go to siteMore Info
20,000 Bonus Flybuys Points
Get 20,000 bonus Flybuys points (worth $100 Flybuys Dollars) and 0% interest on purchases for the first 6 months.
ANZ Platinum Credit Card
Purchase rate p.a.
20.99%
Bonus points
N/A
Points per $ spent
N/A
Interest-free period
Up to 55 days on purchases
Balance transfer rate p.a.
21.99%
Annual fee
$0 first year ($87 after)
Go to siteMore Info
$300 back & $0 First-Year Annual Fee
Get $300 back on your card when you spend $1,500 on eligible purchases in the first 3 months and a $0 first-year annual fee. Plus, complimentary overseas travel insurance.
Westpac Low Rate Card
Purchase rate p.a.
13.74%
Bonus points
N/A
Points per $ spent
N/A
Interest-free period
Up to 55 days on purchases
Balance transfer rate p.a.
0% for 28 months with 2% balance transfer fee, then 21.49%
Annual fee
$59
Go to siteMore Info
0% Balance Transfer Offer
Save with a 0% p.a. interest rate on balance transfers for 28 months (with a 2% BT fee). Plus, a low 13.74% p.a. purchase interest rate.
ANZ Qantas Business Rewards
Qantas Business Rewards
Purchase rate p.a.
20.24%
Bonus points
130,000
Points per $ spent
0.75
Interest-free period
Up to 55 days on purchases
Balance transfer rate p.a.
N/A
Annual fee
$375
Go to siteMore Info
130,000 Bonus Points
ABN holders w/ $75k revenue. Get 130,000 bonus Qantas Points when you spend $6,000 on eligible purchases in the first 3 months. Plus, a fast-track to Qantas Business Rewards Level 2.
ANZ Low Rate - Credit Back Offer
Purchase rate p.a.
13.74%
Bonus points
N/A
Points per $ spent
N/A
Interest-free period
Up to 55 days on purchases
Balance transfer rate p.a.
21.99%
Annual fee
$58
Go to siteMore Info
$250 Credit back
Get $250 back on your card when you spend $1,500 on eligible purchases in the first 3 months.
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