How to Choose an International Package Forwarding Company

For those of you who are already Vyking Ship customers, no need to read on, your search is over!

For those of you who are searching for an international package forwarding company this post is for you.

There are so many international package or parcel forwarding companies out there that it can be quite a daunting task to figure out which one is the best for you. One of the hardest parts about the search is comparing the companies. All companies vary in different ways making one-to-one comparisons impossible. From everything I have read online about “How to choose a forwarder” I have never seen any list that I felt was comprehensive enough.

I feel that Vyking Ship has the ultimate mix of low prices and quality service available, but I’ll let you decide for yourself. Here are all the things to consider when choosing an international package forwarding company.

Prices

For most of you, this will likely be the most important, and perhaps only, deciding factor. Most of you want to shop from U.S. stores to save money, so why sacrifice that savings on getting the items shipped?

Unfortunately, price is the most difficult and complicated aspects to compare since all companies set prices and fees differently. Here’s a list of potential fees:

Account Fees

Setup fees and monthly fees can be common in this industry. Account fees can range anywhere from $0 to $25, and most monthly fees are associated with different tiers of accounts. Premium accounts, which usually offer a wider range of services, usually run about $10 a month.

Vyking Ship accounts are completely free to set up and there is no monthly fee to keep the account active. We also only have one account type, which means every service we offer is available to every customer.

Storage Fees

Many people may consider storage fees a “hidden fee” as it has the bad habit of sneaking up on you, and a lot of forwarding companies do not make this fee very clear. Storage fees typically range from $1 to $2 a day, and are usually charged after 7 to 14 days.

Vyking Ship has free storage for 6 months, or 180 days. After a package has been at our warehouse for more than these 180 days we consider it abandoned and will donate or discard the items.

Receiving / Mailing Fees

Many companies have both receiving and mailing fees on top of any postage and service fees. This is typically a flat rate that is charged to you along with postage once your package is going to be mailed to you.

Vyking Ship has neither of these fees.

Bank and Payment Processing Fees

Every single international package forwarding company charges you a fee for what the bank or payment processing company charges them to receive money.

For those of you who don’t know how it works, every time you make a credit card or PayPal payment to a company, the payment processor typically withholds 3 to 5 percent of the total payment as a fee. So if you were to pay an international package forwarding company $500 for postage, the payment processor may keep up to $25 of that as a fee. So you will find that every, and I do mean every, forwarder works that fee into your bill. If they aren’t doing this, they’re not going to be in business for long. Look to find out what percentage the forwarder is charging and when it will be factored in.

Vyking Ship includes the payment processing fee with the postage rates we give you. If you get a quote from our Shipping Calculator, the price you see already includes this percentage. We do not sneak it in after your packages have arrived.

Service and Processing Fees

Here’s a big one that can be tricky. A trend with a lot of new international package forwarding companies is to offer completely free services. They claim to not charge you for anything. Not for repacking, not for consolidations, not for anything. It sounds too good to be true, and surprise, it is.

Here is where they get you — and get you good: they usually increase their postage rate by 25 to 200 percent over what it costs. So you get a pretty nasty surprise once your package arrives and you get ready to ship it out. Basically, you are paying for all of the “free” services whether you used any of them at all.

Also, make sure to check the shipping rates for a variety of box sizes and weights. Some of these companies are sneaky and will make some of the shipping rates for smaller boxes really low so that when you look them up or see one of their comparisons to another company’s rates, they will look good. But if you check some of their medium to larger sized rates you may need medical support. And guess what, they are more than happy to consolidate all of your smaller packages into a medium to larger sized box. Also look for ridiculous hidden fees with these companies.

At Vyking Ship we feel that you should only pay for what you need. We offer a wide range of optional processing services that are priced to meet or beat our competition. You don’t have to select any of it if that you don’t want to. We know some people just want the basic service and some what full service, and we want to be the company for all people.

