Payments for auctions can be tricky. Of course, a lot depends on if you are a buyer or a seller.
Let's have a look at some of the options available and, where appropriate, the good and bad points for both sides of an eBay sale.
PAYPAL is the easiest for both parties. It costs neither the buyer or seller anything to set up a Paypal account. Nor does it cost the buyer anything to make a payment. In fact, for the buyer, Paypal is one of the best methods of paying for an eBay auction win. Another bonus about paying by Paypal is that the payment is instant. For the seller, it's not quite so good. The main problem being that Paypal take a percentage of the amount paid to the seller in fees. This amount changes at the whim of Paypal so putting the costs down here would be pointless because the rates may change tomorrow.
From a buyer's point of view, Paypal wins out in other ways as well. If a buyer considers that a deal has gone belly up, he or she can complain to Paypal who, theoretically, will get details from both sides and make a judgement call. If they find that the seller has tried to rip the buyer off, the buyer will be refunded after returning the dodgy item. There's a lot more to it than that but we would be getting outside the remit of this guide which is about Payment Methods.
CHEQUES are another way of paying for your item. The problem with cheques is that they are not much use if the item you have bought from the seller is needed quite soon. A concert ticket or a birthday present for example. First of all you (the buyer) need to write a note to the seller telling her/him which eBay item you are paying for and include a cheque. Then you stick a stamp (how much are they now?) on the letter and post it off to the seller. Once the seller gets it, which could be 2 days from when you posted it, he/she then has to go into town and put the cheque into their bank account. Of course, it would be unfair of a buyer to expect the seller to make a special trip into town just for their cheque so that may mean a delay of 2 or 3 days. Then the cheque has to clear which could take 10 working days depending on the bank's policies. Taking all that into account, it could be 3 weeks or more before you get your item.
For the buyer, this is often not acceptable because as well as the time involved, it has cost the buyer the price of a stamp. The buyer may get miffed at the delay between winning the auction and receiving the item but most of the delay is out of the seller's hands and let's be honest here, it's the buyer's fault really for using a cheque as the method of payment.
On the other hand, cheques are usually a good idea for sellers because for hobby sellers there are no fees taken out and the seller gets the full value of the winning bid + postage costs.
The downside for buyers is that there is virtually no comeback if the deal goes sour because of a dodgy eBay seller.
It's also true to say that a seller, myself included, will often forego the waiting time for a cheque to clear if the buyer's feedback suggests honesty and the item is of low value.
POSTAL ORDERS are a bit like cheques in that they need to be posted out to the seller. The main difference being that as well as paying for a stamp, the buyer also pays a fee to the issuing Post office for the Postal order itself. The good side is that once the seller receives it, it is more or less like cash so the item can be posted out straight away and if, like most sellers, that involves a trip to the Post office, as long as the Postal Order is uncrossed, you can kill two birds with one stone and get cash for the Postal order at the same time.
So, it costs more for the buyer but it's quicker and sellers are OK with them because, like cheques, there are no fees for the seller to pay.
BANK TRANSFERS can be a bit tricky to get your head round at first but once you have done a few, they are a doddle for buyer and seller alike and the bonus being that there are no fees to either party. That's the good news. The not so good news, like I said at the start, is that they can be a bit tricky to grasp.
For instance, a buyer needs to get hold of some details from the seller. Bank, Account name, Account number and the Account sort code. I can hear all the sharp intakes of breath from here but just stop and think for a minute. A cheque contains all that info PLUS a signature. So having such details isn't a problem. To demonstrate what I mean, here are my details ..... Nat West, S & A Riley, 01106348, 01-00-04
There are several ways to conduct a bank transfer once you have the details from the seller. You can walk into YOUR bank (not the same bank as the seller) and pay a cheque or cash over the counter. This will take as much as 10 days to appear in the seller's bank account. It would be totally unfair of a buyer to ask that an item be posted before the cash appears in the seller's account.
A second method is the walk into a branch of the SELLER's bank and pay CASH over the counter. This should appear in the seller's account by the following day at the latest. Paying a cheque over the counter at the seller's bank will still take 10 days or even longer.
A third option is to use Internet Banking. This is by far the easiest method, mostly because it can be done from a comfy chair while sipping from a can of your favourite "Falling down water". The method used to do this will depend on how your bank has set up their web page but scrolling through a few drop-down boxes will usually find the proper place and then it's just a case of entering the seller's details, the amount you want to pay and, very importantly, specify that it is a once only payment and not a weekly or monthly one.
CASH ON COLLECTION has been saved for last but if truth be told, it should have pride of place because, in my humble opinion, it is by far the best method of paying for, or receiving payment for, an eBay item.
Think of it this way.
There are no fees to pay by either buyer or seller. It may cost the buyer a couple of quid in petrol but that is far outweighed by the benefits. For instance, How can you pay for a top of the range laptop and get a brick through the post if, before you pay for it, you go along to the seller's house and see it working before you hand over your cash?. If you ever win one of my auctions and want to pay on collection, I'll even make you a brew and give you some biscuits (not choklit until AFTER you have paid)
On the other hand, you have to use a bit of common sense. As an example, if I was paying out 3k in cash for a car and the seller suggested that we meet in a dark alley at 2am, I would probably suggest that he keeps his car. Just remember that there is no rule against buyer or seller having a friend along.
Whichever way you decide to pay, a few simple precautions can save a lot of grief later on.