Last weeks have been a bit unpleasant. I had enough things to keep track of and manage in real life, but there was something else that was a lot more stressful. The idea that I could lose the very well established domain of this blog. No, I am not broke or something, I am solvent. There was a different problem and some really bad coincidences. I had to renew my domain, and I thought that it wouldn’t be a big issue since I had money on my PayPal account to do so. And here is where the drama started. Whenever I tried to hit the purchase button on WordPress, I would get redirected to a PayPal page where the payment usually takes place, except that PayPal didn’t want me to make the payment. They wanted me to add a bank account or credit card even if I had enough balance on my PayPal account. And even if there is already a bank account connected to my PayPal account.
So, I got pretty uneasy because the domain is very important to me. I contacted WordPress to help me out, but they couldn’t find out why that would be the case. But I agreed with them that it is more likely an issue on the PayPal end, because at the point you see the payment page, you’re already making use of the PayPal web service. As someone who knows how easily things can go wrong with browsers, I tested some typical things like disabling all browser expansions, cleaning cookies and cache or trying different browsers like Chrome and Firefox, but no matter what I tried, the page didn’t let me make the payment with my balance. Instead I got into an infinite loop of getting asked to add a bank account or credit card. And this with a very old and legit personal PayPal account that I heavily used in the past. In fact I used it over 8 years and also made my domain purchases with that account, so it worked in the past. But it stopped working now.
Apart from that my account was basically verified all the time because my German bank account was connected with it. You always had two options, either connect a standard bank account to it or a credit card. Or maybe even both. But here in Germany most people just have a bank account and people barely use credit cards. Didn’t matter anyway, because we didn’t even need that to verify a PayPal account. Everything was fine, until now. But with the recent issue and the page that asked me to add the details again… Why not, if it solves the issue, I gonna type my bank account into the form and be fine, I thought. Damn, I was wrong. I wasn’t sure if I had to laugh or cry when I saw the message “This bank account is already added”. That’s where I realized it’s an infinite loop and completely buggy.
So, while I was still discussing the issue with WordPress, I was also under the impression that it’s more likely to be a PayPal problem. But I thought it would be fine to drive on two tracks, because no matter where the issue came from, I wanted it to be solved as soon as possible. So, I also contacted PayPal. First via online support ticket, that was a week ago and until today I still didn’t receive an answer if you don’t count the auto-response in. I can be a very patient person, unless time is running out. So, I called them by phone and explained the issue. Didn’t really help because the first person made the impression that he had no clue about PayPal at all. The second person seemed to be a pseudo-expert and after the third call I got a person who made the impression to be able to talk about fintech related stuff, like understanding what the payment page is about and so on.
While the first two guys should look for a different job, the last seemed to have knowledge about their system and he tried to help me. But that doesn’t mean that he could solve or find the cause of the issue. He was friendly and gave me some tips I could try in the account, but that didn’t help either and then he was very clueless as well. I gave up when I found out via Google that European Steam or Flickr users had the same issues with PayPal payments. It also made clear that something on the PayPal end was really messed up, maybe with their security system, new EU regulations or just because they didn’t communicate with their customers that you now really need to add credit card info on top of the bank account details to your PayPal account. It didn’t matter anymore to me, I was done with them. That’s how you lose customers.
But then I did my research and found the WordPress page about their payment methods. It was kinda strange to see in this post that they’re offering Giropay for German customers. How could it be that I don’t see this payment method? I contacted WordPress and got help quickly. It was due to the fact that they billed me in USD in the past, which was always fine to me. But they changed it to EUR and now I could see the Giropay option. I was excited, at least until I had to type in the BIC number to find my bank in the form. My bank wasn’t listed, and a quick research made me realize that every bank in Germany boils their own soup when it’s about quick online payments. Some allow Giropay, others allow Klarna Sofort Überweisung and so on. So, while IBAN bank transactions are pretty standardized in Europe, these third-party services aren’t accepted by all bank institutes. Since WordPress doesn’t take IBAN transactions, the biggest standard in Europe, I was out of help. But since WordPress does take credit card payments, I got an idea.
I don’t need an expensive credit card, nor do I need a card that can give me a credit. I realized there are things like prepaid credit cards, which is funny, because then the term credit card doesn’t really fit anymore. But who cares if a term fits or not, these things are basically credit cards except that you have to pre-load them with money, like you do with PayPal. This was my last option. I looked for different providers and found one where you don’t even need a plastic card (which I wouldn’t ever use anyway, because we Germans love cash money). So, what I basically got was a virtual credit card account for less than €10 (fee per year), and I got access to the account within 24 hours. How handy was that? But the 24 hours of waiting time were still stressful because I didn’t know yet if WordPress would allow these prepaid cards. After 24 hours my account got approved and they already booked my first transaction that I did send via IBAN after the account creation process.
So, today in the morning I booted my system up and saw the mail that I can start using my credit card. I got sweaty hands, opened the domain section of WordPress and filled out the credit card form and pressed the pay button. A progress bar appeared and within 30 seconds or less my domain was renewed for another year until 2020. Yes, baby, I didn’t drop you. Even if credit cards are not very well adopted in Germany, because we have our own systems in place, they definitely are in the international room and I always knew that. I never really needed one but now I did. That brings me to a big question. As wide-spread as credit cards are adopted internationally, why would PayPal think that I want to add a credit card to their system if I can easily make payments with a credit card without them? Who came up with this idiotic idea? I wouldn’t wonder if this rather has something to do with some new EU regulations they have to follow, because I don’t think any CEO would come up with such a stupid idea, but who knows.
One thing is sure, that was a true battle. But at least I am now prepared for future international payments. I am honest with you, I was also fully prepared to stop blogging. I always said or thought that you need to bear with my words for some more years because I didn’t have the impression that I was tired of it yet. But without the domain I absolutely would have stopped to create content for this site. Because the truth is, if a very well established domain like mine would expire, it would have been like taking the engine out of a car. I wouldn’t have been able to continue to drive the car. If you put so much energy into something and it breaks, the motivation to start from scratch definitely would not be there anymore. Because a domain, especially after so many years, is where all the energy is stored. But I am glad I was able to solve the issue. Now it will be less problematic to renew my domain in the future. You will hear more of my stories. 🙂