How to use Paypal in Kenya – Part 1

Update: PayPal now works in Kenya! You can also now withdraw from PayPal through Babawatoto or LibertyReserve.

I’ve always been sceptical about online trading. I’m slightly spooked by the idea of giving my bank account and details to some random guy behind some computer somewhere. I blame it on The Net, a  movie from the early 90s. It starred Sandra Bullock [LOVE her] and it was awesome, but very, very scary. Of course it was based on those old DOS computers with the green text and the black screens, but it’s still pretty scary.

Plus, of course, I don’t own a credit card.

But as I build my business, I find that I do more work online. Most of my clients prefer Paypal, because it’s safe and reliable, even though they charge a small commission on transactions. I got myself a Paypal account some years ago using my mother’s credit card [thanks mum!] and I’ve been using it to buy stuff related to my business.

Recently, I got a client who insisted I open a Paypal account in my own name, because it was easier for him to pay me that way. And no, I didn’t tell him to ask my mother. I opened the account, but I couldn’t receive money through it, because the service isn’t offered in Kenya. lets me buy, not sell.

I tried to attach my debit card onto the account, and as part of the verification process, the Paypal people charged $2 to my bank. It’s a safety measure to prove that it’s my card. The transaction would appear on my card statement with a secret four-digit code. I would take the code and enter it into my Paypal account to prove the card was mine. The $2 would then be refunded.

Oddly, when my statement came, what I got was a six-digit code, and when I tried to enter it into my Paypal, the card was blocked. I first tried to type in all six figures, but of course, it only took the first four, and pulled an ‘access denied’. I then tried the last four digits with the same result, and by the time I tried a random combination, I could almost hear the buzzers ringing and the metal gate clanging shut. After that incident, any time I try to use the card to pay for anything, even if it’s on a totally separate site, Paypal politely refuses.

Kelvin suggested I try Moneybookers, and it looked promising. I went through the same process, opened an account, attached my debit card, allowed them to charge my account for verification purposes. This time, the process was slightly different. Moneybookers was to charge my account with between $1 and $3. I would check my card statement, find out the exact amount, and fill in that information to prove myself. Unfortunately, Moneybookers can’t refund.

The trouble is … the amount on my statement was in Kenya Shillings. And with the exchange rate moving constantly, I couldn’t verify the amount to specific cents. Le sigh.

An associate told me about a system KCB has with Paypal, so I checked it out. Apparently, KCB has a debit card specifically for use online! How cool is that?

What happens is you open a prepaid card account with KCB. You don’t have to be a member – I personally bank with Barclays and NBK, and I was worried about joining a third bank. So I was relieved to hear I didn’t need a regular KCB account.

The card account takes Ksh 1000 to open, and all you need is a copy of your ID and a passport photo. The guys have a digital camera on the ready, just in case.

As far as I know, the account has no minimum balance and no service levies. You can receive money online once you attach the KCB card to your Paypal account, and you can withdraw the funds from any ATM at a charge of Ksh 20. You can top up the card at any KCB branch; you simply deposit the money at the counter using the 16 digit number on your card. It’s kind of like M-Pesa, with shorter banking hours.

Of course, you still need to have a Paypal account in the first place. You can get one at, which redirects you to It’s a pretty straightforward process, and I’ll be writing more on how succecsful the KCB card actually is. Specifically, I’m curious to see about verification.

I opened my card account a few days ago and haven’t received or used it yet, but it seems like a good deal. I don’t know if you can use it with agents other than Paypal, but you probably won’t need to; Paypal is already the Safaricom of the online world. Hopefully, its service is better.

The second step in working online [where Step 1 is deciding to work online] is probably getting a KCB-Paypal debit card. How else will you get paid?

Crystal Ading’ is a professional author, editor, rock lover and mother. Her work is available through

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  1. hey. so finally after this discussion, which is the sure bank to use for paypal transactions

  2. i got a visa debit card with equity bank and i recieved money from the UK. i tried linking up my account with paypal so that i can withdraw the money but all iis nothing rather than money bieng deducted from my back acount. whats the way forard?

  3. hey,
    i got my kcb visa card but whenever i try to link it with paypal its makes an error saying the issuer of my card has declined the payment,, please help
    thank you in advance


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