PayPal Points at Us and Laughs

Let’s talk today about what’s going on with our collective zeitgeist: Getting $10 off at Amazon when using $0.01 in Discover Cashback rewards PayPal Key has been officially made redundant by its corporate overlords; the is product going away on either April 20 or April 21 depending on which PayPal communication you believe.

I’m not sure that there’s ever a good time to get bad news like this, but it hurts even more coming just a few short days after the zigening. Let’s discuss.

Background

PayPal Key was launched in late 2020 as a weird attempt by PayPal to get into the middle of your credit card transactions for data harvesting and product stickiness. It gives you a virtual card number to use in place of your credit card and you can choose which credit card you want to actually be charged when your Key is used. Of course gamers are going to game, and it was quickly discovered that:

  • PayPal Key generated virtual card numbers with one of two BINs: 558158 or 520593
  • Companies like FinTechs, payment processors, tax processors, rent collections, and others often treated one or both of these BINs as debit card BINs

Why is that useful? Fees vary greatly for processing credit cards as compared debit cards. In extreme cases, debit cards might be 0% while credit cards have a 3.5% or higher surcharge.

What I’m Doing Now

There are definitely still plays out there that work, like the more-or-less-public plays for Public.app funding and rent payments. There are naturally several non-public plays too. One of the obvious responses to this news is to hit all of your plays as hard as possible while you still can. Before doing that though, consider the potential collateral damage of turning your PayPal Key shenanigans up to 11:

  • Your whole PayPal account could be shut down
  • Your underlying credit card(s) may be shut down from cycling or bust-out risk
  • The service you’re hitting may shut you down, locking you out of future plays

My initial instinct was to go as big as possible on my PayPal Key plays between now and the end of April, but I’ve tempered some of that enthusiasm to try and find a middle ground that keeps my cards and accounts alive while maximizing PayPal Key before it dies. I’d encourage you to do the same.

Let’s hope we all find the right middle ground so that we’re alive when the next deal surfaces!

PayPal’s Executive staff taking care of its P&L statement.

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