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How do I access my money after an eBay sale?

This often-overlooked part of the transaction process is confusing to many

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How do I access my money after an eBay sale?

After a sale your money is clearly somewhere—in PayPal, to be exact—but accessing it isn't quite like emptying out a wallet dumping your piggy bank.

Photo: Kineticimagery / Dreamstime.com

So you’ve joined eBay and PayPal and completed your first eBay sale. Great! But where did your money go, and how do you go about actually getting it and/or spending it?

On eBay, payment occurs almost universally through PayPal. This means that after a transaction has completed and you’ve shipped your item, the money is generally waiting for you as a “PayPal balance,” an amount of money that is shown as yours when you log into your PayPal account.

Here are the ways you can go about actually getting access to or using that PayPal balance.

  • By shopping on eBay. Since PayPal is the standard method of payment on eBay, any eBay purchases you make can be paid for using your PayPal balance. Just shop eBay and your payments will automatically come from your PayPal balance, without touching your other accounts.
     
  • By transferring to a bank account. Once you have placed a bank account on file with PayPal, you can have your PayPal balance transferred to it, at any time, for free, by click on the “Withdraw” link near the top of your PayPal home page (shown after you log into PayPal). Transfers usually take 3-4 business days to show up in your bank account, though they are deducted from PayPal immediately.
     
  • By having PayPal send you a check. The same link offers you the option to have PayPal mail you a check. This obviously takes a bit longer, since it adds mailing time to the PayPal processing time, but for those that are hesitant to add connect a bank account to their PayPal account, it can be a good alternate option.
     
  • Using a PayPal debit card. If none of the other options appeal to you, you can request a PayPal debit card that functions like any of the other debit cards in your wallet, except that it pull funds from your PayPal balance. You can even get cash out at any ATM using the PIN associated with the card.

Before choosing which of these is for you, do make note of the following caveats/tips:

  • Get a separate bank account for PayPal. If you connect PayPal to your bank account, it’s wise to get a separate account at a bank separate from the one that you normally use and connect that to PayPal instead—just in case a buyer protection case, case of suspected fraud, or any other issue leads PayPal to freeze the funds in the bank account (which they have done on rare occasions). By using a separate account at a separate institution, any rare-but-serious issue with PayPal won’t affect the bulk of your personal or business finances.
     
  • You might encounter a withdrawal limit. Unless you upgrade to a premium account (which charges slightly higher fees, though no monthly fees or anything of that sort), PayPal limits withdrawals to a total of $500 per month per PayPal account. If you do more business than this, you may be stuck with the debit card and eBay-shopping options unless you’re willing to add a bank account (a prerequisite for premium accounts) and upgrade.
     
  • Not everyone gets a debit card. Though the decision criteria aren’t transparent, PayPal makes clear that there is an approval process involved in getting a debit card, and it’s true that not everyone is approved. If non-approval happens in your case, you’re left with a choice between the other options.

Though all of these can seem onerous to some, in general they all represent more convenient, reliable options than the payment model that held on the early eBay: members sending each other personal checks across the country by mail, something that eBay no longer supports.

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