Postage Rates

This is is the big one that people like to check since this is where most of the cost comes into play. Make sure you compare apples to apples when researching postage rates. Some forwarding companies have some really low cost shipping options, but those options may not have insurance and/or may not have tracking. Saving all the money in the world on shipping does not matter if the item you spent good money on gets lost or damaged in transit.

At Vyking Ship all of our shipping methods (through the United States Postal Service, FedEx and DHL) have tracking and the option of insurance.

In addition, there’s one more thing most people don’t know about. Many shipping services charge a customs broker fee. This is the fee that you will have to pay to the company (typically the shipping carrier but not always) that brokers your customs for you. Not all brokers charge the same and that is where you can get hit with some pretty outrageous amounts that you were not counting on. Unfortunately, no forwarding company will be able to tell you how much those fees will be, but  from experience and reports from customers I can tell you that of the commonly offered carriers, USPS is going to have the lowest fee, followed by FedEx and UPS, and then DHL. Other less common shipping carriers like TNT will be the most expensive.

Vyking Ship chose to offer USPS, FedEx and DHL as the carriers of choice. We felt the quality of service and total price mix were the best overall fit.

Purchase Assistance

Purchasing assistance. Concierge. Personal shopper. Daigou services. They all refer to helping customers make the actual merchandise purchases the company will later ship.

Many online sellers in the United States refuse to make sales to people using non-U.S. credit cards or those who are shipping to a different address than their international billing address.

Generally, all purchase assistance  programs are very similar: you tell the forwarder what you want, you pay them, then they buy it for you. The biggest difference is the cost. On average, the cost of these services range from 5 to 20 percent of what the items cost, with most being closer to that 5 percent. Don’t expect to see something less than 5 percent. Remember, of that  5 percent most if not all of it will go straight to the payment processing company when you pay the forwarder.

Vyking Ship offers our own Purchase Assistance Program. We charge 5 percent. If you would like details please email support@vykingship.com and we will be glad to furnish you with our information sheet.

Miscellaneous Fees

Unfortunately, this is where it gets harder for me to tell you what to look for. Some forwarders have weird fees for having too many packages at the warehouse at one time, or too large of packages, or inactivity fees, or who knows what. Make sure to read through the fine print and ask the forwarder for a complete list of all fees that you may be charged.

Vyking Ship strives to be absolutely transparent when it comes to fees. If you look at the Our Services page on our site you will see all of our fees — we’re not hiding anything. Given the amount of complaints we have read about competitors and their hidden fees, we felt it was better for our customers (and our employees) to have fewer, simpler, and more transparent fees. Our Shipping Calculator is a good example of our commitment to this. If you use our calculator (and input accurate information) you will get the actual amount we are going to charge you to ship that package — there are no other fees unless you choose to take advantage of any of our optional services.

Services

This is an area that is often overlooked. A common misconception is that all international package forwarding companies offer the same services or that all of the same services are provided in the same fashion.

Here are the main services offered by many, if not most, international package forwarders:

Consolidations

This typically refers to the combination of multiple packages to create one final package. The main result is a postage cost savings from there being less packages. There are two common ways that this is done: the easy way and the right way.

The easy way does not actually combine them at all. It’s just a batch-ship of all packages. They remain in their own boxes and arrive separately. This method does save a lot of money by eliminating the fixed postage costs from all but the first package, but it fails to save as much money as removing the contents of each package and putting them into a new box.

So, as you may have guessed, the right way to consolidate a package it to remove contents for original packages and put them into a new, larger box. where the contents are removed from the original packages and put into a new box. This method eliminates excess weight from all of those shipping boxes and also ensures that the final box is a good fit for the contents. This method will always have the potential to save more than the easy way.

Vyking Ship does things the right way. We will take the contents from your packages, if you wish, and put them into better fitting boxes all the while making sure that your items are packed safely and securely for international shipping. We charge $1.50 per package in the consolidation.

