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PayPal Cashback Mastercard Review 2022

Dayana Yochim

February 22, 2022

Why trust us? Investor.com has no financial relationship with any of the credit card providers whose products we analyze and review. Our opinions are based solely on data and our own extensive independent research — that means unbiased guidance for consumers. Rewards cards in our cashback credit card calculator are listed in descending order according to how much money they pay out annually based on the inputs.

With its 2% cashback rate on everything, no restrictions, the PayPal Cashback Mastercard is certainly worth buddying up to — as long as you’re not expecting a friends-with-benefits situation.

Unlike rewards cards that roll out the welcome mat for new customers, PayPal’s Cashback card (issued by Synchrony Bank) offers no extra perks. Sign-up bonus? Nope. 0% introductory APR on purchases or balance transfers? Not here.

Stingy? Maybe. But most flat-rate, no-fee cashback cards pay out only 1% to 1.5% per $1 you spend, so PayPal probably figures that its no-strings/no-cap 2% rate is enticing enough, even without the allure of added benefits or introductory niceties.

PayPal Cashback Mastercard

Annual fee: $0 | Welcome Bonus: $0

BEST FOR: playlist_add_check Low-Hassle Rewards, construction Perfect Pairings

PayPal Cashback Mastercard

There are several other no-annual-fee 2% flat-rate rewards cards out there. But most (save for the Wells Fargo Active Cash Card) require some fancy footwork to earn the higher rate — like depositing your rewards in a specific bank’s deposit account (à la the SoFi credit card) or paying off your balance in full (looking at you, Citi Double Cash Card).

Although you do need a PayPal account to apply for the card (and eventually redeem your rewards), it’s free to open and maintain. As in, super easy, barely an inconvenience.

Likes

  • Competitive 2% unlimited cash back rate on everything. Yes, everything. Most flat-rate cashback cards pay 1% to 1.5% back on every dollar you spend. The 2% and higher cashback rates are typically reserved for “bonus category” spending (e.g., groceries, gas) on tiered-reward cards.
  • Spending caps? Not here! Rotating rewards categories? Nope. You’re not even required to use your PayPal account to rack up rewards. Simply swipe, type, click, or tap wherever Mastercard is accepted (basically everywhere) to earn 2% cash back.
  • No reward redemption minimums ...: However much you’ve racked up in rewards, the PayPal Cashback Mastercard lets you redeem them any time (after the billing period in which you earned those rewards has closed). Hooray for not having to hit a $25 minimum before being allowed to cash in!
  • ... or other strings attached. Most no-fee 2% cashback cards tend to come with strings attached – like requiring that you deposit your rewards into an associated savings or investment account (that’s you, SoFi Credit Card), or withholding half of your rewards until your balance is paid (the Citi Double Cash Card, since we’re naming names). Wells Fargo’s Active Cash Card is a notable exception to the strings-attached rule, though it does have a $25 rewards-redemption minimum.
  • You can start earning rewards before the physical card lands in your mailbox. Upon approval, most applicants are granted access to a temporary credit line to use on PayPal right away.
  • Charges no annual fee. There may be higher flat-rate cashback cards out there, but you’ll pay for the privilege every single year with an annual fee.

Dislikes

  • No 0% intro APR on purchases/balance transfers. You know that friend who doesn’t even offer you a glass of water when you visit? The PayPal Cashback Mastercard is that friend – no introductory niceties, here (not even a 0% introductory APR on new purchases or balance transfers).
  • Don’t expect a welcome bonus either. Welcome bonus? The PayPal Cashback card can’t even be bothered to get up off the couch to greet you at the door.
  • Requires a linked PayPal account to apply and redeem rewards. Hardly a shocker (it is the PayPal card, people). And it’s NBD because it’s free. But be careful: If your PayPal account is closed for any reason or you unlink your credit card from it, your Mastercard will be closed and any unredeemed rewards will be forfeited.
  • Hidden fees. Literally. We practically excavated PayPal’s entire website before giving up and just Googling “terms and conditions” to unearth this pdf of key info on the card issuer’s website. No wonder they were buried …
  • Heavy-handed scattering of fees. It seems that Synchrony Bank (PayPal’s card issuer) hasn’t met a fee it doesn’t like. This card charges 'em all, including a 3% foreign transaction fee, a heady 5% on cash advances (with a $10 minimum), and a $2 minimum interest charge in any billing cycle in which you owe interest.
  • Oh, we’re still not done with the fees 😬. Other costly gotchas include a $40 late-payment fee (or $29 for the sticklers who’ve paid on time for six previous billing cycles), a pricey prime rate plus 23.74% APR on cash advances, and variable APRs on purchases of prime plus roughly 17% to 24%, depending on your account type. TL;DR: Pay your bill on time, and in full.
  • A complete lack of amenities. So much for friends with benefits. Don’t expect any extra perks with the PayPal Cashback card beyond security standards such as Mastercard’s zero liability for unauthorized charges and ID monitoring (requires signing up), and PayPal’s own purchase protection when you buy via its own platform.

