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Paypal is not a good solution for translators August 19, 2009

Posted by Jill (@bonnjill) in Business practices, Random musings.

According to a recent blog post, Paypal adds new fees with no notice, Paypal quietly started charging new fees last month to its customers with personal accounts without notifying them of the change.  As the blog post states, “The new fees apply to payments marked as “Goods” or “Services.”  Such payments were previously free but will now be charged a fee of about 2.9% plus 30 cents.” This obviously applies to translators, since we provide services (and if you provide hard copies or files to clients one could conceivably argue we also provide goods). I have a personal Paypal account that I only use for eBay purchases and am the contact person for my translator association’s business account. I never received any notification of these changes for either account. According to a follow-up post published a week later in which Paypal tried to explain themselves and did not do a very good job, Paypal allegedly sent out an email “trumpeting how those with Premium or Business accounts no longer had to pay fees for personal transfers.” I can’t say I received this notice either…

The moral of this story is that nothing in life is free – and in light of our economic climate anything that used to be free will soon not be. When asked about banking and international business dealings, I never suggest using Paypal, because the fees can be so horrendous. For smaller amounts it isn’t that bad, but for large amounts it is a better idea to maintain a bank account in an alternate country and initiate occasional wire transfers. In my case, I maintain a bank account in Germany – but I am shopping around for a new alternative as well, because my German bank just started charging me a monthly fee of almost $10. Whatever I do decide to use, it certainly won’t be Paypal!


1. thatcher - August 19, 2009

We’ve run into the same problem. A colleague recommended this option:

2. Kevin Lossner - August 20, 2009

Moneybookers is not an option for her, because she’s in the US.

3. kameleon - August 20, 2009

there should be better alternatives, like dkb.de (i don’t bank with them, but they seem to have no charges). you even get interest on the money on your account…

4. Cat - August 24, 2009

I have a moneybookers acct in the US.

5. Corinne McKay - August 25, 2009

Ugh! Last year I did a major research operation on receiving payments in euros. The PayPal Business account is free but the real catch is how the sender funds the payment. If they fund it from their checking account the fees are minimal but if they fund it from their credit card, the fees will make your stomach turn. I ended up accepting a large international credit card payment from a client who used PayPal, but only because I had been chasing them for months and preferred to eat the fee rather than risk not getting paid at all.

The only data point I would add in is that at least in Colorado, Wells Fargo accepts foreign currency checks with minimal hassle. When I receive checks in euros, I pay a flat fee of $2.50 to deposit them in my Wells account, the exchange rate is pretty close to what’s listed on xe.com for that day and they do not (at least so far) send the check for collection to the European bank before crediting the money to your account. Washington Mutual would not touch foreign currency checks at all, even if I had the money in my account to cover the check, so Wells Fargo is a big improvement over that.

6. Mero Server International - August 21, 2014

The PayPal Business account is free but the real catch is how the sender funds the payment. If they fund it from their checking account the fees are minimal but if they fund it from their credit card, the fees will make your stomach turn.

7. Asta - March 19, 2015

This is the thing about Paypal – the fees are so difficult to understand. It is very easy to have an unpleasant surprise when receiving a payment. There is an additional fee for those, who is out of US and needs to get US dollars converted into the local currency. At the moment I am considering Payza and Paysera options. They seen friendly for international payments.

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