Instant Payment Notification

Instant Payment Notification (IPN) is a message service that automatically notifies merchants of events related to PayPal transactions. Merchants can use it to automate back-office and administrative functions, like automatically fulfilling orders and providing customers with order status.  

Applicable Use Cases

How it works

Merchants create an IPN listener page on their website and then specify the URL of the listener page in their PayPal accpimt profile. PayPal then sends notifications of all transaction-related events to that URL. When customers pay for goods or services, PayPal sends a secure FORM POST containing payment information (IPN messages) to the URL. The IPN listner detects and processes IPN messages. The page contains a custom script or program that waits for the messages, validates them with PayPal, and then passes them to various back-office applications for processing.

Why use Instant Payment Notification

Instant Payment Notification (IPN) notifies merchants almost instantly about transaction events, such as:

  • Payments received, including Express Checkout, and Adaptive Payments.
  • Credit card authorizations.
  • eCheck payments and related pending, completed, or denied status events.
  • Recurring payments and subscription actions.
  • Chargebacks, disputes, reversals, and refunds.

Merchants can act based on the information they receive. For example, they can:

  • Update their inventory.
  • Email a purchase confirmation.
  • Trigger order fulfillment.
  • Enable download of digital media.
  • Update their customer list.
  • Email a shipping notification.
  • Issue a refund.
  • Update accounting-related information.

Using IPN in your checkout flow

Although PayPal usually processes IPN messages immediately, IPN is not synchronized with actions on your website. Internet connectivity is not always 100% reliable and IPN messages can be lost or delayed. The IPN service automatically resends messages until the listener acknowledges them. The service resends messages for up to 4 days.
Because IPN is not a real-time service, your checkout flow should not wait for the IPN message before it is allowed to complete. If the checkout flow is dependent on receiving an IPN message, processing can be delayed by system load or other reasons. You should configure your checkout flow to handle a possible delay.

How to get started

  1. Check your account status. Login to PayPal. Go to your PayPal Profile and click My settings. Confirm that your “Account type” is either Premier or Business, or upgrade your account.
  2. Check your API settings. Click My selling tools. Expand “Selling online” if needed and check “API access.” Click Update and Add or edit API permission or View API signature.
  3. In your PayPal Profile, click Merchant Services, then select Process Orders from the menu on the right side of the page. From the Process my orders page, click Learn More under the Instant Payment Notification heading. From this page, you can enable or disable the IPN service and enter your Notification URL.
  4. To create a basic IPN listener script, information is available in the following document: How To Process Instant Payment Notification Messages.
  5. Install your script on your website at the Notification URL you specified in your PayPal Profile.
  6. Test your script using the PayPal Sandbox. (Registration is free.) Within the PayPal Sandbox environment, there is a link for the IPN Simulator. The IPN Simulator is a tool that allows you to sent test IPN messages to your listner to make sure it's working properly and processing transactions correctly, before attempting to use is on live transactions.
  7. Once you’ve verified that your implementation works correctly in the Sandbox, you’re now ready to go live.

U.S. fees

There are no fees for Instant Payment Notification.

International availability and fees

You can use Instant Payment Notification in any country where PayPal is accepted.
There are fees for currency conversion and to receive payments from another country. For details, see Transaction fees for cross-border payments.

Developer and Merchant Support

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Related Information

IPN Development Resources

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