What is PayPal, and why it’s good for travel?
PayPal is basically a financial middleman for online transactions. You can make online payments safely due to their strict security processes, and international border-less transactions.
It enables you to make payments without having to enter your credit card details on many sites.
Moreover, it’s a great way to receive payments for those doing online work, or sales.
How does PayPal work?
Simple. You set up an account. Send a payee your email address which is now registered with paypal, and they can then pay you via their own PayPal account, or through a secure webpage with a credit card.
Alternatively, you can just email an invoice to someone via PayPal.
You can also set up buttons for purchases or donations on your website.
After this, it gets a bit more complicated as there are various types of PayPal accounts. Unverified Personal, Personal, Premier, Business, Student.
Basically a Unverified Personal is quite restricted. You can’t make Merchant services, but can receive payments.
Give PayPal your address, telephone numbers, credit card details and you become verified once they remove $2 dollars from your credit card as part of their process. The world of online payments can now begin.
But, be careful if you are traveling out of your home country and using PayPal, you might just get your account and money frozen or worse …
The problem with traveling and using PayPal
PayPal track your ip address for security reasons. Your ip address is basically the internet address of where you are located. If this changes, it tells PayPal that perhaps someone other than you from a different location is trying to access your account. AKA it’s an alarm signal to PayPal to see you change location.
As you can imagine, as a traveler moving from country to country this can cause a lot of problems.
Restricted PayPal account!
This is the dreaded statement that many a traveler will have heart palpitations over when they login ready to pay a bill. It basically means you cannot make any payments. But, you can still receive.
You will now need to jump through several painful loops to undo this situation and free up your money, and your PayPal account.
How to unrestrict your PayPal account
There will be instructions on how to do this on your PayPal account. The requirements of which seem to change every year or so. Recently they have been requesting you to give them your home telephone number, and then tell you to wait for a call with a code you can then enter into your account to unblock it.
For a traveler, that can be a serious difficulty as PayPal insist the number you give them is from your home address. So unless you are on roaming. And don’t mind a huge bill, this can be a dead-end.
Another request that’s come in is for you to fax, or email in your passport details. Again, this is not always an easy thing to do.
Options to prevent your PayPal account from getting restricted
– Travel notifications: Many users are now reporting the long-awaited travel notifications option appearing in their PayPal dashboards. Use it!! Not every country has them displaying yet, but if you are lucky enough to see this option, then fill in the details and let PayPal know what country you’ll be accessing your account from. Otherwise, keep reading.
– Send a message: Before traveling, send them a message through your PayPal account telling them you will be in “____” country next. This is often reported to work, and if not, gives you a little ground to stand on should you still be restricted.
They will send you an email confirming the countries you have told them you will be logging in from. Should you be traveling, they will then only ask for other verification methods; rather than a home telephone number.
– Telephone them: Call them before you travel.Yes, depending on your country, PayPal may have options for you. The most common one is to open another account in the new country you are going to. This is not sensible to me, but it may work for shorter term travelers.
– Don’t try to cheat: Do not use a VPN system to set up a proxy server. It may work for a short while. But unless you really, really know what you were doing. You are asking for trouble should PayPal catch you. And yes, I met a Swedish web designer with just that problem recently and his account was closed.
– Don’t log in everywhere! Keep a spreadsheet with all your accounts on it. PayPal send you an email when you get paid. There’s no need to log in and check all the time. Especially if you are only passing through a country briefly.
– Invoice people: If a company or person requests an invoice before payment. Make up an email template and send it to them, together with your PayPal or other payment details. Most companies requesting an invoice before payment will accept this.
– Play their game: Open a different Basic PayPal account in any country you are travelling through to deal with small transactions. And, don’t use your main account until you are in a better location.
Other tips on dealing with PayPal
– Don’t save: Do not keep a vast amount of money in your PayPal account. It’s basically earning PayPal interest, and if you do get restricted, at least you will not loose everything.
– Fraud Squad: Ask to speak with the fraud department should you get one of the less competent call center employees not understanding you (a serious problem). The fraud department is based in the USA, so you should be prepared for that time zone when calling.
– Blood pressure: Be prepared for many phone calls. And, a terrible IVR system (automated machines). Keep your mind cool, and as you wait for a long periods on the phone try to work on other projects to avoid all that pent-up frustration from getting to you.
– Okay, cheat: If you can, get someone from your “home number” to pretend to be you should your account be restricted and they want to call you. Just be sure you can trust the person with your information, and they have your details.
Alternatives to PayPal
Lastly you might look at alternatives to PayPal. Whilst none are widely used as PayPal, you might find one helpful depending on your own needs.
- http://checkout.google.com US/Europe
- http://www.moneybookers.com UK/Worldwide
- http://www.paymate.com NZ/Australia
- https://payments.amazon.com/sdui/sdui/personal/money Worldwide
You’ll need to read their terms and conditions carefully, as many have country restrictions and are not accepted as widely as PayPal.
Beware of fake PayPal websites
If you’ve run into trouble with a restricted PayPal account when traveling, the chances are you’ll have come across many “I hate PayPal ” websites out there. Including many offering solutions, ebooks, and VPN’s to solve all your problems. My advice is to leave them all alone, and deal with PayPal yourself.
How to calculate PayPal fees
PayPal charge you for payments and transactions if you providing a service, or selling something. A personal payment is free, but do too many of these any they will block your account!
Many people add-on the PayPal charges to anyone paying for a service. The easiest way to calculate how much this would be is to use an online PayPal fee calculator.
PayPal for location independent travelers a good thing, or a bad thing?
PayPal has many haters. And, if things go wrong, many more. But, the system does work. And, when you look at the alternatives PayPal is still way ahead. The company has made a fortune by getting in early. If you have ever seen their data centers, you’ll see just how high-tech and big this e-bay company is.
Love it or hate, many are stuck with it for now. Taking some of the above suggestions into account before, or during your travel may help you stay clear of any annoying, frustrating, and challenging issues you will encounter.
This is an additional editorial featuring travel related articles, view points, conversational topics and helpful resources based on experiences I’ve learned from my around the world journey