I’ve been using my PayPal account more frequently to buy things online. It’s connected to my checking account, so a payment made with PayPal is withdrawn directly from the bank account. Typically the payment requires a transfer to a different browser window for the PayPal authentication, then back to the merchant’s web site, which in the past had sometimes been a tricky dance for Internet Explorer to handle. Lately all the transactions have gone smoothly. The merchant gets all the name and address information from PayPal so it’s frequently faster to finish a transaction.

It’s a little harder to use Quicken to reconcile payments from the checking account that go through PayPal. If you download transactions directly into Quicken from the bank, the check register shows a PayPal transaction but doesn’t get the name of the actual merchant. (Recent versions of Quicken are supposed to integrate with PayPal to download transactions directly from PayPal online but I haven’t been brave enough to try it – the reports aren’t very encouraging.)

Many of you are moving more and more of your purchases online, and buying online will come even more naturally to our kids. PayPal is testing an interesting service, the “PayPal Student Account.” You can’t try it yet – it’s being tested by an invitation-only group.

The goal is to give teenagers some financial independence but let the parents keep some control. Parents with a PayPal account set up a sub-account for each teenage child and put in some money (a single chunk or a recurring amount like an allowance). The child can spend the money anywhere that PayPal is accepted online, or (optionally) can be given a MasterCard debit card.

Parents can set alerts to monitor the account and can disable the account any time. And my favorite feature – if a teen needs money unexpectedly, he or she can send a text message to PayPal (“Get $50), and PayPal in turn will send a text message to the parent, who can approve it and transfer the money with a reply text message.

The New York Times noticed this a few days ago. No word on when it will go into broader testing or get a full release.

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