Has the Paypal Killer Finally Arrived?

Category: Finance

Since Paypal’s debut in 1998, it has become a dominant player in online payments, second only to credit cards. However, many people take exception to Paypal’s tagline, 'the world’s most loved way to pay and get paid.' Actually, some of us spew coffee all over everything when we read that. That's why I'm glad that some serious competition is arising. Here's what you need to know about Square Cash...

It's Cool to Be Square

Part of Paypal’s success is due to its acquisition by eBay in 2002 and its consequent entrenchment as the only way to pay or get paid on eBay. Paypal has also expanded into non-eBay markets including face-to-face transactions as well as remote, online and mobile transactions.

The fees that Paypal charges to recipients of money are a constant source of complaint; they range from 35 cents plus 2.9% per transaction, down to nothing in the case of “sending money to friends and family,” provided you don’t send more than a few hundred dollars per month and your family-friend isn’t Walmart.com. That's roughly the same fee schedule that merchants who accept credit cards must pay.

Paypal and Square Cash

Merchants will always complain about the cost of getting paid, of course, neglecting the lightning speed and luxurious convenience of electronic funds transfer (EFT). Paypal certainly beats the usurious and unsafe wire transfer services such as Western Union’s Moneygram. But there are less expensive money-transfer services than Paypal, as we will see later in this article.

Delays of 3-5 business days in transferring money from one’s Paypal account to a bank account, and vice versa, are another sore point with many people. Paypal transfers cash to and from a bank account via the Automated Clearing House (ACH) system’s slowest but most inexpensive boat. One’s money is in limbo, neither spendable nor earning interest, for several days.

This suffering is alleviated somewhat by the Paypal Master Card debit card, which is actually issued by FirstBank, a nationwide commercial bank. With this easily-acquired card one can spend money received via Paypal instantly without transferring it to a bank account. But replenishing a Paypal account with funds from a bank account remains a waiting game.

When it was virtually the only reasonably priced EFT game in town Paypal was pretty high-handed in its dealings with customers. One can still find thousands of horror stories about Paypal account balances, often in the thousands of dollars, being suddenly frozen for up to 180 days while Paypal investigated transactions for fraud or just setting off an automated “unusual activity” alarm. That arrogant attitude has changed dramatically as competition has arisen, but there are still relics of it lurking deep within “the system.”

None the less, I have been longing for an alternative to Paypal; something simpler, less burdened with terms-of-service, and most of all free to me and my payees. Way back in 1993 I wrote, “The Internet operates on the same principle as Santa Claus and Jesus: ask, and ye shall receive.”

Is This the Paypal Killer?

Introducing Square Cash, a person-to-person money-transfer service of Square, Inc., a major provider of merchant services such as credit card processing. Their slogan indicates the ease of use you can expect: "You don’t sign up, you just send an email." Go watch the demo and see how easy this is compared to Paypal; don’t blink or you might miss it.

Yes, really, this is all you have to do to send money to someone with a U. S. bank debit card:

  1. Address an email message to the intended payee
  2. Add cash@square.com to the cc: field
  3. Enter the amount you want to send on the subject line, e. g., “$50.”
  4. Send the email.

The first time you use Square Cash you will receive an email from cash@square.com which contains a link to a secure Web page. On that page you enter your debit card number; the name on the card; and the card’s expiration date. You only have to do this once; thereafter, just send the email described above.

Your payee will get your email notifying him/her that cash has been sent. You can add any text you like in the email’s body. An email from cash@square.com will guide the payee to the debit card details entry page if he/she has not already registered a card associated with his/her email address.

Behind the scenes, Square simply charges $X to your card and credits the same amount to the payee’s card. It’s the same thing that happens when you swipe your debit card at the supermarket checkout stand. It happens pretty quickly too, unlike a Paypal transfer to bank account.

Someone over 1,500 miles from me used Square Cash to send me money at 4:29 p.m. on a Sunday. The money was spendable from my bank account before noon Monday – Veterans Day, when all banks are closed to the public. Obviously, they are not idle when closed. This “1-2 business day” clearing time will do for anything short of bail money.

Got Questions About Square Cash?

I did, after signing up and linking my debit card. The Square Cash website is designed to be minimal to the extreme, probably to emphasize how easy it is to use. But they could do a better job of making it easy to find help and account settings. For example, I was wondering: "How can I login and change the registered debit card?" At the very bottom of the screen, you'll find the Account link, which lets you create a password, update your debit card information, and optionally provide a mobile number for SMS notifications of your transactions. Unfortunately, there's no way to get a history of your transactions.

I also wondered: "Can I get a refund, or recover money if the payee never claims it?" This answer is buried in the Help link, also at the bottom of the page. Click that link, then "Troubleshoot Square Cash" and you'll learn that there is a way to cancel Square cash you've sent, if it hasn't been redeemed. Unclaimed funds will be returned to the original sender's bank account after 14 days. There's also a form you can use to initiate a dispute, if necessary.

