When You Sell on eBay, How Do You Get Paid?


Before the Internet came along, selling used goods for extra cash meant cleaning out the garage, hanging a bunch of handmade signs throughout the neighborhood and spending the weekend in a folding chair, hosting a garage sale. Thanks to eBay, amateur entrepreneurs now have the ability to peddle from one to an entire houseful of items without even having to step foot into their garages. What’s more is their potential client bases have expanded from a handful of neighbors with no weekend plans to people all over the world. While it’s clear that eBay has made selling secondhand items easier and more convenient, what might not be so obvious is how money changes hands when the purchaser could be located on the other side of the country -- or even halfway around the world.

Tools of the Trade

  • To set up a seller account, eBay requires that you establish at least one electronic payment method that buyers can use to purchase goods. Although it recommends using the eBay-owned PayPal to handle transactions, ProPay and merchant accounts are also accepted (in the UK, Skrill replaces ProPay). You can set up an account with PayPal or ProPay by registering at their respective websites (links in Resources). A merchant account, which is generally reserved for business owners, accepts credit card payments as deposits. They’re available through a number of online sources or traditional financial institutions.

Risk-Free Selling

  • By requiring electronic transactions, eBay eliminates much of the risk for its sellers. When an online shopper makes a purchase on eBay, he’s required to make payment immediately by using one of the aforementioned methods. If there’s not enough money in his account, the transaction won’t go through, and the item will remain available to other buyers. PayPal customers usually receive the money within moments of each purchase, while ProPay members generally wait two or three days for the funds to become available. EBay advises its sellers to hold on to their items until the money has been transferred and cleared. The process virtually eliminates the chance that a seller will be left holding the bag if a buyer reneges on a promise to pay.

Turning Cyber Dollars into Real Cash

  • Once a buyer’s money has been transferred into your electronic payment account, you’re free to spend it however you wish, provided it’s used to purchase something or pay a bill online. However, converting your virtual money into cold, hard cash requires an extra step or two. PayPal and ProPay allow customers to easily transfer funds from their online accounts to their regular bank accounts. However, each company charges a small fee for the transfer, and the money usually takes between three and five days to show up in your bank account. PayPal customers have two additional options. They can request a check, which will be sent via regular mail, or use a PayPal debit card to access their money from any cash machine. While PayPal’s debit card method is easily the quickest and most convenient way to access money in one’s account, there is a downside -- the company issues cards only to people who have been customers for at least six months.

Other Payment Options

  • All rules have exceptions, and eBay’s are no different. The online clearinghouse allows payments made by check, money order, bank-to-bank transfer or through such non-affiliated e-commerce sites as Allpay, Hyperwallet and CertaPay for only specific items. With few exceptions, these specially designated items are categorized under Motors, Business and Industrial, and Real Estate. A complete list can be found on eBay’s Accepted Payment Policy page (link in Resources). EBay also offers a payment upon pickup option, which applies only if a member is selling an item that requires local pickup.

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