Classic Macs in the Intel Age

Is Wirecard a Real Alternative to PayPal?

- 2008.08.07 - Tip Jar

Online Payment - Is it Safe and Reliable? A look at the different services out there.

I'm sure you've all heard of ecommerce and online payments. There seem to be a thousand services out there, and they all claim the same thing: "We are safe, secure, cheap, reliable, etc., etc."

But is this really true for all services? And which service should you pick?

Today I'll look at two of the bigger services - view this as a mini-guide to introduce you to two ecommerce services - both with their respective pros and cons.

We'll start with the biggest one.

PayPal 2 and a half out of 4

PayPal is wholly owned by eBay, and as such provides a direct connection to, making it easier to pay for stuff you buy there. (Most sellers on Low End Mac's LEM Swap List also accept PayPal.

It's free to sign up.

It's very simple to use; you connect with a credit card or bank account, load money into your PayPal account, and there you go.

They also have some other services. US residents are eligible to receive a free PayPal debit card, which is connected to the funds in your account (it works in most ATMs), and a PayPal Credit Card (your textbook MasterCard with a PayPal logo slapped onto it).

However, you need to be a PayPal registered user for 60 days to use it, and you must have a Premier or Business account. The "free" accounts won't do.

I like PayPal because it's free and is supported by most ecommerce sites.

However, it does have some weak spots...

The website is not that easy to navigate. Period.

Also, the tech support is not good at all. Emailing them, I usually get something like:

Dear Carl Nygren,

Thank you for contacting PayPal.

My name is ********** and I am happy to assist you further", followed by some kind of autogenerated instruction from their database.

When I email them back to tell them "That didn't solve my problem. Did you even read my questions?", I get basically the same email back, only with a new name of the support guy.

So it's a good service, but the tech support could be better (that's a really important part). I primarily use PayPal for the Tip Jar here at LEM and buying stuff on eBay - it works great.


There is no charge to set up a PayPal account, deposit money, or send funds to another PayPal user. There is also no charge for transferring money from your PayPal account to a US bank account. There is a 2.5% fee on currency exchanges.

PayPal charges you for money you receive unless you have a personal account and it's funded by the sender's account balance. All other transactions have a 30¢ fee plus 1.9% to 2.9% for business/premier members, the exact percentage depending on your montly sales. For personal accounts, the fee is 30¢ plus 4.9% for transfers funded by credit cards, debit cards, or buyer credit.

Rating: 2.5/4

Wirecard 2 and a half out of 4

While not quite as big as PayPal (it's currently only available in Europe), this service is definitely good.

Wirecard is based in Germany and provides a good solution for online payment. It uses a system similar to PayPal's: you load money into your account and then use it to pay for stuff - only a little different this time.

Once you have loaded some money into the account (at least €10), you can instantly receive/download a virtual MasterCard debit card (a.k.a. a card number and PIN code connected to your account), allowing you to pay on all websites that support MasterCard using the funds in your Wirecard account - no 60 day membership requirement here, you can do it whenever you want.

You can also receive a physical plastic debit card to use in ATMs and stores worldwide. Cool! (Of course you can use this card number with online stores as well.)

Finally, you may also transfer money between Wirecard accounts.

Somehow, Wirecard feels more like a real bank to me. [Wirecard Bank AG is a real bank headquartered in Germany. ed] It's hard to explain, but it just feels more professional than PayPal.

They have a great web interface, and the website is speedier to load on a slow connection.

Support people are friendly and happy to help - very good!

This service is also free of charge, just like PayPal.

Signup takes only a few minutes, and all they need is your country of residence, preferred language, and street address - and your name (duh!). They don't ask for your Social Security Number or credit card number and CVV, like some other services do. I tend not to trust services that ask for too much personal information on first signup.

Well done, Wirecard! I'd like to see more similar services online.

If you are not familiar with Wirecard, I suggest you give it a try. It won't cost you anything.

The only drawback is that not all currencies are supported - I believe only euros, US dollars, and Canadian dollars. Still, those are the currencies you use the most for buying stuff online.

Well, some websites don't accept MasterCard debit cards - too bad.


There is no charge to set up a Wirecard account or have a virtual debit card. Wirecard charges $1.30 for funds transfers from your bank, credit card, or debit card. There is an additional 3.0% fee for credit card deposits and 1.99% for debit card deposits.

Wirecard charges you 65¢ every time you send money to another Wirecard account and $1.30 to send it to a bank account. Unlike PayPal, there is no fee when you receive money. There is a 1.5% fee for currency conversion, which is lower than PayPal's 2.5%.

Rating: 2.5/4 (would be 3.5 if available in US and Canada)


I hope this (quite small) guide helps you. The services are quite equal, except for the fact that the folks over at PayPal seem to be somewhat computerized, searching for questions in the letter and answering them with what they can find in the database. Some of the questions I asked them were never answered.

But once again, it is a reliable service with high security.

And both services work with my favorite browser, Safari on the Mac.

Next time, we'll talk about webmail services - with so many of them, it can be hard to choose. If you have any suggestions of good webmail services, email me, and I might include them in the article. LEM

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