With the entire USA marketplace now at your fingertips the options available to you are now seemingly infinite. But, there are many things you need to keep in mind before going on your shopping spree.
At Vyking Ship, we do all we can to make our fees as transparent as possible so that you will know what it will cost to have us process and forward your packages internationally. However, keep in mind that there are many other parts that we have no control over. In this post, I will be going over many of those factors that you should consider before making your purchases.
1) Can you ship it internationally?
If you have not taken a look at the list of prohibited and restricted items to your country, make sure to take some time to review them. Here are links to the United States Postal Service Countries Index and the FedEx International Snapshots. With each of these lists, locate your country and look to find the restrictions. Some countries have limits on the amount of certain items as well.
Also check to see if you need an import license to bring in the item or the quantity of an item that you are thinking about.
2) What’s it going to cost to ship internationally?
This question can easily be answered by inputting the necessary information into the Vyking Ship International Shipping Calculator. Our shipping calculator is a little unique. It will give you the exact amount that we are going to charge you to ship a package with the details you entered; we don’t have any extra receiving, mail-out , bank, or handling fees that are going to sneak in there once you have the package at our warehouse – the price you see is the price you pay. The only reason that package would cost more is if postage rates changed or you decided to add some additional optional processing (like repacking, consolidating, etc) to your package once it arrives at our warehouse.
The other important factor is that you need to make sure you have the correct dimensions, weight, and value to get an accurate quote. Many sellers may list on their website the weight or the size of the item (Amazon is good about this), but they do not tell you the shipped weight and size. If you contact the seller they are often times able to give you and idea what the shipped dimensions will be. However, if you are ordering multiple items, it may be difficult for them to do so. As a general rule, if the item(s) are being shipped in a standard (non-reinforced) cardboard box, add 1-2 lbs to the item weight to get an approximate shipped weight. Dimensions are going to be a little trickier to estimate.
Size matters, so don’t discount the dimensions. If you are not aware of what dimensional weight is, here is FedEx’s Dimensional Weight Calculator. Dimensional weight is a factor more with packages that are larger and but not that heavy. An extreme example would be a very large box of bubble wrap. It’s incredibly large but easily lift-able due to the contents being filled with air. However, if that box were to be shipped by FedEx (or any other international carrier) they are going to charge based on the size rather than the actual weight of that package. This makes certain large, but light, items not desirable to ship. Make sure to use the Vyking Ship International Shipping Calculator so that you do not get surprised by a dimensional weight charge.
3) Duties and Taxes? How much?
Duties and Taxes can easily be overlooked, and every country has its own established rules.The easiest way to determine if you might have to pay Duties and Taxes will be to use this Duty Calculator. This duty calculator is operated by a third party and we cannot guarantee any of the results it gives, but have found it to be accurate in all examples we tested. This calculator allows you three calculations before they want you to begin paying for each calculation – if you clear your cookies you reset the counter.
Vyking Ship does not pre-charge you for Duties and Taxes. We don’t pre-charge you for them for many reasons, but the biggest is that sometimes packages slip through Customs without having any Duties and Taxes assessed (when there should have been some). In those cases, had we pre-charged you for the Duties and Taxes, you would not have benefited from the mistake of Customs.
One more thing that you may need to keep in mind with Customs is that depending on the country you are in, some Customs departments are more corrupt than others. We have heard stories of agents demanding extra money on the side before releasing packages or removing some items. It is a good idea to check with people you know, in your country, who have imported things before; find out if they had any problems. Also check online for complaints or reports of corruption with your local Customs department.
4) USA Sales Tax
Sales tax can add up to be a lot of money if you do not shop strategically. In the USA each state, county, and city may add a sales tax. Usually the largest amount of the total sales tax comes from the state. Here is a list of Sales Tax by State. The actual list that I am referring to is about one-fifth down the entire page. Of additional interest should be the exempt items. Our warehouse (and your account address) is in Minnesota. There are three exemptions, the first two, groceries and prescription drugs, are of no use to you since both are not things we can ship to you. However, the third exemption is for clothing. With your Vyking Ship Address you will be able to purchase clothing items from any seller online and never have to pay sales tax for them – that means all of those great clothing stores Hautelook, Nordstrom Rack, Victoria’s Secret, Gymboree, etc. are not going to charge you any sales tax on their clothing.
The other big way to avoid paying sales tax is to make purchases from online sellers that do not have a physical presence in the state of Minnesota – which is a lot since most are located in more populated states like California or Texas. The easiest way to find out if a seller is going to charge you sales tax is to add some items to your shopping card and start going through their checkout. If sales tax never shows up, then you won’t have to pay it to them. Most of our customers will find that the items they are looking for can easily be found from one or more sellers who will not charge sales tax. From personal experience, I can find a computer part from a seller on Amazon that is going to charge me taxes and then switch on over to TigerDirect or NewEgg and find the same item with no sales tax; it pays to shop around.
Never overlook coupons. They are very easy to find online and can easily save you hundreds of dollars. My favorite site is RetailMeNot.com. You can always just do a Google search for the name of the merchant + “Coupon” or “Code” and find a large list of other coupon websites that can help you save. Don’t give up if the first couple codes you enter don’t work, companies change up their codes pretty often and many of these sites will have some expired coupons mixed in with valid ones.
Another way to get a hefty discount is to sign up for a company’s email list or create a profile on the company’s site. Not all sellers offer such discounts, but many of the larger chain stores may give you a special (usually 10 to 20 percent off) coupon just for signing up. See if the seller you want to buy from offers such a discount for signing up. You can always create a new account with a different email address the next time you want to shop from there to get a new coupon!
6) Will your item work?
Make sure you are aware of the power differences, if any, between your country and the USA. Almost all items purchased in the USA will be designed for the USA outlets which supply between 110 and 120 volts AC. Some electronics have the ability to also support the 220 – 240 volts. You can always buy a power converter, but it is nice to avoid that is possible.
Make sure your item (mostly electronics) can be activated and used outside of the USA. Some items have to be registered before they can be used and require the registration process to take place within the USA (based on your IP). Make sure the items you buy do not require registration to use or at least can be registered outside of the USA.
7) Lastly. Read the Reviews
With so much easily accessed product information out there, make sure to read the reviews before you make any kind of big or electronics purchase. Because of the cost to ship packages internationally it is a good idea to make sure the item you are buying is the right item for you. There are great sites like cnet, ConsumerSearch, and Consumer Reports designed to give you a lot of great reviews for many of the items you may be thinking about. But don’t forget regular retailer reviews as well! I check Amazon, Target, and Walmart all the time for reviews of products I am considering even if I don’t plan to purchase from that site.