Linking an FNB account to PayPal – South Africa

This is off-topic for this blog, but linking my FNB account to PayPal has annoyed me so much I just had to try make the internet a better place by clearing up some things. To be clear, this guide is for people who have an FNB cheque account and are registered for online banking. To be EXTRA clear, I don’t work for either of these companies and my advice is not professional at all.

I’m an internet-savvy, elder millennial and even I got confused by this. Mostly because anything related to banks and payment is stressful. I’ve also seen a lot if similar questions in various forums and FNB seems to ignore online queries. I mostly blame some really poor UI design decisions by both PayPal and FNB.

Note: Don’t bother going to an FNB branch, they don’t seem to know anything about PayPal and will just dial the PayPal helpline for you. The lovely lady that tried to help me, printed out the FNB PayPal terms and conditions because the helpline was forever on hold. I’m really surprised they don’t have pamphlets printed for this exact reason. Whatever, it was dumb and FNB should feel dumb.

Step 1: Sign up for a PayPal account

It’s free, you just go to the PayPal site and click Sign Up. This isn’t the difficult part, just follow the steps. Their help is pretty good.

Step 2: Link your FNB account to your PayPal account

This is how you verify your PayPal account. A pretty crucial step. This is also where everything went wrong for me and, it seems, for many others. In your PayPal account, go to the Balance page by selecting Balance in the title menu. If your display is anything like mine, you will see something like the below screengrab:

PayPal Balance page indicating why the bad UI is partially to blame for the trouble people are having linking their bank accounts.
Welcome to PayPal’s terrible UI design.

You do not want to click Link a new bank. This will lead you down a dark path trying to figure out what the South African equivalent of a routing number is. Do not go there. That way madness lies.

Instead, scroll a little further down, to the Credit and debit cards section, and click Add a new card. Fill in your FNB cheque account details. A small amount will be deducted to check that the account works. So be sure you have some money in the account already. It gets returned later. You will find a code in your account transaction history alongside the deducted amount. It might take a few days to reflect. Use this code to verify your account.

There are two reasons I think this foxed me: A – the placement of the Credit and debit card section means it’s very easy to miss, being mostly “below the line” when the page loads, and B – the terminology you’re using is link, you want to link your card, and the Bank section says link so it gets your attention. This is straight-up bad UI design.

Step 3: Link your FNB account to FNB’s PayPal Service (Web version)

Login to FNB Online. In the title menu, select My Bank Accounts. On the My Bank Accounts page, you will see an orange tab on the left of the screen labelled My Accounts Menu. Click it. This is where the UI gets vexing so take a deep breath. On the far right, select PayPal Services.

Ignore the page that opens and click the orange tabbed My Bank Accounts Menu on the left. In the left section of this menu, select Link PayPal Profile.

This opens the Link page where you can fill in all your account information. Be sure to use the email address you used when you signed up for PayPal. They have to be the same. When you get to section three, you will see why this part got me frantically Googling too:

Whoever signed this off at FNB is probably over-worked or doesn’t care. It says “Non-FNB Account”, but actually it will happily accept your FNB account. So just put in your FNB account details and follow the steps.

I believe it was on the third step of this linking process, the login to PayPal part, that a bank payment window opens. I’m sorry I can’t check. This is needed so that a small amount can be withdrawn to check that the account is functional. This will be returned. For me it was about R14, I think it depends on the US currency conversion rate at the time. Once this goes through, you should be registered for PayPal Services with FNB and can click Finish.

Step 4: Maybe get yourself some tea and a biscuit

Congratulate yourself on surviving the hellbeast that is linking an FNB account to PayPal.

Did you skip the verification step in PayPal? Did you get an error when you tried to link your card through FNB Online? THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT I DID.

Fear not, just login to PayPal and go to the Balance page. Scroll down to the Credit and debit cards section. You should see an option to Confirm your card. Click it and it follow the same process outlined in Step 2 where it deducts a small amount and you get sent a code. You can then do Step 3 again.

Did this help at all? I hope so.

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Reader Comments

  1. Avatar
    Emily

    Hi Christine, do you know if the FNB interface has changed since you wrote this article. Some of the screenshots look different to what I can find.

    • Christine
      Christine

      Hi Emily, I haven’t checked the layout since I wrote this (I haven’t had to go through the process since), but I hope they would have. As long as they haven’t made it worse…

  2. Avatar
    Bianca

    Thanks so much for the explaination. Amazing! But one question. Could you aso explain fees and exchange rate because all I can find is for other countries. Much appreciated

  3. Avatar
    kyle

    Nothing works anymore (15-07-2020).
    There is now no option in the paypal ui
    (In your step 2) where you say “Instead, scroll a little further down, to the Credit and debit cards section, and click Add a new card. Fill in your FNB cheque account details.”

    I tried with a tablet, a smartphone
    AND A PC!

