What do PayPal and Award Wallet have in common? Not much really, except for the fact that I’ve been dealing/working with each of these online tools quite a lot as of late. First, let me state that this is in no way a sponsored post. I simply woke up this morning, sat down at my computer and when I began to write, realized that my recent experiences might prove useful to anyone else who spends a good deal of time traveling.

PAYPAL SOLUTIONS FOR THE TRAVELER

Okay, I honestly don’t like PayPal much at all. It’s a pain. Every transaction I make seems to be a hassle, the fees are quite high and I’ve found their Customer Service to be mediocre at best. As a permanent nomad, I always have trouble with PayPal because I am constantly logging in from different countries around the world, which to them seems quite suspicious, and so they tend to freeze my account remarkably often. And by ‘often’, I mean pretty much every time I make a transaction. I’m actually serious as, in the past 12 months, my account was frozen all 9 times I sent money to someone else through PayPal.

So, from random places such as Iraq, Syria and Indonesia, I’ve had to call up PayPal and answer a long list of multiple choice questions to prove my identity and have my account restored. And unfortunately, when I’m informed that my account has been  ‘restored’, half of the time it still remains frozen and I have to call PayPal and repeat the process once again.

After speaking with other travelers, the frequent freezing of accounts seems to be quite a common problem. This is why, when my account was frozen one month ago while in Singapore, I decided that I had had enough. I called PayPal and strongly suggested that they either come up with a solution or else I would take my business elsewhere.

Luckily, this time around, I ended up speaking with a very helpful customer service representative who provided me with two solutions that immediately solved my problem.

1. He added a notation on my PayPal account that lists me as a ‘frequent traveler’. This is a similar system to when you call your bank or credit card company in order to inform them that you will be spending some time overseas. PayPal is also working on developing a system where users will be able to go into their account and list the countries they will be visiting in order to prevent PayPal from freezing their account when transactions are made while in those countries. For now, however, if you travel extensively, it might be a good idea to give PayPal a call and have them list you as a ‘frequent traveler’ as well.

2. PayPal sent me a Security Key, which is an ultra-thin, credit-card sized card that anyone who travels often can request for free (technically they charge a $29.95 fee for the card but they offer it for free to anyone whose account is at risk of being frozen often). Once activated, you simply press the button on the card before you log-in to your PayPal account and it generates an additional Security Code that is displayed on a small screen on the card. You then must enter this Security Code along with your account Username and Password on the PayPal log-in page in order to access your account. With this method, PayPal knows not to freeze your account no matter where you may be in the world. (You can also choose to use your mobile phone as your Security Key and receive the Security Codes via text message.)

I’ve now used the Security Key twice and it has worked perfectly, so I’m quite happy with this solution. However, it is important to note that the Security Key seems to be quite a secret. When I had trouble activating the card (it was my fault in the end), I had to speak with four different customer service representatives until I found one that even knew what the Security Key was. So it might take some effort to get one, but once you have it, your PayPal troubles should be over.

For more information on using PayPal while traveling, have a read of this useful post from TheLongestWayHome.com:

How to Deal with PayPal when you Travel

AWARD WALLET

There I am at my friend’s house in Sydney, Australia, trying to search the internet for a good hotel option for my visit to Perth. After thirty minutes of searching, I don’t find anything that appeals to me much and so I decide to book a room at a cheap hostel instead. However, before completing the booking, I run into the kitchen and make a quick sandwich. And it’s a good thing I felt the sudden urge for this sandwich as, by the time I returned to my laptop five minutes later, I had received an important email.

The email was from AwardWallet.com, the online tool that I use to manage all of my Frequent Flyer accounts and rewards programs. They were notifying me that my United Mileage Plus miles were about to expire in one month and if I didn’t use them before that time, I would forfeit the 60,000 miles I had in that account.

As I had no need to book any flights, I immediately logged onto my Mileage Plus account and began looking for ways to use my miles to book a hotel room in Perth. Fifteen minutes later I had booked 5 nights at a popular, well-reviewed 3-star hotel in the city center.

Had Award Wallet not sent me that email, I would have never known my miles were about to expire. Sure, United would have sent me their own notification but they typically send me 3-5 junk emails per day, all of which I delete immediately without reading.

This is why I find Award Wallet to be a nifty organizational tool that is very useful for anyone who is constantly traveling and trying to benefit from Frequent Flyer Miles at the same time. Whenever I need to book a flight, I simply log-in to Award Wallet and right there, on one page, it shows me how many miles I have available to use for each airline program of which I’m a member. Also, whenever I fly somewhere and earn miles, Award Wallet receives that information from the airlines and automatically updates my mileage balances in my Award Wallet account.

And, of course, the notification emails are an excellent bonus, especially when the possibility of losing 60,000 Frequent Flyer miles turns into spending almost a week in a mini-suite with a view of Perth’s Swan River instead!


Do you use Award Wallet or PayPal’s Security Key? How has your experience been?