Boosting your Amex spend by using Paypal for online shopping

Given that the miles and points earned on Amex cards are generally far higher than those earned on MasterCard and Visa transactions, it is always frustrating to visit an online retailer to find that American Express is not accepted.

In many cases, though, the same retailers will accept PayPal as a method of payment. And PayPal DOES let you use Amex.

PayPal logo

You do not even need a PayPal account to pay with PayPal – you can click on the ‘Pay with PayPal’ link and enter your card details directly.  That said, it makes sense to open an account and link your Amex card as you do not need to remember your card details when paying.

Next time you pay a retailer who do not accept Amex but do take PayPal, click through to PayPal instead.

If you have a PayPal account, remember that PayPal will, by default, take payment from your bank current account if it is linked.  You need to click the link during the payment process to switch to your Amex card.

There are usually no extra fees for using PayPal with retailers.  Some retailers manage to block PayPal from showing the American Express option if they do not accept Amex themselves, so this is not always a solution.  In the majority of cases it will work just fine.

A list of retailers who accept PayPal can be found here.

The only thing worth noting is that you may lose some of your protection if the retailer goes bust if you pay with PayPal.  PayPal does have its own reimbursement scheme called PayPal Buyer Protection which may cover you but it is not legally enshrined.  That said, if you use an Amex charge card, that is not covered by the compensation legislation either albeit that Amex does voluntarily make good any losses.

(Want to earn more miles and points from credit cards?  Click here to visit our dedicated airline and hotel travel credit cards page or use the ‘Credit Cards Update’ link in the menu bar at the top of the page.)

Addison Lee buys Tristar - and £10-£20 off your first Addison Lee app bookings
Bits: LAST DAY for 2400 Avios with £100 Tesco Wine, BA Winter schedule changes, free Pret coffee at Gatwick
About Head for Points

We help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points. Visit every day for three new articles or sign up for our FREE emails via this page or the box to your right.


  1. Simon Schus says:

    Hi there,

    I thought I’d chime in to add something that came up often when using PayPal to charge USD products to a UK AMEX. I was never able to get PayPal to convert and charge my UK AMEX in UK£ (I.e. for PayPal to do the third party conversion). I was always charged in base currency. There was never any option to choose whether my UK AMEX was charged in UK£ or USD, it was always charged in USD.

    When charging to Mastercards and Visas, I was always able to choose.

    Now, I know that third party conversions are usually not so great. I only mention it because my company always sometimes made foreign currency purchases with AMEX difficult to claim back when the card was charged in USD.

    In most cases, the behaviour of charging the AMEX in the product currency may be the desired behaviour for everybody. In fact, this was about a year ago and for the last 4 years that I had an issue. It might not even be the case anymore.

  2. Have a look if you can pay your council tax by paypal – the option just appeared on ours this year which is a great boost towards the 10K spend for us too.

    • Genghis says:

      Or pay via Pay Point at Co Op on Amex in £200 batches (or if over £200, put the smaller increment through first).

  3. Seth Navabi says:

    Does anyone know if, when you use PayPal and charge the AMEX, the vendor has to pay the higher AMEX charges as opposed the cheaper Visa and MasterCard rates? I ask because I spent a few grand using this method and the vendor subsequently added me to their block list on eBay! I retaliated by leaving a damning review on Trust Pilot.

    • not as far as i am aware, people have paid me and it never made a difference.

    • Daniel says:

      A related question…if I am struggling to get to the 10k spend, what is the issue with paying a friend 4k thro PayPal if I take the 3% hit and getting my mate to then physically hand me back the cash…. to trigger the 2 4 1…

      Any experiences?

      • I’ve tried that for you :) (although amount was about half). You can expect Amex to reach out to you and explain that they’ve noticed and won’t allow that on a regular basis but give you a free pass this time.

