PayPal Holdings Inc. said consumers flocked to its service in the final months of the year as they hurried to finish their holiday shopping and started using the company’s wallets to buy and sell cryptocurrency.

The firm added a record 72.7 million active accounts in 2020, more than it forecast just three months ago, with the addition of 16 million accounts in the fourth quarter alone. That helped overall revenue climb 23 per cent to US$6.12 billion during the quarter, topping analysts’ estimates.

“In this historic year, we released more products than ever before and have dramatically scaled our acceptance worldwide, giving our 377 million consumer and merchant accounts even more reasons to use our platform,” Chief Executive Officer Dan Schulman said in a statement Wednesday announcing the results.

PayPal was one of last year’s big winners, with many consumers turning to the company’s service for online shopping while sheltering in place during the Covid-19 pandemic. PayPal said total payments on its network climbed 39 per cent to US$277 billion in the final three months of the year, more than the US$267 billion forecast by analysts in a Bloomberg survey.

Venmo, the company’s popular person-to-person service, processed US$47 billion in payments, up 60 per cent from a year earlier and more the US$45 billion analysts expected.

The company said activity on its network remains high after it added the ability for consumers to buy, hold and sell cryptocurrency using its wallets in recent months. Customers who took advantage of the feature to purchase cryptocurrency began logging into PayPal at two times the rate they were prior to using the service, the firm said in a presentation on its site.

PayPal also now allows consumers to split up large purchases and pay them off over time. That added US$750 million in total payments volume throughout 2020.

The company said revenue in the first three months of the year is set to climb 28 per cent, more than the 22 per cent analysts are forecasting. Adjusted profits are likely to climb 50 per cent in the first quarter.

Still, the company warned growth could begin to slow in the coming year. Total payments volume will likely climb by a percentage in the high 20s, compared with 31 per cent growth in 2020. Revenue for the year is likely to increase 19 per cent, and the company expects to add 50 million more active accounts.