Is the PayPal Cashback credit card worth it?

Compared to other flat-rate, no-annual-fee rewards cards, the PayPal Cashback Mastercard’s 2% rewards rate on everything — no earnings caps — is quite competitive.

Cashback reward category Cashback reward rates
Gas 2%
Groceries 2%
Travel 2%
Restaurants 2%
Entertainment 2%
Pharmacy 2%
All other 2%

The beauty of a flat-rate, unlimited cashback card is that it requires no rewards math guesswork. What you see — 2% — is what you get in return. But how much is that worth?

The average consumer unit (as we’re called by the Bureau of Labor Statistics) who puts $1,000 a month on the PayPal Cashback Mastercard will earn $240 in cashback per year based on average expenditures across six biggest spending categories.

That said, even with a competitive 2% cashback rate, a flat-rate card will only get you so far on the road to rewards riches. If you spend more than the average consumer unit on any of the typical bonus rewards categories offered by tiered-rate cards (such as gas, groceries, travel, restaurant, entertainment), you could be leaving cash on the table by using the PayPal Cashback card.

Using a different $1,000 monthly spending distribution across rewards categories — more on groceries and entertainment, less on travel and pharmacy — our calculations show that you’d earn $40 to $90 more cash back with a tiered rewards-rate credit card.

How much cash back can you earn? Tinker with the cashback credit card calculator to see exactly how much you’d earn using the PayPal Cashback Mastercard and all the other rewards cards — both flat-rate and tiered — in our database.

Reward extras

We expected to find some sort of rewards incentive for choosing to use PayPal for purchases. We didn’t.

What is notable, however, is how quickly PayPal lets you access your cash rewards. You can redeem your cash any time after the billing statement in which you earned the rewards closes. Wells Fargo, the PayPal card’s closest competition with a no-annual-fee 2% cashback card, requires accumulating at least $25 in rewards before it allows redemptions.

Notable reward restrictions

As mentioned earlier, applying your PayPal Cashback rewards back to your credit card as a statement credit is not a rewards redemption option. Weird. Or maybe … not? A PayPal card actuary probably figured out that it’s more profitable to withhold the option for cardholders to lower their outstanding balances. (Bingeing white-collar thrillers has us searching for conspiracy theories everywhere.)

Redemption options

The PayPal Cashback Mastercard offers two cashback rewards redemption options. Both require making a pit stop in your PayPal account:

1. You can transfer your cashback bounty from your card to your PayPal account and, from there, send it to the bank account or debit card that’s linked to your account.

2. You can transfer your rewards money into a PayPal Balance account — which is essentially a holding pen for cash to use via the PayPal/eBay system — to spend with providers that accept PayPal – or send to another PayPal user (standing by, FYI!).

Unlike most rewards cards, the PayPal Cashback Mastercard does not allow you to use your rewards as a statement credit to lower your balance.

PayPal Cashback Mastercard card deets

The terms and conditions attached to the PayPal Cashback card should steer your usage away from transactions in foreign currencies (for which you’ll pay a 3% fee), cash advances (5%), and carrying a balance from month to month (which carries an APR of up to nearly 24%).

PayPal Cashback Mastercard Basics
Annual fee None, but requires a PayPal account (free)
APR (purchases) Variable; prime rate + 16.74% - 23.74%, $2 minimum interest charge
APR (cash advances) Prime rate + 23.74%
Welcome bonus None
Introductory APR on purchases None
Introductory APR on balance transfers None
Transaction fees Cash advance: $10 or 5%, whichever is greater
Foreign transaction: 3%
Penalty fees Late payment: Up to $40
Missed payment: $29
Card extras Mastercard’s zero liability for unauthorized charges; free ID theft monitoring (requires enrollment)
Reward redemption options Transfer into your PayPal account
Reward redemption minimum None
The fine print PayPal Cashback Mastercard terms of agreement and cashback rewards card terms and conditions


Source: Synchrony Bank rates and fees table for the PayPal Cashback Mastercard


This seems like a good time for a public service announcement: Hitting up the ATM with a credit card should always be treated as the cash grab option of last resort. If you must do so, a 3% cash advance fee is typical, with PayPal’s fee coming in at an even higher 5%. On a $500 withdrawal, that’s the difference between paying $15 versus $25 in access fees. And remember, that’s on top of the higher interest rate charged by credit cards for cash loans. So, yeah, that blows.

