eBay Bidding Overview

How does bidding on eBay work?

In auction-style listings, eBay members make ever-increasing bids to buy an item. The highest bidder wins once the auction ends.

How to bid on eBay

Here’s how to bid on an item:

  1. Carefully review the listing.
  2. Enter your maximum bid, and then click the Place Bid button.
  3. Review your bid, and then click the Confirm Bid button.

When the listing ends, eBay will send you an email indicating whether you’ve won the item and an explanation of what to do next.

To make bidding more convenient, as well as manually increasing your bid, you can use eBay’s automatic bidding system. Here’s how it works:

  • When placing your bid, enter the most you’re willing to pay for an item. No one sees this. You won’t necessarily pay your maximum bid and could even pay less.
  • eBay’s automatic system will only bid as high as necessary for you to win, as long as it’s less than your maximum. You’ll be notified each time your bid is increased.
  • If the highest bid exceeds your maximum, you’ll be notified in case you want to continue increasing your bid.


More about bidding on eBay


Incremental bidding

We suggest that you bid the maximum amount that you’re willing to pay for an item, and let eBay’s system incrementally increase your bid for you, as necessary.

As the listing proceeds, eBay compares your bid to those of other bidders. When you’re outbid, eBay automatically bids on your behalf up to your maximum bid. eBay increases your bid by increments only as much as necessary to maintain your position as highest bidder. Your maximum bid reflects the amount you’re willing to pay for an item, but you could end up paying less.

Automatic bidding

eBay’s max bidding (also called automatic bidding) system makes bidding convenient so you don’t have to keep coming back to re-bid every time someone places another bid.

How max bidding (or automatic bidding) works

  • When you place a bid, you enter the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for the item. The seller and other bidders don’t know your maximum bid.
  • eBay places bids on your behalf using the automatic bid increment amount, which is based on the current high bid. eBay increases your bid only as much as necessary to make sure that you remain the high bidder, or to meet the reserve price, up to your maximum amount.
  • If another bidder places the same maximum bid or higher, eBay will notify you so you can place another bid. Your maximum bid is kept confidential until it is exceeded by another bidder.

Here’s an example:

  1. The current bid for an item is $10.00. Tom is the high bidder, and has placed a maximum bid of $12.00 on the item. His maximum bid is kept confidential from other members.
  2. Laura views the item and places a maximum bid of $15.00. Laura becomes the high bidder.
  3. Tom’s bid is raised to his maximum of $12.00. Laura’s bid is now $12.50.
  4. eBay sends Tom an email that he has been outbid. If he doesn’t raise his maximum bid, Laura wins the item.

Bid history and bidder search

To protect your privacy, eBay limits how your bid history information is displayed by using anonymous names. Your complete user ID is shown only to the seller of the item you’re bidding on. Bidders are assigned anonymous names, such as x***y, which are used consistently across all listings.

Note: eBay determines when user IDs are no longer viewable based on the price or bid amount, and this varies by country.

Changing or retracting your bid

As a general rule, you can’t retract or cancel a bid. Once you place a bid, you agree to pay for the item if you’re the winning bidder. However, honest mistakes sometimes occur.

If you want to retract a bid:

  • Review the conditions and time restrictions for cancelling a bid in an auction-style listing.
  • If you feel you have a valid reason for cancelling a bid, fill out a Bid Retraction.
  • If you want to cancel a Best Offer, use the Best Offer Cancellation form.

If you won an item and you no longer want to buy it, you need to contact the seller.

A bid on eBay is considered a contract, and you’re obliged to purchase the item. Read about changing your mind about an item.

Under what conditions can I retract a bid?

Whether you can retract a bid depends on the circumstances and timing of the bid. You can retract a bid for the following reasons:

  • You accidentally entered the wrong bid amount due to a typographical error. For example, you bid $99.50 instead of $9.95. If this happens, you need to re-enter the correct bid amount right away. Changing your mind does not qualify as accidentally entering a wrong bid amount.
  • The item’s description changed significantly after you entered your last bid. For example, the seller updated details about the item’s features or condition.

In general, you can’t reach the seller by telephone or email.

How long do I have to retract a bid?

If you meet any of the conditions for retracting a bid, consult the table to determine if you meet the time restrictions.

Time restrictions for retracting a bid

Auction ending time

Retraction allowed?


Listing ends in more than 12 hours Yes When you retract the bid, eBay remove all bids you placed on the item. If you are correcting a bidding error, you must bid again.
Listing ends in less than 12 hours Yes, but only if you retract the bid within one hour of placing it When you retract the bid, eBay remove only your most recent bid. Bids you placed prior to the last 12 hours of the listing are not removed.

What if I can’t retract a bid?

If you can’t retract a bid, you can contact the seller to request that your bid be cancelled. The decision to cancel a bid is up to the seller.

Other terms

Remember that every bid is binding, unless the item is listed in a category covered by the Non-binding bid policy or the sale is prohibited by law or by eBay User Agreement. You should only bid on multiple identical items if you intend to buy all of the items.

Your bids affect how other users bid for an item and the item’s final selling price. Abuse of bid retractions can result in the suspension of your account.

Bids retracted within the last 24 hours of an auction-style listing can be viewed as an example of shill bidding, which is a serious violation of eBay policy.

You cannot retract a purchase made through a Buy It Now listing. Once you confirm your purchase, you are obliged to pay the seller.

Listings with special bidding requirements

Bidding requirements vary depending on the type of listing.

Bidding requirements

Type of listing


Bids over $15,000 To place a bid of $15,000 or more, you must provide a valid credit card (your card won’t be charged). This requirement helps ensure that members involved in large sales are of legal age and serious about completing the transaction.

You need to provide this information only once. To find out if you already have a credit card on file, check your Account Activity page.

Pre-approved bidders Occasionally, for certain high-profile listings, eBay allows a seller to create a pre-approved bidders list to restrict their listings to a specified group.

  • If you’re a pre-approved bidder: The bidding process will proceed as usual.
  • If you’re not one of the pre-approved bidders: If you bid, you’ll get a notice that the item is restricted, and you will not be allowed to bid on the item. If you’re interested in the item, contact the seller to ask to be added to the pre-approved bidders list.

Blocked bidders

Sellers can make their listings unavailable to certain bidders based on certain criteria, such as whether or not they have a PayPal account, their country of registration, or their buying history on eBay.

If you’re blocked from a listing and want to discuss the situation with the seller, click the seller’s user ID or the Ask a question link on the listing page.

The fine print

  • Bidding is meant to be fun, but remember that each bid you place enters you into a binding contract. All bids are active until the listing ends. If you win an item, you’re obliged to purchase it.
  • Don’t bid on identical items in different listings if you only want one item. If you win both, you’ll be obliged to buy both.
  • If you’re outbid on an item, wait until the listing has ended before placing a bid on an equivalent item. If the bidder who won doesn’t complete the transaction for any reason, you could become the winning bidder.
  • If you’re blocked from bidding on a seller’s listings, you cannot bid using another user ID.