Each Square Cash transaction is governed by the existing terms of your debit card issuer. Say goodbye to Paypal’s unique and voluminous term-of-service document. One set of rules is better than two, generally. I expect Square to start charging fees for use of Square Cash eventually. But for now, it’s totally free to both sender and recipient.

Give Square Cash a try, and tell me what you think! Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Has the Paypal Killer Finally Arrived?"

(See all 45 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Rex Williams
19 Nov 2013

Here's a black mark, Bob. In order to see the video, an important marketing tool for a company one does not know at all, you must have Chrome, Firefox or IE 10. Now there's a restriction for all the Windows XP users and certainly does not create a good first impression as to the Square Cash capability. Even if they are brilliant, I will never know now.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Nothing prevents you from using Chrome or Firefox on Windows XP.

Posted by:

19 Nov 2013

To help understand the difference between a Credit Card and a Debit Card, consider how they are thought of and treated legally. A Credit Card is where, with approval of the issuer, you can use THEIR money for your transaction and of course, their interest is in THEIR money. Conversely, a Debit Card is different. It is a "convenience" allowed and permitted by your bank who may also charge a fee, to have electronic access to YOUR funds, so the bank is merely the CUSTODIAN of YOUR funds and as we all know, their interest is much less concerning YOUR funds... but don't forget to pay the Credit Card bill and they will give you (using THEIR money) every consideration.

Posted by:

20 Nov 2013

Unless I miss something it looks that it is as safe as one's email access is safe. Which for majority of people is not much. Not to mention those using some local emial servics that come as a gift from their internet providers. Just recently some of the major email providers like Google started using secure (SSL) connections. Yahoo for example use it but only on the Sign In page. But as of now, if you opt to be remembered further visits go along regular channel. Which for a hacker sitting into an internet cafe would be as easy as pie to catch authentication cookie etc. and get into my account and start sending money.

In short, people dragged themselves into learning the serioseness of the banking ordeals but when it comes to emails are still sloppy. So I think that the easy-ness of this service will quicly bring problems and further restrictions will be brought to counter measure and ... we know the rest already from other tales.

And I do not like the idea of not giving a prospect as of how things will evolve. How long it will be free, what are the planned charges after that.

Eyh, saying nothing against having more players on the field but before going into something new I think I am entitled to speak out my concerns.

Posted by:

20 Nov 2013

I joined PayPal sseveral year ago to pay an online purchase. One year later they again paid for a subscription that I had indicated I planned to cancel. They would not refund the felonious payment. I instructed them to never pay a bill again without my express authorization. Two years later they honored a bill from this e-mag despite the fact that I had not received an copy since the previous notification. I again asked them to investigate and refund the erroneous payment. They still haven't to this day (approximately two years now.) I have boycotted PayPal since and warn a;; associates of their irresponsibility. I

Posted by:

20 Nov 2013


Their site says I don't have IE 10. I do. The latest version, as a matter of fact. Ever heard of this happening?

Posted by:

Craig D.
20 Nov 2013

I notice that only 'US issued debit cards' can be used, so at the moment restructed to US only transactions, whereas PayPal is worldwide, so no good for me. I have been using PayPal for around 10+ years and have paid and accepted funds all over the world. Have had a few 'duds' and have recovered my money with no problems using PayPal's dispute resolution process. Sure, it takes a while for it to run it course, but you do get your money back. Square seems too restrictive at present.

Posted by:

20 Nov 2013

Bob, Might the following become a problem? Once a person has sent their debit card info, what is to prevent someone else from spoofing the first person's email address and then emptying the account.

EDITOR'S NOTE: My reading of their security practices (https://squareup.com/help/en-us/article/5144-square-cash-security) indicates that measures are in place to prevent this from happening.

Posted by:

20 Nov 2013

Great post. Great article in SQUARE cash ... do you know if theres something similar in Europe, especially Austria ?

Regards, Eol (Old Bus passenger)

Posted by:

Chris Guld
20 Nov 2013

Thanks for the info! Sounds like a great way to move money for casual users. My business is run by PayPal and "Unfortunately, there's no way to get a history of your transactions" is a deal breaker for me.

Posted by:

20 Nov 2013

Does this work internationally? Can I send funds from India to UK?

Posted by:

20 Nov 2013

OK, found the answer... can only use Square Cash in the US, Canada and Japan.

Posted by:

20 Nov 2013

I have used PayPal probably from its inception and have had absolutely no problems whatsoever. Through the years I've changed credit cards with them, recently adding another for a (to me) major purchase-a refurb PC from eBay. I like the email ease of this newbie into the payment business but really don't see that great an advantage. I pay out money, not receive it, so probably that's why the lag in payment doesn't bother me.

