How do QR code payments work?

Mar 31 2021 | Julie Warshaw, PayPal Editorial Staff

QR codes can be confusing at first. Even when you know what a QR code does, you may not know how a QR code payment works. 
How does a customer use this little checkerboard box to pay for something? We're going to explain the technology behind QR codes, so you can feel confident offering them as a payment solution.

What is a QR code?
A Quick Response code, commonly known as a QR code, is a type of digital code used to store or link to information. It's like a label that can only be read by a machine. Businesses use QR codes for everything from tracking inventory to creating links people can scan to get more information about a product.

If that sounds a lot like the regular barcodes you're used to seeing on the back of packaging, you're right. But while the familiar UPC barcode can only be read horizontally, QR codes are read both horizontally and vertically. This is what allows a QR code to store more information than a regular barcode. But QR codes have other advantages compared to UPC barcodes.

Faster. Once you create a QR code, you can start taking payments immediately. Just print your unique QR code on paper, stickers, and signage, then display it where it's easy for customers to scan.

More efficient. QR codes can hold much more data than UPC barcodes, making them ideal for complex processes like payments. And because of how a QR code stores information, you don't have to create multiple codes for multiple transactions.

More secure. QR codes are difficult to alter or hack. For payments, a QR code directs a smartphone to the right payment account; after that, the payment between the buyer and seller is encrypted as normal.

More reliable. Because QR codes are read in multiple directions, they can still be recognized by a scanner, even if the QR code itself is damaged or partially torn.

How do QR codes work?
A QR code might look like a random mix of scribbles and black-and-white squares, but each slice contains several layers of information. When scanned with a compatible app, all of that information gets put together in the right order for the code to be read.

The square markings in the corners of a QR code tell an app the orientation of the code. This means customers can scan the code from any angle without worrying that it will be read backward. Alignment markings embedded in the code tell the app if the surface the code is printed on is flat or curved so the app can "straighten" out the code to read it correctly.

If you've noticed that QR codes have a space surrounding the square, you might be surprised to learn that space is considered part of the code. It's called the quiet zone and it's there to help the smartphone app recognize where the code stops.

How do QR code payments work?
Because a QR code can hold far more information than a barcode, it's able to be encrypted and safely connect to payment processors like PayPal. Here's how you can take a PayPal QR code payment, from start to finish.

1. Get your QR code:​ On the web, click Get Your QR Code, then, log in to your PayPal account, and download your QR code. You can also create your code using the PayPal Business app. We've provided step-by-step instructions, if you need help.

2. Display your QR code: Print your code and hang a copy wherever a customer can easily scan it during the checkout process, like on your register or counter.

3. Shopper scans the QR code: When your customer is ready to check out, they log in to the PayPal app, click Scan and Pay, and then Allow, which tells the app it can use the phone's camera to scan the code. They hold their phone up to your QR code like they're taking a picture and the PayPal app uses the camera to read the code and connect to your business's PayPal account.

4. Receive your payment:​The customer then enters the amount they owe you and presses Send. Their payment appears in your PayPal account and the transaction is complete. 

The public’s preference for touch-free payments is likely here to stay. With QR codes, you can start accepting contactless payments in just a few minutes. Learn more about how to sell with QR codes.

1How We Shop,, 2020. Based on a survey of 2,163 U.S. consumers.

The contents of this site are provided for informational purposes only. You should always obtain independent, professional accounting, financial, and legal advice before making any business decision.

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Frequently asked questions.

How can I raise financial support for my business?
Whether it’s a non-profit or for-profit, we make it easy for people to support your business with donations. You just need to set up a shareable donation link that’s hosted by PayPal, so you don’t need a website or do any coding.

How do I get started?
To get started, set up your donation link. If you want to, you can customize your landing page to include a personal message and a thank you gift voucher. You’ll get a link and a QR code that you can share by email, text, social media, chat, and more.

If you’ve got a website, you can also set up a donation button that you can customize and easily add to your website.

What’s required?
You must have a business account with PayPal to set up a donation link. This isn’t available in all markets and some business categories are not eligible. 
Mine is a for-profit business. Can I accept donations?
Donations may be treated as income. Reporting requirements vary by location, so be sure to check with your tax authority for more details. You’ll want to consult with an accounting professional for specific guidance.

How do I know if I receive a donation?
The donations will be processed by PayPal and typically show up in your account within minutes. Sometimes, to make sure transactions are secure, it may take longer to get your money and you can read more about why this may happen. You’ll receive the normal transaction notice by email and you’ll see the details in your account with PayPal. 

Will I know who has made a donation?
The names and email addresses of your donors will be part of the transaction details.

Are the donations subject to PayPal transaction fees?
Yes, you’ll pay your normal transaction fees on donations. Read more about fees.

How can I change the logo that’s displayed in my donation link?
Log in to PayPal and go to Settings. You can change or edit your logo image in Business information.

How does the optional gift voucher work?
When you set up a donation link, you can include a gift voucher for a discount on a future purchase, a complimentary product or a gift with purchase. Your gift voucher will be described in your donation link and donors can redeem it when they next make a purchase. 

How are gift vouchers redeemed?
You can decide how redemption will work best for your business. For example, they could show their donation receipt or reference the PayPal transaction ID with their next order. When you set up your gift voucher, you’ll include instructions for how donors can redeem their gift voucher.

How does donate with PayPal work with Google?
If you have a claimed Google Business profile, you can add the donation link to help generate awareness. If you don’t have an account with Google My Business, you can sign up at There are some eligibility criteria for participation in Google My Business.

