PayPal Key: 6 Things To Know About the Virtual Card Creator


NOTE: PayPal announced in March 2022 that it soon will no longer offer the PayPal Key service. Here’s PayPal’s statement: “As of March 1, 2022, PayPal discontinued offering the PayPal Key feature for new customers in the U.S. On April 21, 2022, PayPal will remove the PayPal Key feature for all existing customers and any new transactions using their virtual card number will be declined.”

If you need a virtual card for online purchases but your bank doesn’t offer one, PayPal Key may be your solution in 2022.

PayPal Key is a free online security offering from PayPal that generates unique credit card numbers for internet transactions.

This will help you protect your debit or credit card information through the popular online wallet even if the retailer doesn’t accept PayPal as a form of payment. It works anywhere Mastercard is accepted, online or over the phone, and you can use it for some in-person digital wallet transactions.

If you want to learn more about how to use a virtual card and the benefits that come with it, Team Clark has you covered with the details here.

In this article, I’ll detail how the PayPal Key works and answer some of the questions you may have as a new or potential user.

1. How PayPal Key Works To Keeps Your Information Safe

PayPal Key is a virtual card creator, which means that it produces a “dummy” credit card number, expiration date and security code. This is done to mask the true details of your debit or credit card information, thus helping to protect you from internet nightmares like fraud and identity theft.

To use Key, you have to have a PayPal account. PayPal lets you send and receive money to and from individuals, and you can upload banking, debit or credit card information to make protected purchases with online merchants.

2. Where You Can Use PayPal Key

You don’t need to shop only with businesses that accept PayPal to use PayPal Key.

These virtual cards are powered by Mastercard. So you should be able to complete a virtual card transaction online or over the phone at any business that accepts Mastercard.


This applies to both U.S.-based and non-U.S. transactions, though you may be subject to foreign transaction fees with the latter. Check the settings on your PayPal Wallet account and the policy with your actual credit card before making a foreign transaction. (Note: PayPal Key is available only to U.S. consumers at this time.)

Virtual cards also can be used for contactless payments through digital wallets in select brick-and-mortar stores.

3. You Don’t Need To Fill Out a Credit Application To Get a PayPal Key

Though you are receiving access to unique credit card numbers specific to individual online transactions, you are not actually applying for a new credit card.

That means you won’t have to fill out a credit application, nor is there a fee to use the Key.

That said, your Key transactions will be reported to credit bureaus (just like any credit card transactions), but you cannot use the key to build credit.

4. You Can Use PayPal Key as a Browser Extension and With Select Digital Wallets

PayPal says you’ll be able to integrate the Key product within your internet browsing and digital wallet ecosystems.

Aside from having the unique card number to use anywhere Mastercard is accepted online, you’ll also have the option to embed the Key into the following web browsers for easy access at the virtual checkout counter:

  • Apple Safari
  • Google Chrome
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer

PayPal Key also can be used with the Venmo and Google Pay platforms. It is worth noting that Key is not yet available on Apple Pay or Samsung Pay.

5. You Can Still Earn Your Regular Credit Card Rewards

If you’re worried about losing credit card cash back or rewards points, don’t fret. PayPal Key will not hinder your rewards earning process.

PayPal says you are eligible to “earn points in the same way you would with any card in your account.”


To get those rewards, you’ll need to choose your rewards card as your preferred payment method during setup.

6. This is NOT the Same Thing as PayPal Security Key

Although the names are extremely similar, PayPal Key and the PayPal Security Key are two completely different things.

The PayPal Security Key is “a small electronic device that generates a unique security code for your [PayPal] account every 30 seconds.”

The PayPal Security Key is a different product than the PayPal Key.

This device was offered as an optional add-on security feature for a PayPal Wallet account at a cost of $5. As of January 2022, PayPal no longer offers this device on its website.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to cybersecurity, it generally pays to take the extra steps to secure your information.

While some credit card providers already provide virtual card services, many others have left cardholders with only third-party options.

If your bank or one of your lenders already offers virtual cards, you may not have much use for PayPal Key. If your card provider does not offer the security measure, PayPal Key may be the perfect solution.

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