Should I get the PayPal credit card?

Based on 14 “swipe types” — card user profiles we developed to help consumers more easily identify credit cards that best match their spending habits and rewards preferences — PayPal Cashback Mastercard’s 2% flat-rate on everything is a good match for those seeking Low-Hassle Rewards. Few other no-annual-fee flat-rate rewards cards offer a straight-up 2% cashback with no fancy footwork required.

It’s also a good choice if you’re into the card buddy system — what we call a Perfect Pairing — carrying this flat-rate rewards card in your wallet with a complementary one that pays a higher bonus rate on other spending categories.

Best for Swipe type
playlist_add_check Low-hassle rewards Swipe, earn, redeem, lather, rinse, repeat. You like to keep it simple (as in a flat-rate rewards card, no math required).
construction Perfect pairings You’re a two-card stud, with a couple of cards in your holster to draw the highest caliber rewards based on what you’re buying.


Other swipe types that may be better served by a different credit card are: Big Spenders, Bulk Shoppers, Business Owners, Explorers, Foodies, Rewards Card Newbies, Rewards Rotators, Road Warriors, Sign-up Sweethearts, Small Budgets, Students and Worldly Spenders.

Although the 2% cashback rate on everything is great, there are tradeoffs. Because of course there are.

What you don’t get with the PayPal Cashback Mastercard is a sign-up bonus (that’s a potential $150 to $300 off the table) or a 0% introductory APR on purchases or balance transfers. Though the card charges no annual fee, the cash-advance and foreign transaction fees should give you pause before you do anything to trigger them.

A note for rewards card ninjas: PayPal also offers a tiered-rewards credit card, also issued by Synchrony. The PayPal Extras Mastercard rewards three points per dollar spent on gas and restaurant purchases, two points on PayPal and eBay purchases, and one point on everything else. But reward redemptions are convoluted and the per-point value — even if you choose cash back — is less than what the PayPal Cashback Mastercard pays out. So, that’s a firm “no” from us. And, since Synchrony doesn’t allow you to have both cards at once, it’s not an option for those looking to pair up the two cards in your wallet.

Other cashback credit cards worth a look

The following cashback credit cards are comparable to the PayPal Cashback Mastercard.

As a reminder, investor.com has no financial relationship with any of the credit card providers we write about. Our opinions are based solely on data and our own independent research. Rewards cards in our cashback credit card calculator are listed in descending order according to how much money they pay out annually based on the inputs.

  • Wells Fargo Active Cash Card: Earn unlimited 2% cash rewards on purchases. Sign-up bonus and introductory 0% introductory APR on purchases and qualified balance transfers available.
  • SoFi Credit Card: Earn 2 reward points for every dollar spent on eligible purchases. Redeem points at a rate of 2% (1 cent per point) if you elect to redeem as cash deposited into your SoFi Money account, as fractional shares into your SoFi Invest account, as cryptocurrency into your SoFi Active Invest account, or as a payment toward your SoFi Personal or Student Loan. Points redeem at a rate of 1% (0.5 cents per point) if you elect to redeem them as a statement credit into your SoFi Credit Card account.
  • Citi Double Cash Card: Earn 2% cash back on everything — 1% when you buy and 1% when you pay off your balance, no caps on cash back earned. 0% introductory APR on balance transfers available.
  • Alliant Cashback Visa Signature Credit Card: Earn 2.5% cash back on everything up to $10,000 per billing cycle and 1.5% after that. Requires credit union membership, and maintaining a $1,000 average daily balance one monthly deposit in an Alliant high-rate checking account to qualify for the Tier One (2.5%) rewards rate.

» HOW MUCH CASH BACK CAN YOU EARN? Use the investor.com Cashback Card Calculator to find the best credit card based on your spending habits.

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About the author: Investor.com senior writer/editor Dayana Yochim has been writing (articles, books, podcasts, stirring speeches) about personal finance and investing for more than two decades, focusing on bringing clarity and the occasional comedic aside to what is often a murky, humorless topic. She’s written for NerdWallet, The Motley Fool, HerMoney.com, Woman’s Day, Forbes, Newsweek and others, and been a guest expert on The Today Show, GMA, CNN, NPR and wherever they’ll hand her a mic. Read more about Dayana.

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