How do I add a link to my Google Business profile?
Go to Google My Business and paste your link in the section named “Your donation link”. The link will automatically appear in your business profile Google Search and Google Maps.

How can I change my donation link?
Log in to Google My Business and click the link to PayPal to create a new or update an existing donation link.

What info do you share with Google?
To help us ensure that things are working as well as possible, we share with Google the aggregated performance of the donation links we host. You can read more about how Google protects your info and how you can manage your privacy in the Google privacy policy.
What are Store offers and how do they work?
Powered by PayPal Shopping, Store offers (formerly known as Store Cash) are an automatic discount from an online store that accepts payments by PayPal. The discount is redeemed when the shopper returns to your online store and makes a purchase with PayPal before the offer expires. With a Store offers campaign, PayPal can send Store offers to your targeted shoppers to help recover sales that might otherwise be lost. 
How do you target shoppers for a Store offers campaign?
Store offers are available in two versions:
  • Sales Recovery: Store offer is sent to PayPal shoppers who have visited your website but dropped-off without completing a purchase.
  • Customer Retention: Store offer is sent to PayPal shoppers who have completed a purchase on your website in the last 12 months but have not made a purchase in the last 3 months.
Can I limit how many shoppers are targeted for a Store offer campaign?
While we recommend that you offer Store offers to all the PayPal shoppers we can target, you can set the number of shoppers who are sent a Store offer and you can change this setting at any time.
Are there fees to run a Store offers campaign?
Yes. For campaigns launched after May 19, 2021, we'll charge an 8% campaign commission on all sales made with a Store offers campaign. We'll calculate your campaign fees based on each gross sale, after applied discounts. Seller fees may also apply.

Campaigns are always free to create, and we'll only apply campaign fees on completed sales.
How many Store offer campaigns can I run at a time?
You can run one Store offer campaign at a time on each website. You can start and stop the campaign whenever you like.
How long does my Store offer campaign last?
Once a campaign is started, it will run until you stop the campaign. 
How can my Store offer be used?
The Store offer amount is automatically applied when the shopper makes a purchase with PayPal on your website before the offer’s expiration date. The Store offer amount that’s applied to the purchase will appear in the PayPal receipt (and may not be displayed during checkout).
What happens if a shopper purchase amount is less than the Store offer amount?
If the order total in a single transaction is less than the Store offer amount, the discount amount will be equal to the order total. Any balance remaining from the Store offer will be available for another purchase from your store until its expiration date. 
When do Store offers expire?
Store offers expire 7 days from the date they are sent.
Where can I see how the Store offer campaign is working?
After setting up a campaign, you can track results in your Store offer dashboard. Among other reports, the dashboard will show how many Store offers were redeemed and the amount of sales that were made to shoppers who redeemed a Store offer.

How do I use the redemption code on my coupon?

To redeem a coupon, enter the coupon's redemption code when you are paying for an eBay item using PayPal. Follow the steps to apply your code and complete the purchase. Only one coupon can be used per purchase.

How do I redeem a coupon?

Simply look for a space to enter the coupon code when you check out on eBay. Keep in mind that you can only redeem one coupon per purchase.

Just make sure:

  • Your eBay email address has been added to your PayPal account.
  • The seller accepts PayPal.
  • The eBay item is eligible for the discount.
  • You pay for the item within 10 days of winning it.

If you don't see a place to enter your coupon when paying for your item, contact the seller and see if you can pay them using the Send Money tab in PayPal instead of using the seller's checkout.

I forgot to use my coupon with my purchase. Can you give me a credit?

Coupons can't be applied after the purchase is complete. If you forgot to use your coupon code and it is now expired, watch for new coupons and offers in the future

Can I use more than one coupon at a time?

No. You can redeem only one coupon at a time. Usage is also subject to the terms and conditions of the coupon.

Can I reuse a coupon if the payment has been refunded?

If the payment you made utilizing your coupon is declined, refunded, or reversed, you may be eligible to have the coupon reset on your account.

If you are unable to reuse the coupon and it has not expired, please Contact Us.

Can I use an expired coupon?

Expired coupons can't be used. The expiration date is printed on the coupon.If you are having issues with a coupon, please contact us before the expiration date listed on the coupon.

Why did my coupon work on eBay but not on PayPal?

Make sure your eBay email address is added to your PayPal account and that you are only purchasing a single item.

Also, if your coupon code has already been used the maximum number of times, the discount will be corrected when completing the payment.

Can I use a coupon code I found on someone else's website?

Coupons are non-transferable and can't be shared. If you're eligible for a coupon, you'll be notified by mail or email. You can also find your coupons by checking the coupon section of your My eBay page.

Here are some guidelines for using coupons:

  • The email address registered on your eBay account has been added to your PayPal account and is confirmed.
  • The seller accepts PayPal.
  • The eBay item is eligible for the discount.
  • You can use one coupon at a time.

What should I do if the email address printed on my coupon is different from the one I use for my PayPal account?

You can add the email address from your coupon to your PayPal account as long as that email address belongs to you.

Add PayPal as a payment option to any checkout with PayPal Checkout (formerly known as Express Checkout). It can be set up in minutes and offers the convenience and security of PayPal, turning more shoppers into buyers.

How does it work?
With PayPal Checkout, your customers can complete transactions in just a few steps, using their shipping and billing information already stored securely at PayPal to check out so they don’t have to re-enter it on your site. When PayPal Checkout is configured with the default settings, customers must have a PayPal account to complete a payment.

PayPal Checkout is available to any merchant that has API access, and any customer with a PayPal account can use Checkout for their purchases. PayPal Checkout has many options that support many different checkout flows. See our Developer website for more information.

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