Review: PayPal Prepaid Debit Card Part 1 – Confusion Reigns


The PayPal Debit Card is unexpectedly difficult to activate and use with PayPal accounts, and has hidden fees.


I recently needed to find a way to get a refillable debit card for my teenager to use while traveling. I researched the available options and most of the store-bought cards are non refillable. American Express seemed to offer the best choice and it was rated highly, but it would take 10 business days to get the card. Like most teenagers, she waited until the last minute, so this was not an option. The plane was leaving in 4 days.

My research showed that the PayPal debit card was refillable and I would be able to link it to my PayPal account for adding funds if needed. It also offered protection from loss or theft if notified within 2 day. I thought this was a perfect solution for my needs.

So we went to the local CVS Pharmacy and purchased one.  It was activated at the register and we had to add a minimum of $20 at time of checkout, so the initial cost was $4.95 for the card, plus $20 or $24.95.  Ok, so far so good. I get home with the card and set to work to link it to my PayPal account.

First, I apparently needed to activate it again with paypal-prepaid before I could transfer any funds.  I called the number on the card and reached an automated activation process. It asked me to put in the card’s 16 digit number. Well, there was no number visible on the card, so I wanted to speak with someone to see what the story was. I couldn’t. Without the card number, I was caught in an endless loop on the automated system, so I hung up and re-dialed.

The second call had the message to hit “1” if I wanted to report a lost or missing card and to please have the card number ready. Well, no other numbers worked so I hit “1” but I don’t have a number yet, so I was lost in the automated system once again. So I called regular PayPal Support directly using the “contact us” link on my PayPal account. I know they answer from prior experience.

The customer support rep explained that I had to first activate the card. When I explained that I don’t see an embossed number on the card to activate it, she couldn’t help me. (see picture above – I expected a number like that.) So, thinking the card was defective, I went back to CVS Pharmacy to exchange it. I looked at all the other cards on the end-cap and none were embossed. So, in conference with the store manager, we pulled the front label off the card and there it was – NOT embossed, but printed in small numbers that were hidden by the “activate” label. I hadn’t removed the label just in case I needed to return the card. I wish the support folks would have told me about it being under the label. I sheepishly returned home to finish what I started.

Now I still had to activate the card (which was also ‘activated’ at the register – remember?) [Ed Note: You need to activate it with paypal-prepaid to get a pin.] I started the activation process and it was not clear if I should activate it in my teen’s name or mine since she was carrying it. I went to the PayPal site and looked up how to set up a debit card for teenagers.  There wasn’t anything that resembled this prepaid card there. Unsure that the prepaid debit card was a part of the PayPal site, I called PayPal support again.It turns out that they have a product for teens 13 and older that can link to my account. The rep told me to fill that out first, then activate the debit card. I had to enter my teenager’s information including SS#.  Hitting the “next” button brought up a message that they would send a card in 5-10 days. This was not what I needed and now I have a second card coming!

I then went to the activation screen for the prepaid card (like the rep told me to do) and I had to input name and SS#. I still didn’t know if it should be in my name or my teen’s name. I called PayPal again knowing that I would be caught in an endless loop with the number on the prepaid card. The PayPal rep could not help me and said I needed to talk with a Debit Card Specialist. He was very helpful and confirmed that the prepaid card and the Teen card were two separate instruments. Just Great! I’m 3 hours into the process by now and this is not what I wanted at all.  Apparently, I will get a permanent PayPal Teen Card in the mail AND a permanent prepaid debit card in the mail.

When I tried to activate the debit card in my teenager’s name, it came back with the message that you need to be 18 years old to activate it. This was not good. I filled in my information and it was “activated”. Finally! It was only 3 hours so far but the good news is I received $3 for activating it online.


My first PayPal Statement shows a 22% fee?

In order to link it to my PayPal Account, I needed to add it as a money source – yes, a source.  I used instructions from the prepaid debit card website (for which I now have a separate account) on how to add funds to the card. I need to connect the prepaid debit card’s Bancorp bank account to my PayPal account. I put in the bank number routing info and account number. PayPal then tells me to wait for two small deposits so I can verify that it is my account before linking it. I’m thinking this is progress but I must wait.

I checked to see if the funds were deposited the next day (Sunday), but not yet. There was however, another $4.95 fee for some “Debit Plan fee” (the first $4.95 is what you pay when you buy the card. This is another fee.) That was a quick $5 skimmed off the top of the $23 account (roughly 22%.) I don’t know what it was for – maybe linking to my PayPal account or just a fee for revenue’s sake. There was no warning that there would be a fee to link it.


Bottom Line:

Pros: It’s PayPal – everything should be fine – right?

Cons: The Process is confusing – even the PayPal folks couldn’t help until I reached the Debit Card expert.
I have two PayPal Accounts now – my regular one and the debit card one. They seem to be unrelated but take the same PayPal login. It feels like a security risk and a way to charge fees between accounts. It just plain feels unwarranted and unjustified – but it’s all PayPal, right?
So far, there are no humans to speak with on the Debit Card side – this is a big problem, since the PayPal service reps don’t know about the debit card product.

I wouldn’t recommend this card to someone that needs to have a refillable card that can be filled from your PayPal account. It’s much too complicated. If needed, open a teen account at least two weeks before you need to use it.

What can PayPal Do Better?

First, Let the Customer Support Reps know more about it. Make it look like it’s one company and better coordinate what appears to be two separate companies using the same name.

Second, when the person who buys a debit card already has a PayPal account, let them add/activate it from their account instead of forcing on them another account with the same login at a different website. It feels insecure.

Third, highlight the difference between the two cards (teen card and pre-paid debit card) when account holders look for a refillable card for their teens.

These should be relatively straightforward to implement and it would make the entire process much more coherent and understandable before committing to one or the other.  As it is now, they look like competitors.

In Part 2, I’ll attempt to put funds on it.  Part 2 >>

– Bart


1 / 5 stars     

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