How to Turn Your PayPal Balance Into a Debit Card You Can Spend Anywhere

PayPal is a useful service for sending and receiving money, and it’s just about everywhere…at least, on the internet. But what if you have a bunch of money in your PayPal account and want to use it somewhere PayPal isn’t offered…like an actual brick and mortar store?

You can transfer money to your bank, of course, but the three- to four-day waiting period to transfer funds isn’t very convenient, and it isn’t always an option—especially if you’re a freelancer that gets paid via PayPal and you have bills to pay. Enter the PayPal business debit card.

What Is the PayPal Business Debit Card?

The PayPal business debit card a real debit card (provided by MasterCard, as it happens) that connects to your PayPal balance for its funding source. If your balance is empty, it will withdraw from the primary bank account connected to your PayPal account instead. It’s a fantastic tool for anyone who gets paid primarily in PayPal transfers. In fact, it’s a pretty great tool even if you only occasionally get a big chunk of money in PayPal, because signing up and getting a card is absolutely free. PayPal will even give you 1% back on some purchases.

Note: the PayPal business debit card shouldn’t be confused with the PayPal Extras MasterCard, which is another physical card offered to PayPal users. The Extras MasterCard is a conventional credit card, subject to a line of credit that doesn’t draw from your PayPal balance and will incur interest charges if not paid back on time. To put it simply: if all you want is debit/checking options, you want the blue card, not the white one.

The debit card is remarkably useful if you do a lot of business in PayPal. While I was writing as a contract worker, for example, many of my paychecks came in as PayPal transfers. Or maybe you sell a lot of stuff on eBay (maybe even doing so as a full time job), and your money comes through PayPal. Those bank transfers can be really annoying, but with the PayPal debit card enabled and in your wallet, PayPal more or less becomes your personal checking account.

That’s my PayPal debit card, lettin’ me pay for Amazon items with my PayPal balance. Nifty.

And, because it’s a real debit card, it works anywhere normal cards do. For example, Amazon doesn’t allow checkout via PayPal, because it’s basically a competitor for Amazon’s own omnibus marketplace and payment system. But input your 16-digit PayPal card number, and you can buy anything on the site with the balance in your PayPal account. Gas stations, ATMs, even international purchases all go through exactly as you’d expect them to.

How to Get a PayPal Debit Card

Here’s the link for signing up for the PayPal business debit card. Don’t let the name fool you—you don’t need to have a business, small or otherwise, to use it. But you will need a few other things, including:

  • An active PayPal account
  • A United States address. Sorry, international readers, there doesn’t appear to be an option for non-US residents at this time.
  • A valid photo ID. PayPal may need to verify your identity to comply with US federal banking law. Sending them a photo or scan of your ID is fine.

This isn’t technically necessary to use a PayPal debit card, but you’ll probably want to connect your PayPal account to your conventional bank account. The debit card can’t use another debit or credit card as a backup funding source if your PayPal balance reaches zero.

Go through the application process, wait a few days, and you’ll get your PayPal debit card in the mail. Activate it at paypal.com/activatecard, and you’re ready to spend your PayPal balance on anything from a soda at the vending machine to a down payment on a new car. Nice.

Michael Crider has been covering technology on the web since 2011. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order. He wrote a novel called Good Intentions: A Supervillain Story, and it's available on Amazon. You can follow him on Twitter if you want.