The PayPal home page includes links to sign in, sign up and learn more about PayPal services.

Screen capture by Stephanie Crawford for HowStuffWorks

Signing Up for PayPal

Signing up for PayPal is quick, and doesn't even require you to enter any bank account information. However, if you want to use many of PayPal's features, you'll need to add and verify a checking account or credit card. To get started, just click the "sign up" link at the top of the site's home page.

At the next page, you'll choose whether you want a personal, business or premier account. If you just plan to use PayPal for the occasional eBay auction or online purchase, a personal account is the right choice. If you intend to use PayPal to accept payments for a business, then a business or premier account would be more suitable. If you select a personal account, you can upgrade in the future.

From there, PayPal asks for some basic personal information: your legal first and last name, address, telephone number and e-mail address. You'll also need to check the box indicating that you agree to PayPal's user agreement, privacy policy, acceptable use policy and electronic communications policy. Once you click to create your account, you'll receive an e-mail with instructions for verifying your account and confirming your address.

From here, you should know what PayPal means when it refers to this verification and confirmation process. Having your information vetted by PayPal shows both buyers and sellers that you are less likely to be a scammer.

  • A PayPal account is verified if you've associated that account with a current bank account or credit card. This is more than just entering account information. PayPal will ask you to follow certain steps to complete the verification process. For a checking account, for example, PayPal will make two micropayments to that account, usually about five cents each. Then, you'll need to enter the amounts of those micropayments as verification.
  • A PayPal account is confirmed if you've completed one of three options to signal to PayPal that the address on your account is valid. The fastest of these is to verify a bank account or credit card matching the address you've entered as the PayPal account's address. As an alternative, you can request a confirmation code by mail after you've had the account for 90 or more days, or you can apply for a PayPal Extras MasterCard which confirms your address by running a credit check.

In the next section, we'll examine what parts make up the PayPal Web site and service.