Is PayPal Safe? 5 Reasons you shouldn’t use PayPal when you Travel.

Is PayPal Safe to Use For Travel?


After a fraudulent charge of over $900 was charged to my PayPal Account, I spent 2 weeks and several hours on the phone with PayPal trying to get my money back. I learned a lot about how PayPal operates and I thought I would share some of what I learned to help protect others from Fraud. Here are 5 reasons you shouldn’t use PayPal in 2022 when you travel.


PayPal handles disputes using Foreign Call Centers. The call center employees at PayPal don’t have the authority to resolve fraud. If you ask for a manager on the phone, they often just hang up. In several instances, they offered me a callback from a manager that never came. When deciding whether or not to reimburse you, PayPal uses an automated fraud detection system which is extremely limited and inaccurate. In my case, the $900 charge originated from an obviously fake website with broken links. The fraudulent website had the founders name listed as Jane Doe, a fake phone, and an email address that they did not answer. They didn’t even put a tracking number or product description on the order.

PayPal resolution time for a fraudulent charge can take a month. When I would dispute the charge as “fraudulent” on PayPal’s website, PayPal would immediately dismiss the claim and close it. After many phone calls and at least 8 hours of work, I was able to get a manager on the phone from PayPal who changed my initial claim from a “fraudulent” charge to a claim of “item not received”. The problem is that listing the claim as item not received can take a month to resolve. PayPal gives the seller 2 weeks to respond, then another business week for them to review the seller’s info, and then they tacked on another few days just for good measure. For a claim filed on August 13th, PayPal gave me an estimated resolution date of September 2nd.  Notice they said “estimated”. This is not a guarantee of a date. In many cases, it may take longer. Imagine that you’re on vacation waiting for 2 weeks for a reimbursement for a fraudulent charge. This would ruin your vacation and might leave you stranded.


PayPal can take money directly from your checking account. If you link a debit card or a checking account routing number to your PayPal account, you want to make absolutely sure that your checking account offers “Zero Liability Fraud Protection”. In the event of a fraudulent charge, you should make a claim as soon as possible with your bank so that they can issue a Chargeback. PNC offered me a chargeback which posted back to my account within 48 hours.

After my chargeback through PNC, I removed my bank information from PayPal as a payment option.  And here was where the real trouble started. After my chargeback, PayPal charged my account a second time for the full amount. PNC was powerless to offer a second chargeback until the second payment cleared. In my case the payment didn’t post for 2 days and it took an additional 2 days to get to the second chargeback. That’s 4 days where my account was sitting with a negative balance. I was ok, but what if this was your rent money or your food money.  A negative balance could leave you stranded in a foreign country or in an airport. This is where having a PayPal could be very dangerous.

Using  the “friends and family” payment option waives your buyer protection. Never pay anyone using friends and family for any type of good or service. If you pay for something by selecting the option for “friend and family”, you are waiving most of the fraud protection offered by PayPal and you have little to no recourse for recouping your money through PayPal.  PayPal acts like a bank, but they aren’t regulated like a bank. The friends and family option is a real recipe for disaster.


In conclusion, I firmly believe that the illusion of convenience that PayPal offers is not worth the risk of fraud. After dealing with PayPal these last 2 weeks, I’ve decided to close my PayPal account. There are far more legal protections offered with a standard credit card. In the past, when dealing with an instance of credit card fraud, I was able to clear up the issue with a single 15-minute phone call. With PayPal, I’ve spent at least 8 hours in a 2-week period and I was never able to get PayPal to refund my money. I spent a lot of time and research fighting back against a fraudulent charge and I still got screwed by PayPal, twice.

 In the end, I had to go through my bank at PNC for a second Charge back, but I was lucky, not all banks offer Zero Liability Fraud Protection. And this type of chargeback has a very limited time frame. If you don’t catch it immediately, you will be on the hook for the fraudulent charge.
















Don’t bring large amounts of cash on your California Vacation


This is one of the most important aspects of planning a trip that I never hear anyone mention: You should NEVER bring large amounts of cash on a road trip in the US. 

Federal Agents can seize your cash without a warrant even if you haven't committed a crime.

It's called a civil forfeiture. US Border patrol, US Customs, state or local police, the DEA, and the FBI can take your cash at any time. It's up to you to go to court and prove that the money is yours and that you obtained it legally. It's a difficult process. And it's time sensitive. In many cases, you have less than a month to prove it. If you don't follow procedure, the government takes the cash and you never get it back. 

Don't Use a Debit Card unless you are at a Bank

Never use a debit card unless you are at a bank.  It can take month to obtain a refund when someone uses your card without your permission. I can't tell you how countless many times Ive heard of cashiers, clerks and waiters stealing debit card numbers. A debit card is very different from credit.  Debit fraud requires a significant amount of proof. The burden is on you. Many debit disputes are unsuccessful. The money is gone. The only safe place to use your debit card is a bank.

Nearly Every Single Business in the US accepts Credit

It's nearly impossible to find a business in the US who won't accept a credit card. I can't remember the last time someone said "cash only" to me. It's been at least 20 years. The only exception I can think of would be for very small purchase amounts less than $5 in a place like a gas station for gum. 