    The routing number for my bank matches the auto complete data box routing number for another american bank, so it its safe to say.
    Yes that option is a road leading to
    nowhere as the routing box is a prerequisite (mandatory) to completing the process (a process that does not work, obviously).
    So we are all screwed…. no more verification for Sa citizens.
    Anyone who tells you that you can with a chequeing acc IS A LIAR…
    Fnb can’t help you
    Elon Musk can’t help you
    The Tooth fairy can’t help you
    And I or anyone on any forum or
    website can’t help you as it is a developer problem with Paypal’s cr@p system witch they have just updated
    to be even more Sh!tty and not in our favour at all! So there is my 2 cents, as useless as a fart in a bottle, but never the less the truth, so you don’t waste
    your time.

  4. Avatar
    Tia

    My PayPal account has all my information and FNB debit card linked to it.
    I tried linking my PayPal acc on the FNB online banking menus and after following all the steps it said
    that my account was not verified, this has to be the mot frustrating thing ever, because I can see the funds I want to withdrw and the account is fully verified.

  5. Avatar
    Colin

    Ridiculous that FNB have not took the trouble to inform the public of how to do this in the first place. Typical donโ€™t give a shit attitude, had it with SA and so glad Iโ€™m back in the UK.
    SA got to be one of the most stressful places on earth

  6. Avatar
    Mariana

    I wish I had seen your article before I started! What a total waste of valuable time I had been enduring for 2 full weeks looking for routing numbers etc etc etc. And FNB was NOT helpful where it came to PayPal advice. Anyhow, hopefully, after 3 to 4 days Ill have a code to verify the account.

  7. Avatar
    Moe

    extremely helpful guide. But now that everyone set-up properly and my documents and bank account has been verified, when I try to withdraw money it just says “hard hold on account”, FML.

  8. Avatar
    Kim

    What an unnecessary rigmarole! Thank you for taking the time to write this blog post, it helped immensely. User design is so important but usually the last thing to be thought of.

  9. Avatar
    nicole

    I scrolled the suggestions that came up when I asked google how to link these two account. Yours was the first I opened. You saved me hours of swearing and frustration, may your gods bless you.
    Thank You!

  10. Avatar
    Jo

    thank you so much, this was super helpful!

    one more question – when trying to grant permission to access my PayPal balance so I can transfer the funds I get this message: (E-90909) System Unavailable – Please Try Later

    Has anyone experienced this ? does anyone know how to fix it?

  11. Avatar
    Stacie

    Absolute desperation has led me to beg for help here in the tearful hope that someone might be able to help as FNB is utterly useless and I’ve already wasted almost 3 weeks trying to get them to resolve the issue. I have an FNB online banking profile for the sole reason of withdrawing from PayPal to my Absa account. This was set up years ago (and yes, there were tears and frustrated cursing during the process) and then I didn’t need it for some time. Now I need to use it again but my old PayPal account no longer exists and I need my new one linked so I can withdraw. I’ve attempted to update the primary email address on the FNB portal at least 15 times (and counting!) yet it remains unchanged. Obviously, I cannot withdraw from my new PayPal account without that being listed as the primary email address on the FNB online banking portal. There is no option to remove the old one and each time I update the details I get a message saying it will reflect within 24hrs – yet it never does. I’ve been shunted from FNB department to department with everyone just passing the buck and blaming it on someone else. I though Absa customer service left something to be desired but FNB makes me want to do things that are illegal because I honestly don’t know how they can be so incompetent and unhelpful, yet still get paid their salaries. I’ve genuinely never encountered such useless staff, and that is saying a lot in this country. Has anyone had the same problem and managed to successfully solve it? I’ve phoned all the helplines, emailed every address available (most return errors of the mailboxes being full or non-existent), spoken to people in literally every department… and now I feel like my money will be stuck in PayPal until the end of time. Please help!!!

  12. Avatar
    Lara

    This is great! Thank you for sharing the info, its really been such a hassle for something someone would think would be pretty standard and easy to do.

  13. Avatar
    Nicci

    Christine, I don’t know who you are but I love you! I was on the verge of ripping my hair out when I based out into google, on the verge of tears, why my account wasn’t verified. You saved me. Thank you.

  14. Avatar
    sandi

    Thank you for the detailed instructions however I do not have the ‘paypal services’ option on my FNB online banking and I wonder why that could be

  15. Avatar
    Celeste

    The search for the routing number almost killed me.
    Thank you for saving my life… not to be dramatic or anything…
    ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. Avatar
    Jolene

    Thank you so much! After 2 weeks, lots of phone calls, much Googling and 3 visits to banks, your very helpful blog post finally helped me get verified!

  17. Avatar
    Pieter van Tonder

    I just want to commend you for a very clear, helpful article which will save folk in the same boat a good few perplexing hours, as it would have me, had I discovered your article sooner. I eventually reached the same conclusions but had a final obstacle: my own impatience.

    Final tip for future people struggling with this: Don’t even try to link your account from FNB side until you have received an email from PayPal with the subject ‘You have successfully lifted your PayPal withdrawal limit’, and thus verified your card.

    Thanks.

  18. Avatar
    janita

    I tried it but looks like your paypal must be a SA paypall account. I got this error, sorry you must register for paypal.za I am register for paypal. com

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