Repacking

This is pretty common. The main reason is to get packages to fit cheaper shipping methods that have size limitations. It is also useful to eliminate wasted space in the shipping box that may otherwise result in higher postage fees. Vyking Ship offers this service and we charge $2.50 per box.

Customs Declaration Completion

As a service for those who either do not want to take the time to fill out their customs forms or a service to those who are having difficulty with it, package forwarders typically offer a service to do it for you. Each forwarding company will have a different interface for customs declaration completion, some may be easier and others more difficult.

Of course, we offer this service, but we go even farther. While filling out your customs declaration we will also make sure the items in your package match any included packing slip or invoice and will keep an eye out for any obvious damage to your items. If you wish to fill the customs out yourself, our interface is very easy to use and requires nothing more than for you to type a description of each item, enter a quantity, and a price.

When looking at the services a company offers, make sure you know if that service is available to all account holders or only those with a premium account. Vyking Ship has only one account type, so all services are available to all customers.

Extras

Look for any extra benefits or negatives associated with the company, many of these may only be apparent once you read some reviews.

Location

Some international package forwarders are located in states that have high sales tax rates. Vyking Ship is located in Minnesota, where the sales tax rate is in the middle. But, the big benefit about being in Minnesota is that we do not have sales tax on clothing, so you will not have to pay that tax for most purchases made online. This is because a merchant only has to charge state sales tax if they have a physical presence in the same state, and Minnesota does not have as many of these online merchants as many of the larger more populated states do.

Customer Service

This may or may not be a big issue for you. Some companies have great customer service and other companies have terrible customer service. At some companies, the customer service department isn’t at the same location as your packages, which makes it difficult for them to provide you with quick answers when you need information about your packages.

At Vyking Ship, we believe that customer service is one of the most important, if not the most important, thing we can do for you. You are trusting us, half a world away, with your money and your packages. You deserve our attention and you deserve to be treated as member of the Vyking Ship family.

Reviews

Reviews are an important part of your research. However, it’s not uncommon to come across fake reviews — whether they’re positive or negative. Figuring out which are real and which are fake is quite a feat.

Fake “good” reviews are generally the easiest to spot. They tend to be well written, with an overly exuberant tone, they list off so many of the “good” features that it feels more like an advertisement than a review. On forums people usually call out the users they think are actually employees of the forwarding company leaving fake reviews. IP addresses are usually the best give away. 99.99% of all international forwarding company customers are located outside of the USA, if a review is coming from within the USA, is is probably fake.

Fake “bad” reviews can be harder to spot. This is unfortunate because it can really damage the reputation of a company that would otherwise have a spotless review record. The best advice I have is not to put too much emphasis on a single bad reviews. Look for trends. If a lot of different people on different sites are all complaining about one or two aspects of a company, it may be a running theme. Make sure those  reviews are recent. Old reviews are as useless as fake reviews if the company has listened to the complaints and changed.

Good reviews (those that are accurate – whether it be positive or negative comments) are out there. Most reviews for most companies fall into this category and are a big reason why reviews should still be a part of your search process.

Bad reviews are those reviews that are typically retaliatory and posted by someone with a bad experience. The individuals who leave these reviews are angry and often misrepresent the facts. They may accuse a company of stealing their money when it was actually a case of them not reading the fees or not understanding what they would be charged for. This category also can include those who have committed fraud and got banned from the package forwarder. If you detect anger in the post it is likely that the poster is legitimately angry, just make sure to try to collect the information and find out if they were legitimately wronged or not. Typically those who were legitimately wronged will give details, those who were not will be much more vague.

All of this may be way more information that you ever wanted to know about choosing an international package forwarding company — but there you go! There are a lot of sneaky, hidden fees and details out there, so hopefully this can help you make an informed decision.
If you want more information, feel free to contact us at our email (support@vykingship.com) or by phone at 1-952-941-2452.

2 replies
  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Will share this post on facebook when I get home. On my iPhone at the moment. Great post.

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