Payoneer (pronounced "Pay-yo-niyar" instead of "Pioneer") is a registered company with its head office in New York. Payoneer is a good PayPal alternative, at least to the users of countries where PayPal is not available or restricted. A unique thing about Payoneer is that it uses prepaid debit cards to transfer the payment securely. Powered by MasterCard, these prepaid cards are accepted wherever MasterCard logo is available. And denominated in USD, they can be used anywhere in the world.
How I found Payoneer
PayPal had restricted service in my country back in 2011. Users could only send payments and not receive payments through it. While searching for alternatives, I found someone mentioning Payoneer as an alternative. I researched a little more and found that there are a lot of Payoneer partners who pay via its prepaid MasterCard debit card.
The Goods about Payoneer
1. Card is shipped for free!
After you have been approved for a Payoneer debit card, they will ship your card to your home absolutely free, without a single charge. This is one of the best things I liked about them. It instantly built trust and I knew that they weren't something they were claiming to be. Shady businesses do ask for money. If not, they at least ask for a credit card number "just to be safe". But not Payoneer, they send your card without you having to lift a finger.
2. World-class Customer Service
Their customer service department is one of the best I have ever experienced for an internet-based company. I always get a reply within the said time and they always make sure our inquiries have been properly answered before ending the correspondence.
I had the first taste of their customer service not long after I applied for the card. It usually takes 10 days in US and about 30 days for the card to arrive. However, my card arrived very late. It was already past 35 days, so I filed a support ticket. I heard back within 24 hours, and the card (which apparently got lost in the mail) was delivered by the local post office one day later.
How Payoneer Works
3. Money delivered to your card within hours
(And sometimes even minutes)
My primary Payoneer partner website is oDesk, where I get payments from various clients. After the 7 days review period of oDesk, the money can be transferred to my Payoneer account and it becomes available within 2 hours for withdrawal – no matter which ATM in whatever country you cash it from. Now THAT is called convenience – it will take 4-5 days for PayPal, plus the withdrawal fees, plus the high PayPal currency conversion fees. I recently saw one user complaining $54 in PayPal fees only!
For Payoneer, a flat-fee of $2.15-$3.15 is all it takes. Plus, a 3% conversion charge for foreign currency.
However, there are things which are not so good!
A monthly fee of $3.15 sounds reasonable (but still high for Asian countries) and so does the $2.15 charge for every withdrawal via Payoneer MasterCard through ATMs. We can live through the withdrawal charges, but the problem arises when local banks impose a withdraw limit.
Add another 1% charge for every POS expenses at restaurants, shopping malls and gas stations. When inquired about the 1% charge, there are some mysterious things.
1% shopping charge - even when you shop at Amazon?
Or via PayPal or Moneybookers
No matter where you shop at or how you pay, Payoneer will always charge 1% extra because the bank they deposit their money is not in USA. I was stunned that I had to pay the charge even when I shop at Amazon. Choice Bank Ltd. is the bank that issues Payoneer cards and it is in a country called Belize (Central America).
So, no matter whether you shop in United States Dollars or not, you have to pay the 1% charge as cross-country border fee. As they say, this cross-border fee is charged by MasterCard and not them. This is one of the negative things about Payoneer. You have to shop at Belize to avoid these fees. This fee was never mentioned on the site and have been brought up only in forums - only when the card holder inquires about it. Why does Payoneer feel the need to hide the fees?
What bugs me is that no card (Visa or MasterCard) issued here in my country has this cross-border charge. I can swipe and insert it wherever - all fees are paid by the merchant or the bank itself.
Hidden Fees (Continued...)
As if the cross-border fee wasn't already shady enough, there is a hidden truth about the monthly fee as well. We have to pay $3.15 per month for card maintenance if our transactions are lower than four. This fee is just $1.00 if we reach 5 transactions. Straight, right?
Well, no. Apparently, for Payoneer, the word "transaction" means "debit transaction". You will have to cash out/withdraw/shop/pay for 5 times within a month to lower that charge. No matter you have had your card loaded 15 times, you will still pay $3.15 instead of $1. This might not have been a problem for me but Payoneer is not my day-to-day debit card. I cannot survive so many expenses where there are fees associated every time!
- Withdrawal Fee of $2.15-$2.75 (not sure which is applied when)
- 1% fee because of US Payment loads (I'm not complaining about this charge, though - it's reasonable. It is a LOT when other charges are placed in top of this)
- 3% fee because I'm not withdrawing USD in my country (I would have if I could have)
- 1-3% fee because I'm not in Belize (again, I would have if I could have)
The Weird Things
As far as my experience with Payoneer goes, they have been nothing but reliable when it comes to handling my money. They have some areas where they can improve - clear out all the hidden fees, mention the charges on public webpages where non-users can look at, explain the monthly charges.
Are those testimonials actually real?
From what I have gathered, the user testimonials are sure 100% transparent and real. I haven't come across a single guy (including my friends - online and offline) who aren't satisfied with the service. It is safe, convenient and surprisingly automated and universal! If ever, the only real complain is the fees.
I give 4 stars!
Do I recommend Payoneer?
Despite these negative things, I do recommend Payoneer MasterCard if you work online. If you don't live in US and you are looking for PayPal alternatives, don't look further. But be careful! Read the terms and conditions, read the fine prints, follow them and never engage with shady clients. Payoneer, although not as strict as PayPal when it comes to locking accounts, does have rights to suspend your account and even terminate it. Money is a very risky commodity.