        • Daniel says:

          Seems interesting if I can pay friend…a relatively small charge for a 2 4 1 .. especially for an F ticket to the USA…

        • The charge for the vendor is the same whatever card you use on PayPal

        • Frenske says:

          How would AmEx know you are transferrring to a friend!? What if your friend sets up Pay Pal business account (for free).

      • If you regularly spend £4000 on ebay/paypal and the friend regularly receives £4000 in one transaction into his paypal (from multiple sources) then it’s fine. I doubt this is the case in your situation.

        Worst case is you’re both banned from Paypal, ebay and Amex forever (or until you change your name and address and have no links to your old name and address). Furthermore, you owe Amex £4000 and your friend is owed £4000 by paypal which they won’t be paying you for 6 months or until you take them to court (and lose for breaching their T&Cs)

      • Mr Dee says:

        3% of 10k being £300 is a lot to blow on fees along with the hassle of being limited by paypal and amex blocking your card, you then have to consider the cost of this when making your redemption.

      • its manufactured spend – iZettle also take Amex.
        I think there may be an issue if your trying to a person rather than a business.
        Maybe get around that with an ebay listing that has a fixed fee?

    • The charge for the vendor is the same whatever card you use on PayPal

    • Wilson says:

      I sell on eBay and the seller is unable to distinguish the method of payment used by the buyer.

      It could be that the seller was looking to build sale numbers on their listing by putting a low price in the beginning and ramping it up at a later date. Therefore selling to you in bulk at the starting price could’ve resulted in them making a loss.

      • If you personally sell on ebay then you won’t be able to distinguish, but if “you”, a large corporation who doesn’t use a personal paypal account and has multiple employees who won’t be posting on HFP, sell on ebay then you may be able to block certain types of card.

        • This is likely correct. I have a business account selling on eBay and have never been able to differentiate how buyers pay.

          However, I have had my Amex card declined before when paying through Paypal to large companies due to ‘we do not accept American Express’.

    • It depends on the vendor, small companies have standard fees but very big companies will have their own negotiated agreements. I mean do you really think Argos on ebay has someone logging in manually and sending copies of their passports to Paypal when someone pays them with a fradulent card?

    • you could may try an izettle to get around it as well….

  4. You can credit gambling websites via paypal, although I assume this would be classed as a cash transaction?

  5. roberto says:

    O/T Can I just say be very careful of value basket.. Whilst their prices are low they appear to be treading water currently with many people on trust pilot (including me) cancelling purchases due to excessive delays and having to dispute charges to get a refund.

    • They were definitely taking the proverbial with their one month delay – perhaps part of their business plan, advertise at a cheap price, get the orders in and then delay shipping until prices have fallen enough! At least thanks to Amex I got a good deal in the end :)

  6. I have had so many problems with Paypal. They keep charging my bank account even though I chose Amex as the founding source. And the customer service is getting poorer and poorer.

    I don’t find it reliable at all and I am still waiting for some money they owe me. I am off on holiday now but I’ll ring them when I get back to let them know how I feel about this.

    It worked fine for a while but now I keep getting problems and they are not helpful at all.
    I have already deleted one of my accounts and I think I might delete all of them and just pay with PayPal as a guest when needed.

    Shame :-(

  7. Amex related. I rang Amex Gold today about some mundane query I had about my card’s anniversary date. While there, the rep got chatting about what I thought of the card now my anniversary date was almost here. She said that she could tell I was after welcome bonuses, and suggested some of their other cards, and amazingly steered me towards Head For Points as a great place to research. I told her I was well versed with HFP, but thought it cool she was happy to mention it. Cracking customer service by the way as always from Amex. Can’t fault it.

  8. O/T Virgin train sale now live – 2 days early

    £10 tickets EW on routes normally £100 EW

  9. I have found recently when making some online transactions in the UK that a number of sites offer “Amazon Payments” as an option. This processes the payment via your Amazon account allowing you to select any payment method you have setup on Amazon which includes Amex. Not sure how widespread this is or if it is growing but two recent purchases of computer parts from UK e-tailers both offered this an option.