Use a Credit Card

You are far more protected in cases where someone makes an unauthorized charge on your credit card. You can often get a refund to your account within a week of reporting an unauthorized charge. 

I understand that not everyone can get a credit card, but it is quite simply the safest form of payment you can use on a vacation in the US.

You are more protected when you rent a car using your credit card in cases where you decline the coverage offered by the renter. Nearly all US credit card companies offer some form of insurance when renting a car. The insurance won't kick in unless you decline the coverage offered by the rental company. The deposit required for renting a car with credit card is typically lower as well.

Before my first trip to Europe, I read a giant article about avoiding foreign transaction fees. The rate can vary, but most credit card companies charge a foreign transaction fee ranging from 1-5 percent.  $5,000 in expenses on your trip would cost you $50 in fees at a 1 percent rate. In my opinion, the $50 in fees is absolutely worth the peace of mind. With a credit card, you  don't have to worry about losing your cash or having someone steal the information on your debit card and drain your account. Many credit card companies offer cards that waive foreign transaction fees. I used my card for 2 weeks in Europe and I got hit with less than $20 in foreign transaction fees.

 Another reason to use a credit card is to avoid taking cash out the ATM all the time. Those fees can add up. When you make a withdraw from an ATM, you often get hit with multiple hidden fees. At a place like a Las Vegas casino, you might pay as much as $20 for a single ATM withdraw.

Another reason I like using a credit card on my vacation is the promotions. Most companies offer points back for every dollar you spend. My current card had a promotion that offered $200 in credits if you spent $500 in the first 3 months.

Downside of a Credit Card.......

YOU HAVE TO PAY IT OFF WHEN YOU GET BACK. Don't spend more than you can pay off quickly.  Credit card companies offer the promotions so you rack up a bunch of debt and then kill yourself trying to pay it back. If you put $2,000 on a credit card with a 20 percent interest rate and make the minimum payment of $50 a month, you'll be paying off that debt for 6 years and spend an additional $1200 in fees.


Ring Mountain Preserve in Marin County California


Ring Mountain Preserve: Marin County California

Ring Mountain is a rad little hike in Corte Madera California which is located about 9 miles north of the Golden Gate bridge as you head away from San Francisco. There are plenty of great hikes in Marin County, but this is one of the best vantage points to get a view of San Francisco and the bay. This hike has more of a “neighborhood” hike type of vibe with very few tourists. There are a couple of interesting rock formations along the loop where you may spot some local rock climbers practicing their bouldering skills. 


View of San Francisco Bay from Ring Mountain

The Ring Mountain Preserve has 4 different trails with access points to the loop at the top, but parking is complicated. There are a few spots at the different trailheads, emphasis on “few”.  Neighborhoods in this area have a lot of restrictions for parking.  I recommend parking at Blackie’s Pasture and crossing Tiburon Blvd to access the preserve by walking up until the end of Reed Ranch Road.  There is room for about 5-6 cars at the top of Reed Ranch road, but these spots are often taken.

If you start as Blackie’s Pasture, follow Reed Ranch Road to the trailhead and do the loop at the top, the total distance of the trail would be about 5 miles roundtrip with 500 feet of elevation gain. This is a fairly easy hike, but I don’t really recommend it for families with small children under 8 years old because the initial hill through the neighborhood is a little steep and you’ll have to cross a busy intersection on Tiburon Blvd. There are also mountain bikers to contend with. This is definitely not a hike to push a stroller on. 

Ring Mountain Preserve Trail in Corte Madera


Be aware that Blackie’s Pasture may have parking restrictions in place due to Covid.

The Ring Mountain Preserve is dog friendly, but leashes are required.  The trail is fairly heavily trafficked by local hikers, pet owners, mountain bikers. It’s best to hike this one on a clear, sunny day. From the top, you get panoramic views of San Francisco Bay, Mount Tamalpais, San Francisco and Marin County. Bring plenty of water because the trail is exposed to the sun.


Trail stats

Distance 5 miles roundtrip from Blackie’s Pasture if you do the loop at the top

Elevation Gain: 500 Feet

Dog Friendly: Yes

Bike Friendly: Yes

Best months:  Year-round on a clear day

Not Suitable for very young children who can’t hike 5 miles with a steep hill


Location of Trailhead on Google Maps:



Ring Mountain Loop in Tiburon

Also in the area:

While you’re in the Tiburon area, I highly recommend taking the Tiburon Ferry across to Angel Island for a bike ride. There is a bike rental location in Tiburon before you cross over to Angel Island, but it’s not cheap at $64/day not including the cost of the Ferry, so bring your own bike if you can.

If you’re looking for a good place to eat, I’d recommend skipping the lousy touristy restaurants in the area and grabbing a picnic lunch to go at The Woodland’s Market in Tiburon. They have fresh food made daily by a team of chefs. The roasted chicken is the best meal I ate anywhere on Marin County. The market also has an excellent selection of beer and baked goods. Grab a Pliney the Elder and the best box of chocolate chip cookies you will ever eat in your life.


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