Stuck in PayPal Jail: 5 Tips from the Trail

Lisa Atm: Credit: George Rajna, Lisa at the ATM in Bangkok

After all my months and years on the road, I try to convince myself that I am a savvy traveler yet somehow I still find myself in Indonesia in PayPal Jail unable to use my account. I want to share a few tips that I know work about money and help you use my experience to keep you with access to your accounts!

  1. PASSPORT: I travel with an American Passport. I know that I need to renew it long before it is due. I cannot go into most countries if it is within the last six months that is it valid. Seems like they should just change the date it is valid but no one asked me. I always carry a copy of my passport. If it is lost, stolen, damaged, I know I can take the copy to an embassy for help. With the advent of color scans, I now have a laminated color copy in my backpack and a Xerox in my wallet. I also leave a copy with my parents in Los Angeles.
  2. Bank Cards—Many years ago in a mall in Buenos Aires, the ATM ate my card. The mall security man said, “Come back on Monday when the bank opens to get your card,” but in Spanish. I tried to explain that as I worked on the cruise ship and was there only once a month on a Saturday that I would not be back. Luckily for me, I got paid in cash and was able to have a new card sent in the ship via the special document box. For now, I travel with two ATM cards: one from each of my accounts at separate banks. Before you leave home, check the expiration date on all your cards. For this trip, I got a new ATM card so it would not expire during our first year of travel.
  3. Renew Licenses: It is much easier to renew early than to start again so check: when do you need to renew your state driver’s license, or any other licenses like for me my several teaching credentials, DAN (Diver’s Action Network) Insurance and anything else with a deadline or expiration. I highly recommend this option. I did have to do an extra written driving test to get my renewal in advance but if it expires it is much harder to reinstate.
  4. So back to being in Paypal Jail: I always call my bank before we leave the country and let them know where we will be and for how long. Of course, I learned this the hard way. We were away and tried to buy plane tickets online and our credit card was shut down. I was shocked when we tried to use it the next day and it was denied. I did have another card with another bank and that one worked but it is simpler to call in advance. At one bank, I can set up a vacation notice online.

Similarly, I tried to send money with my PayPal account and it asked me several security questions. We were in Indonesia and I was having issues with signing into everything from Facebook to Gmail so I was not surprised at first. However, when I entered my bank account number into PayPal, I was told that was actually not my account number. Since I had my bank account open online, I was a bit chagrined. PayPal then asked me to verify my credit card number, which I was unable to do as that credit card was no longer in my possession since the number had been compromised. At that moment, my account was “limited.” Until I could verify myself, I would not have access to my money or account. In the end, I had to skype with Paypal at1-402-935-2050 (they open at 4am PST) to verify myself.

G Moritz: George and Moritz with Myanmar Kyat at the money exchange, credit Lisa Niver Rajna
To stay out of PAY PAL JAIL: before you leave the country, open your profile and in SETTINGS you can mark your travel plans with where you are going and for how long and then wont get limitations on your account. Once you have left home, you can no longer alter your profile and say where you are going but you can call and they can add a note as my account now has.

  1. Backup plans—I highly recommend you have a few plans for what to do if… George and I arrived in Honduras at the airport two years ago and went to the ATM. But the machine would not recognize his card. “No problem,” I thought as I had an ATM card with a different bank, but that did not work either. We went with door #3 and changed $100 of American cash and were able to take a taxi into town. It is always good to have some cash, or we used to take travelers checks, but it is important when something does not work with your money that you still have access. While in Paypal jail, I emailed my mom in Los Angeles and she sent a few checks from my bank account by snail mail! Or try a pre-paid debit card for those with uncooperative moms! I hope that my hijinks helps you not get stuck on the road.

Lisa Niver Rajna was recently on National Television as science teacher on the show Career Day, she is a 2012 nominee for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching, and a member of the Traveler’s Century Club for travelers who have been to over one hundred countries. She and George are spending a year in Asia, follow their travels at Twitter @wesaidgotravel


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