Blogger's Note: Virtually all my friends and readers would question the value of such an every-day subject as Paypal.  Millions of people are using Paypal, but not all even know what it is.  This article is for them.

It happens all the time.  One single dad pulls another (his buddy) aside.

"My ex let the fuel oil run out.  I sent up every penny.  Ya got anyting in your PayPal account to get me to lunch for the week?". 
This is a sacred single dad thing.  You step right up.
"No sweat dude, just give me a chance to power up".

So you get online and log into your Paypal Account.  You put money there every once in awhile.  Maybe to buy something without stressing my $500 limit credit card, that I use for online stuff.  Me and that buddy swap lunch money all the time with PayPal.  But mostly I keep money there because I have kids spread out all over the place.  It is instant money for them.  It is safe and legit.

In my memory, Paypal sprang up as a payment vehicle for start up entrepreneuers going online.  This market was mostly electonic deliverables (like software and ebooks), but  I learned about the system from an avid baseball card trader - so there you go with the grassroots thing.

I thought Paypal was dopey.  I thought "if you were going to do e-commerce, you would want to have all those Visa and Mastercard logos".  Online credit card merchant accounts were very, very difficult to qualify (pay) for in those days.  The gateways for which the data passed were clunky and unreliable.  It was a mess, but you still wanted those logos.  So I stopped thinking about PayPal a long time ago.

Well, although I must have ignored about a billion images of Paypal logos blasted at me in the next decade, or so, it never went away.  Visa/MasterCard/Amex/Discover merchant services had certainly come a long way.  But PayPal was still there.

Well, now its more than 10 years later, and I have to get some money converted into euros and sent to my kid to some address in Italy, to some person.  Hmmm.  Time for Western Union. 

Now you would think of Western Union too, I'm sure.  So off, I go, looking for my local Western Union office.  Let me tell you.  They are not the tellers behind the brass bars with the beautiful mahogony all around (were did that visual come from?), anymore.  Nine times out of ten, your local Western Union Office is a hole.  A hole where you pull out 9 hundred dollar bills and give it to a guy that isn't too good at English.  That being said, it all worked.  Stiff exchange rate, though.  But that's where the money is made.  The cost of getting it done.  No complaints.

Now, although the Western Union transaction was immediate across the continents, I could have done this just as quickly, if not quicker, from my PayPal account.  Not only could I have done it online, but I didn't have to find a Western Union office or go to it.  In all fairness, Western Union, also has an online interface, but it just plain sucks.  I have an account that I created on the fly - just to get the story - that I will never remember.  Yuk.

I've been seeing Paypal logos on web sites for over 15 years now.  That is, more or less, the early days of the public Internet.  It is not a small thing.  It is not a bank.  It just seems even more stable and efficient as any of the iconic names of Visa, MasterCard, Amex, and even Western Union.  Sure, Western Union has been a household name for several generations, now.  But Paypal has to be considered a proven brand to even the most skeptical of online purchasers.

Here's how it works:
  • You open a free Paypal account
  • You tell Paypal what they need to know about your checking account.
  • They perform two test transactions in/out for (I think) zero dollars.
  • Then you log into your Paypal account and tell them how much money you want them to take out of your checking account.
  • That takes a few days.
  • In the mean time, apply for a Paypal debit card (This is how you turn your Paypal money into greenbacks at the cash machine).
  • Then go buy stuff and the seller has no clue about your money (even if you fill out forms).
  • Send money to your kids.
  • Lend money for lunch

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