The old adage applies: If it ain't broke, don't fix it! At least that's how I feel at the moment, subject to change, of course ;)

Posted by:

20 Nov 2013

I assume that Square Inc. is not providing this service for the good of their health, so what do they get out of it? I.e. how do they make their money?

EDITOR'S NOTE: My assumption is that they'll eventually charge a fee for the money transfer service. Or they could be hoping to spur interest in the Square Card Reader.

Posted by:

mike wax
20 Nov 2013

i would give ANYTHING for an alternative to paypal. i have paid dearly in the past for the fact that it takes 3 days to send money to/from my checking account and paypal account.
and the fees they charge are high. i bet they could cut thier fees in half and still make a profit.
and paypal destroyed wikileaks. they enjoy freedom of expression while they silence others.

Posted by:

20 Nov 2013

I have to mention that PayPal is NOT the only payment method US eBay sellers can accept, I don't know about other countries. Sellers choose from PayPal, ProPay, Skrill, or Credit card or debit card processed through the seller's Internet merchant account.

Looking at this from the payer, the customer point of view, I don't buy from eBay sellers who don't accept PayPal because I truly believe, because eBay and PayPal are linked that should I have an issue I'll get great help ... and yes, I have had to call on them for help on occasion.

Posted by:

Terri Popiel
22 Nov 2013

Thank you. I haven't even started to read the Paypal article, but I feel it. I have been looking for an alternative because they're screwy. Caused me many problems.

Posted by:

Brummagem Flash
16 Jan 2014

I can't say much about SquareCash's coolness; as it's not availed to us in SuperCool UK.
However, I have been using PayPal for many years, to buy stuff on eBayUK. I do not like the fact that PayPal take a high percentage of my money before it reaches the item sellers; but cannot see a way to break PayPal's virtual monopoly.
It is not only convenient; but might also provide an extra degree of security: as you don't divulge your banking or creditcard details to everyone: only PayPal.
On the minus side, using PayPal, you may not be covered by the Visa (or MasterCard, etcetera) guarantee; which usually covers (at least here in UK) the cost of the transaction in case of the dishonesty, disappearance or bankruptcy of a supplier for instance.
So, I'm still torn twixt convenient, safe, PayPal; and a less convenient credit card, with the danger of prolonged hassle: if some seller uses my credit card details dishonestly; and I then have to enter protracted negotiations with the credit card issuer: to show that I hadn't agreed a payment.
Meanwhile, I'd love a UK version of SquareCash to check out...... please!

Posted by:

20 Oct 2014

Bullet, I get that same Popup when I use my ABC news site. I finally solved it by unchecking the Compatibility view, Fix it immediately.

On Paypak/ebay I used buy it now for two Lighted Remotes it stated 2 on the listing. I paid with Paypal, I also won a bid the same day for another lighted remote. I received the two which had a tracking number. I never received the 3rd. I contacted the seller half a dozen times. He said that they were one and the same.

I called Paypal and opened a dispute, Paypal the said that I shoud file with ebay and transferred me. I was able to speak to the ebay CSR who said that they would investigzte. They refunded my buy it now. Icontacted them and said it is the wrong refund $20.00. The bid was for $30.00.

Seller said it was delivered citing the buy it now tracking #. Eventually I was able to convince ebay that the seller was trying to confuse the issue na called me a thief. Ebay sent me an email sayong that I had to call them within 72 hours or they would rue in the sellers favor.

For 3 days every time I called I was on hold for anywhere from 2-7 hours several times each day, I just left the speaker phone on. Finally after about a total of 20 some + hours I got a CSR. She agreed with me and put in a refund as their guarantee states. She said that they hired new CSR starting today. I was an ebay customer since 1999.
I much prefer using Amazon Prime, wher you can return an item or file a claim and they call you back refund the payment or you can print out an RMA and sent the item bac. as soon as the Carrier scans the item they refund or send you a new item.

Posted by:

20 Oct 2014

My only complaint with ebay is that they have poor service contacting via phone, email takes a few days to get a reply, and they then tell you to call and you explain it all again after many hours on hold.
Any problems with non ebay sellers is using PayPal is settled within a few days.

Although ebay owns paypal, they have split onto separate services. BTW I use my Debit card a lot and I set a over $5.00 limit and the Bank emails me notifying me of the transactions. They also call me if they think there is suspicious activity.
In most cases no problem. In 25 plus yrs. Twice I had to close the DB card and have them issue me a new one. Using it as a CC I get points, of course the money comes out from my checking acct. right away. notification is the same same with their 2 credit cards.

Posted by:

02 Jan 2015

I used Paypal for less than a year in my business. It was the worst business that I ever had to deal with. Anything is better. Anything at all.

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