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How to cancel a PayPal payment before it's too late

You need to act quickly!
July 24, 2023

PayPal makes it easy to send money online, but sometimes it can be too easy. If you enter the wrong email address and click send before you notice, PayPal instantly removes that money from your account. The good news is that if you catch it soon enough, you can sometimes cancel a PayPal payment and get your money back.

What are your options? Please keep reading to learn how to cancel a PayPal payment and what to do when it’s too late.


You can cancel a PayPal payment only if it's unclaimed by the recipient. Pending charges can be canceled by logging into your PayPal account. Go to Activity, select the payment, and click Cancel. Follow instructions to continue with the procedure.


Can you cancel a PayPal payment?

PayPal send money

You can cancel a PayPal payment, but only under particular circumstances. Unfortunately, the conditions required to cancel a PayPal payment are pretty specific.

You can cancel a PayPal payment when:

  • The recipient’s email doesn’t have a registered PayPal account. The transfer will complete as soon as the email owner registers it.
  • The recipient’s email is not verified. As soon as it’s confirmed, the transfer is complete.
  • Sometimes the recipient chooses not to accept certain transfers automatically. An example is if the payment is made in an unpreferred currency.

Fortunately, this covers a significant reason you’d want to cancel a PayPal payment: entering the wrong email address. If the email address doesn’t exist, the money will stay in limbo, and even if you don’t cancel it, the payment will automatically be returned to your account after 30 days. If the email address does exist, you need to cancel it quickly before it gets claimed.

Certain payments need to be accepted, in which case you can cancel them if they haven’t been claimed. Once the transfer shows as “Completed,” and the money is in the other person’s account, you can no longer cancel the PayPal transaction (but you still have a few options to refund it).

How to cancel a pending PayPal payment

PayPal stock photo 3
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

It’s easy to remember how to cancel a PayPal payment once you’ve done it, but it can be confusing the first time if you don’t know where to look.

How to cancel a PayPal payment:

  1. Log into your PayPal account.
  2. Click Activity at the top of the page.
  3. Select All transactions.
  4. Find the payment and select it.
  5. Click Cancel. If you don’t see this option, the payment is complete.
  6. On the next page, click Cancel Payment.

Although you will get your money back, it may not return to the same place it came from. PayPal automatically withdraws money from your bank account when your PayPal balance is insufficient, and instead of returning the money to your bank, it will appear in your PayPal balance. From there, it’s easy to transfer it back to your bank account, although it may take a few days.

How to cancel a recurring payment on PayPal

PayPal stock photo 5
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Recurring payments, like subscriptions, are easy to set up on PayPal. However, when your subscription ends, you may need to cancel the PayPal transaction in addition to canceling the subscription with the business itself.

There are two ways to do this; the first is very similar to the method listed above. The only difference is that you need to filter for Subscription Payments on the Activity page. The other way to cancel a recurring payment on PayPal is entirely different. You still need to log into the website, but that’s the only step the two have in common.

How to cancel a recurring payment (subscription) on PayPal

  1. Log into your PayPal account.
  2. Click the gear icon in the top right.
  3. Go into the Payments tab.
  4. Click on Automatic Payments.
  5. Select the recurring payment or subscription you want to cancel.
  6. Select Cancel.

Note that you have to cancel the recurring payment at least 24 hours before it takes place. You can still cancel the subscription, but the next payment may still go through.

What are my options if I can’t cancel the PayPal payment?

PayPal stock photo 4
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

If you don’t catch the payment in time, or the recipient already has a PayPal account, you still have a few options to get your money back. The ideal situation here is if you know and trust the recipient. Simply ask them to refund the money. It’s easy for them to do from the Activity page, and won’t cost anyone any money.

If you can't cancel the payment, you still have a few options to get your money back.

A wide variety of online retailers also accept PayPal. These transfers are more difficult to get back. Your first option here should be to request a refund from the retailer, which you can typically do on the website or by reaching out to customer service. You will probably need to send back whatever you purchased; the process could take a week or more.

A retailer may deny your refund request, but your options don’t end there. You can report an issue in PayPal’s Resolution Center, where a customer service representative will have a look at your case. This doesn’t guarantee you will get your money back, but PayPal is generally good about granting customer requests within reason.


Only unclaimed or pending PayPal payments can be canceled. These types of payments rarely happen, though. This only occurs when a recipient’s email isn’t linked to a PayPal account or verified.

Sending money from one PayPal account to another is instant with your PayPal balance or a card. Using your bank account as the payment method could take 1-3 business days.

Cancelling a PayPal payment has no fee. You have to make sure you can cancel the payment first, though.

PayPal charges no fees for refunds, but it won’t return any previous fees. This includes credit or debit card usage fees the user pays when performing a transaction.

If you’re unsure about using PayPal, we’ve also created a guide to deleting your PayPal account. You might want to use other services, such as Venmo, a great PayPal alternative. Another very popular alternative is Cash App.