It's only a secure (depending on your definition..) method to transfer funds. It is NOT an escrow service, which allows the buyer to examine the goods before payment goes to the seller.
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Paypal is a great transaction service. Beware of those that "add 3%" to purchase price for PayPal. This is against the rules. Our customers have conducted thousands of transactions thru them without a hitch. They sometimes get a bad rap which they don't deserve. Folks sometimes don't understand/read the transaction terms. The payment/funding is generally instant via credit card and/or instant withdrawl and the seller will be charged a handling commission on the total sale when funds transfer to their account.
It is not an escrow service. Once you purchase, it is yours (unless you have made other arrangments with the seller).
They allow you to set up an account for free and funds may be sent using your credit card. Once my account had been set up the amount they would allow me to send slowly decreased from a reasonably high amount to $17.00. They said to send more than that to someone I had to get verified by giving them a bank account number. This included money that they were holding for me in my account. In other words, I tried to purchase parts from percy audio whose value did not exceed the $32 they were holding in my account but since that was over the $17 limit I couldn' do it without giving them the personal bank account number. It may be legit but in today's age of identity theft and fraud it just seemed kind of suspicous to me so I didn't do it.
I've been using it for a few years now and love it. The method I use is the bank-to-bank funds transfer, it's immediate and most sellers will start the shipping process once they get e-mail noification from PayPal that funds have been transferred to them, which is immediate.
Most internet merchants absorb the PayPal fee, but in transactions between single parties, that's negotiable.
Beware. IT's fine until you have problems. Then, there is no serivce or support and nearly no way to get a real person on the phone who can do anything for you. I happily used them for a while until they shafted me out of $500 a year ago and never resolved it. I complied with their so-called 'seller protection policy' to the letter, which apparently mattered for naught. They have no regulation yet operate like a bank. I will never use them again and to date they have still never resolved my issue above. This is but one of hundreds of stories, many far worse than mine.
A family member sold an item with payment received through Paypal. The buyer some weeks later made a bogus complaint about the item to Penpal. Before Paypal even contacted seller, Paypal refunded the previously received payment from seller's Paypal account. The seller was without his payment or his merchandise! This was an exploitable flaw in the Paypal business model which victimized a significant number of sellers on Ebay. Free merchandise was the best Ebay bargain, as discovered by some clever Ebay Paypal purchasers.
Paypal then tries to collect the refunded amount from the seller with the threat of impairing seller's credit rating. The seller has to close his linked bank account so that funds not drainable by Paypal.
The buyer is left with both his refunded money, and the seller's merchandise, and the seller is supposed to reimburse Paypal for their unjustified, unilateral, undiscussed gift to the buyer. As mentioned by writer above, there is no way to "resolve" any poor business practice by Paypal. Unless it happens to a seller it would never even be considered a potential problem before using Paypal. Unless one is a Ralph Nader type of crusader there is no response from a virtual monopoly like Paypal.
After reading all these, I agreed with those who are not satisfy with paypal. I've used it for a few years without any problem (except for the high fees) and one time they really messed me up. I made an error and decided to call up to explain. There was one customer service rep who either is new or being mean and unprofessional, which provoked me deeper in disliking their customer care. So for a whole month or so, I was locked out of my account, even repeated calls to them and requesting for manager and supervisor didn't help. It's a case when you mess with one of "their people" he or she will lock in your account as
"problem customer" for all to see (I work for many customer service jobs and knows how it functions). All these years I've done many transactions with paypal and always had enough money in their "bank" and by law I understand I have a right to my money and service I paid for. So paypal management thinks it has grown so big and successful and can mess with any one it wishes. I wish sometime in the future there will be a better company to beat paypal out and offers alternative payment services and more friendly customer reps.