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Did You Know: Airlines Limit The Cards You Can Use When Paying With PayPal

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Recently, I wrote a post reminding readers to use up their Platinum Card PayPal credit before it expired at the end of the month and a comment on that post opened my eyes to an issue that I had no idea existed. Apparently, some airlines prevent customers who are paying via PayPal from paying for their goods/services with some of the cards linked to their PayPal account.

Yesterday, Earl B left the following comment on my Platinum Card post:

“I like PayPal credits. But readers should know it isn’t working with all merchants who accept PayPal. I just tried to [buy] a Southwest airlines ticket using PayPal to take advantage of this Amex offer, and the Southwest version of the PayPal screen doesn’t populate with the Amex card as an option, nor will it let you add that card. So I had to complete my purchase with another card, and will have to find another way to use the PayPal credit for March. (I did a little research, and found a discussion online that indicates several airlines that “take” PayPal limit the credit card options to exclude Amex. Frustrating.”

I rarely use PayPal to make payments to airlines or retailers so this isn’t something that I’ve ever come across before, but now that Earl B had brought it up, I thought I’d check it out.

I headed over to Southwest’s website and did a quick dummy booking for one of the super-cheap fares that Southwest is currently promoting in its flash sale. At check-out, I chose to pay via PayPal and waited as the Southwest site redirected me to my PayPal account.

Sure enough, when my PayPal account appeared I could see that my Chase cards were available to use, but a number of my other cards were very noticeably absent from the options list.

Here’s the list of cards that I have linked to my PayPal account (the screenshot was taken by logging in to PayPal directly and not via Southwest):

And here’s what Southwest allowed me to see:

Three of my Amex cards that are linked to my PayPal account (Platinum Card, Bonvoy Brilliant Card, and the Blue Business Plus Card) were being blocked by Southwest.

This seemed a little odd, but I assumed that it had something to do with Southwest not liking whatever fees Amex charges, or that it had something to do with another unknown issue that Southwest has with American Express.

Things got odder, however, when I realized that the Southwest website is more than happy for customers to pay with American Express:

Southwest is happy to take payment directly via American Express but is not happy for customers to use American Express cards via PayPal.

This got me thinking, do other airlines do the same?

I checked American Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta (all of whom accept Amex on their own websites), and in all three cases they also prevented me from seeing my American Express cards in my PayPal account…and that’s despite Delta being a huge Amex partner.

I have no idea why the airlines do this (it’s possible that the fees charged on PayPal payments made using Amex cards are higher than the fees charged by Amex directly) and, in the grand scheme of things I guess it’s not hugely important. Most people with Amex cards will either use their Platinum Cards directly to ensure that they earn 5 points/dollar, or will have other cards that they can use with PayPal if they absolutely have to.

Nevertheless, this was all news to me as I had no idea that websites (in this case, the airlines) could actually block which cards a consumer can use when paying through PayPal. It also leaves me wondering which other websites do the same thing?

Do you know of other sites that block specific card types when paying via PayPal?

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