Travel Tip: Get a PayPal Account

Before I unleash some serious love on a Chiang Mai post, let me you travelers and potential travelers on the single greatest, must-have tool for your globe-trotter utility belts: a PayPal account.

When I was 18, I set up the account just so I could buy clothes from Ebay.  That’s the only purpose it served until I turned 25 and set up an Etsy shop.  Receiving regular payments from strangers qualified me for the PayPal Business Mastercard.  Now, I’m really sorry to the rest of the world because I think it’s exclusive to users in the United States.

Once money is sent to your PayPal account, it’s available to be spent immediately.  However, until I got my card in the mail, I had to transfer payments to my checking account, which could take 3-5 business days. Being young and broke in Denver, you can imagine my anticipation as I’d reload my bank details on my iPhone outside of Biker Jim’s, crossing my fingers that this vegan dog didn’t just cost $40 in overdraft fees.  True story. My phone chimed that the transfer had finally gone through, so I sprung for some deep fried mac & cheese, .

Man, I really miss deep fried mac & cheese.

I digress.

Once I got to Cambodia, I started using my PayPal card more than my check card — so much so that it was a hassle to put money in my checking account and my bank said, “Hey, jerk. You’re clearly not in the country anymore, we’re going to close this account.”

There’s a dark side to all of this, however. My wallet was stolen at the weekend market in Bangkok a few days ago. Along with a decent wad of cash, the thieves got my card.  After standing there about 30 seconds, wondering how I could’ve made the rookie error of not zipping my purse, I walked out of the market and lit a cigarette (sorry, Dad. I was stressed), pondered a bit more about why I was even in Bangkok and how my life, education, and work experience had come to this point, then got in a tuk tuk.

Canceling the card was as easy as one click of the mouse. Since PayPal emails me receipts for every debit card transaction, I knew no one had used it within the 30 minutes between the market and our hotel.  However, I could no longer get immediate cash since my check card is now useless.  I didn’t come to Bangkok with a back-up plan. Another rookie mistake.

Since it’s the 21st century, I sent money via PayPal to my song saa, who then sent money to me through Western Union, which had a branch right around the corner from the hotel. It was closed. I had a few baht leftover for dinner, then went back first thing the next morning.  Total time between the crime and the bank withdrawal? 15 hours.

Now, I’m not traveling alone. Some may ask, “Hey, Tavie, why’d you bother some dude in England with this when you could’ve asked Maddi” Well, reader, Maddi doesn’t have a PayPal account.  And transferring from bank to bank would’ve taken 5-10 business days — not including currency exchange fees between USD and AUD. And to that, I say, GET WITH THE TIMES, MADDI.

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About Tavie Crockett

Like "Davy Crockett," but with a "T."
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