I Think eBay & PayPal’s Policy On Foreign Transactions Is Terrible

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eBay & PayPal's Policy On Foreign Transactions Is Terrible

eBay & PayPal’s Policy On Foreign Transactions Is Terrible

This article has been on the docket for over a year and I keep pushing it off. I don’t know why it keeps getting pushed to the bottom of the pile by me but it was time to finally get this out there. I am curious to see what others think about the foreign transactions policy between eBay and PayPal.  I have come into contact with this on a few different occasions. This take on it is also completely from the sellers side of the conversation.

My Experience

I used to sell quite often on eBay, not so much anymore.  But I will still do it whenever dirt cheap Kindle fire deals come around or another opportunity comes along.  On a couple of different occasions I had issues with the charges PayPal levied against me for a sale.  Here is an example of what I am talking about.  These were the figures for the same items and the sales happened within a few hours of each other:

eBay & PayPal's Policy On Foreign Transactions Is Terrible

As you can see the sale prices are the same but the PayPal fees are a couple of dollars different.  I reached out to see why and they said the buyer on the second purchase used a foreign credit card and I had to pay for the foreign transaction fee.

Why I Have An Issue With This

I immediately went back to the shipping info and saw that the address was a US address. What I think caused this was either the person is an expat living in the US or more likely they are using a shipping service in the US to forward it overseas to them.  People can often save money purchasing in the US and then having a forwarding company ship it to them.

My problem is that I have no way to tell if they are using a foreign credit card or if they are forwarding my package on to another country.  This is something eBay does not allow me to see or know before accepting the sale and shipping out the product.

I imagine PayPal charges the cardholder a fee for using a foreign credit card but then they slap me with a charge as well?  Why should it fall on the seller, shouldn’t the buyer have to pay the conversion fee etc.  Or shouldn’t I be alerted to this before the sale completes?  It could be as easy as not allowing the transaction unless buyers accepted the fee.  But eBay and PayPal are not seller friendly at all.


I could have simply canceled the transaction after the money was already sent etc.  But that could lead to negative feedback and since the item wasn’t too expensive it was only a couple of dollars. It did hit my margins at 1.5% and since I wasn’t aware of it I couldn’t adjust the pricing accordingly.

Overall it isn’t a huge deal since the fee is fairly small but I still think it is a seller unfriendly policy.  That should not surprise me since PayPal is not really buyer friendly either. They are just unfriendly to everyone they deal with.

Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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  1. The buyer would not be charged extra for using a foreign credit card, no more than a buyer would be charged extra for using a foreign, or any particular, credit card in a store. In that case the store has to pay whatever fees are associated with whatever card is used, without knowing what those fees are. So, in your case, you are the seller and so you absorb the costs.

    It’s wrong, certainly, but to change it would to unravel the whole credit card charging, and rewards, business model in the USA.

    • Good point NB and I thought about that as writing this but I looked at it differently solely because most of the resellers on eBay are doing it as a hobby, clearing out stuff etc. versus a full fledged business. But it is true that it goes against the way the system is set up. I just wish there was some way for us to know about it before completing the sale.

    • Wait, what? If we use a US card in France, we (the buyer) do indeed get charged an extra fee (usually 3% of the charge), unless of course the card has a special 0% foreign transaction fee. But those cards almost always charge an annual fee. So either way, yes, the buyer does pay to use a foreign card.


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