Stuck In PayPal Jail On The Road: 5 Tips from the Trail

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!

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

  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


How To Use Paypal While Traveling

PayPal is a popular online payment system that allows users to make payments and transfer money electronically. When traveling, using PayPal can be a convenient and secure way to manage your finances, especially when you are abroad. By taking a few precautions and understanding the ins and outs of using PayPal while traveling, you can make the most out of this payment method.

One of the first things to do when using PayPal while traveling is to ensure that your account is up to date. You should verify that your contact information, payment information, and account details are accurate and up to date. This can help you avoid any issues that may arise due to outdated information or incorrect account details.

Another key aspect of using PayPal while traveling is to link your PayPal account to your credit card or bank account. This will allow you to easily transfer funds and make payments while on the go. Additionally, linking your account to your bank or credit card can help you avoid foreign transaction fees that may be charged by your bank or credit card company.

It’s also important to be familiar with PayPal’s fees and exchange rates when using it for transactions in foreign currencies. PayPal’s fees can vary depending on the country and the amount of the transaction, so it’s important to be aware of them in advance. Additionally, PayPal’s exchange rates may differ from those of your bank or credit card company, so it’s important to understand the implications of using PayPal for foreign transactions.

Using PayPal for online purchases while traveling can be a convenient option, especially if the website you’re purchasing from accepts PayPal as a payment method. This can help you avoid the hassle of exchanging currency or dealing with international wire transfers.

PayPal’s mobile app is another useful tool when using PayPal while traveling. The app allows you to manage your account, transfer funds, and make payments while on the go. Additionally, the app can help you locate nearby merchants that accept PayPal as a payment method, making it easier to pay for goods and services while traveling.

It’s important to keep your PayPal account secure while traveling. Using a strong and unique password, enabling two-factor authentication, and avoiding public Wi-Fi networks can help you avoid potential security risks.

Using PayPal while traveling can be a convenient and secure way to manage your finances. By linking your PayPal account to your credit card or bank account, understanding PayPal’s fees and exchange rates, using PayPal for online purchases, utilizing PayPal’s mobile app, and keeping your account secure, you can make the most out of using PayPal while traveling.

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  1. says: Jorge Vieira

    Never been in Paypal jail but I am currently having trouble with my credit card. After purchasing a ticket with AirAsia, I tried to purchase a second one and it’s always declined (blocked).

    Funny is last year I went to SE Asia and let my bank know of the trip. They looked at me as if I was some kind of alien, wondering why I was giving them notice. Banks are weird, I always carry my personal card and my company card, just in case. Also bring about 50% of what I think I’ll need in cash, just in case.

    That passport copy think is interesting, I’ll make sure to do it too

  2. says: grasya

    Thanks, this is helpful since I’m going to Indonesia soon.. i think i will have to go on the safe side and just bring enough paper money so I wont have to rely on technology breakdowns ^_^

  3. I had the same experience when I was in Cambodia. The local bank had to call my grandfather just to verify if I’m really out of the country. Thanks for the tip about editing your Paypal settings before pursuing a trip.

  4. says: Nicole

    We had something similar happen in Bolivia. They had no bank machines. Thankfully we always tuck money aside, but it was a couple lean days of living. Although, we can’t say that we have been in paypal jail before 🙂

  5. says: Simon

    Good advice! It’s a freakin nightmare trying to deal with PayPal, too. I’m still not out of jail with them (I’m now using my partner’s account) because I can’t be bothered jumping through all the loop holes, made increasingly difficult because I’m a traveller of no fixed abode!

  6. I have had the most annoying history with Paypal – it randomly does not let me purchase things that it thinks are unusual to my spending habits (woudn’t let me buy a lens I won on ebay for this reason) and even after going through all their security on the phone still would not authorise payment. Then about a month ago they started reversing a bunch of payments I had received from advertisers without the advertisers requesting it – again due to a “security issue” – and then about a month later they limited my account for no reason and wanted proof that my phone number was linked to my address! What a nightmare! I wish there was another company which could provide a similar service

    1. says: Samuel

      I agree with you Jade! It’s frustrating that paypal has the market cornered in this area. I’m glad they have a certain level of security but some of the hassles and hoops one has to jump through is totally unnecessary.

  7. says: Alexa

    Very useful post! I had a really similar experience when I was in the Philippines. I ended up having to call them on Skype too, and I was lucky that I brought my laptop or else I might have been in trouble.

  8. says: Duncan

    Great tips Lisa ! I cant say ive ever been in Paypal jail before, but will make sure to keep settings up to date in the future.. 🙂