Sunday, September 12, 2010

Online US shopping

I have a few friends who have asked me how I went about to buy those sales stuff in USA. I'm no shopping expert but here are some tips that I can share.

- Most of the online sites have a mailing list you can subscribe to. So whenever they have promotion or sale, you will be automatically informed.

- Summer sale at the end of summer is probably what you are looking for as USA puts summer clothes on sale.

- Quite a number of USA sites accepts Singapore credit cards (like AmazonEastbay and Ralph Lauren) but there are other (like Nike and Finishline) who only accepts US credit cards. For these, either have a friend with a US credit card help make the purchase for you or use the concierge service from Borderlinx or vPost.

- How the concierge services works is you place the order with Borderlinx or vPost and they do the purchase on your behalf. But the store has to accept the order for it to work. So in the above case, Nike refused to accept such services whereas Finishline is happy to take the order.

- Last part is the shipping to Singapore and that's where Borderlinx and vPost comes in. Both provides you with a US address where you can direct your purchases to. The reason this service is popular is because most US online stores ship only within USA. Some, like Amazon, ships international too but I find the rates pretty high. So once you register with either sites, you get your personal USA shipping address. When your goods arrived at their processing centers and you pay for the shipping, it will be on the way to your doorstep.

Now the reason why I only mention Borderlinx and vPost is because I have only used these two before. There are other service provides like Comgateway but I have not used them before so I shall not comment. You need to be a Citibank credit card holder to use Borderlinx though.

There are differences in the service Borderlinx and vPost provides and their shipping rates changes so do your own comparison with their online cost calculators. vPost charges a "base charge" of S$13.40 on top of shipping cost; Borderlinx doesn't. vPost holding period at the warehouse is only 2 weeks before it starts charging; Borderlinx is one month. vPost's concierge service charge a handling fee of 5% of the total invoice value; Borderlinx is free if the value is above USD50. vPost uses Speedpost; Borderlinx uses DHL. I tend to favour Borderlinx more for the reasons above. But vPost views GST differently from Borderlinx, so it has its merits.

GST is applicable when the total Cost of your purchase + Insurance + Freight (both USA shipping and shipping to Singapore) exceeds S$400. What Borderlinx does is it uses the total value of all consolidated packages for GST calculation. E.g. if I bought like a pair of shoes from Finishline at about S$200 and 5 Blurays from Amazon at about S$250, I would need to pay for GST if I ship them together via Borderlinx. Its actually cheaper if you send them via two packages.

vPost practice something which makes more sense to me. Consolidated packages do not incur GST. vPost calculates GST separately so as long as each package total cost + freight + insurance do not exceed S$400, they are not subject to GST even though the total value of all packages is more than S$400. Because they are viewed individually for GST purpose.

So choose your service provider carefully.

Update 26 May 2012: Also check out my post on Online Shopping Encore.

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