Ever wished you could buy online from another country only to find out that the store does not ship internationally?
Package forwarding companies provide you with a virtual address in the US and, optionally, in Europe, Japan, or other countries. This allows you to shop in those countries and have your packages delivered to a local virtual address. The package forwarding company will then forward the package to your home address in your country. Advantages? You shop where prices are the lowest, where choice is the greatest, you benefit from cheap or free local delivery and you benefit from optimised international shipping rates.
The main price you pay to the package forwarding company is the cost for shipping each package. This price depends on the volumetric weight of the package and on how fast and reliable you want the shipping to be. Shipping options vary from the slow and non-trackable airmail to express delivery from Fedex and others. This said, for the same package to the same country with the same type of shipping, prices vary widely. You’ll find comparison charts in this guide to help you on this.
Some companies also charge a membership fee, some charge monthly fees and some charge a per-package fee. Membership fees and monthly fees are often associated with specific plans for customers who use the service on a regular basis. These plans are generally worthwhile if you plan to forward several packages per month to yourself.
There are optional services, of course. The major ones are package consolidation and repacking. Consolidation allows you to group several packages received at your virtual address at around the same time. The company will consolidate them all into one compact package, therefore reducing the cost of shipping. Repacking is taking a package and making it compact. Remember shipping costs depend on volumetric weight, not on raw weight.
Also, most package forwarders can buy for you. This service goes by several names, such as Personal shopper or Concierge service. What for? In particular if the store you want to buy from will not accept your foreign credit card. They’ll order for you from the US with a US credit card. In most cases, however, this does not come cheap and other finding a prepaid US credit card might be a better option.
Finally, companies also offer to insure the package (the first $100 are often included), to pre-pay for customs to some countries, to remove invoices (that’s for when you’ll be the one paying for customs), to send you a photo before shipping and quite a few other creative services.
Now let’s get specific. The table below lists major package forwarding companies, their fees and their service.
|Bongo US||Standard||Free||$5 per package received.||Free consolidation. Personal Shopper for 10% on total order.||USA FL (6%) and CA (7.5%).
|Worldwide||Not BBB accredited.|
|Borderlinx||Standard||Free||Free||Free consolidation (without repackaging). Concierge service for 5% on total order.||USA OH (5.75%)
|Worldwide (select countries)||BBB accredited, no rating.|
|ComGateway||Standard||Free||Free||Repack and consolidation (fee not clear). BuyForMe for 10% on total order.||USA OR (0%)||Worldwide||BBB A+ Rating.|
|MyUS||Standard and Premium. Premium has better shipping costs and free consolidation.||$10 for the standard plan, $20 for premium||Free for standard, $7 a month or $60 a year.||Free repack. Consolidation available in Premium, for free. Package pictures for $2.||USA FL (6%).||Worldwide||BBB A+ Rating.|
|Opas||Package only (PO) or Package + mail forwarding (P+M).||$25||Free for PO and $15 per month for P+M||Consolidation $10 with PO, free with P+M. Personal shopper 15% for PO or 10% for P+M.||USA OR (0%)
|Worldwide (select countries)||Not BBB accredited|
|PuntoMio||Standard||Free||Free||Takes care of customs. Free returns. Personal shopper (price unknown).||USA FL with tax-free address.||Latin America||BBB A Rating.|
|ReShip||Standard||$5||$5 per package received.||Consolidation $7. Personal shopper 8% + $8. Invoice removal $3.||USA OR (0%)||Worldwide (select countries)||Not BBB accredited|
|Shipito||Individual packages (IP) or virtual mailbox (VM)||Free||$10 a month or $50 a year for VM. $1 per package received.||Consolidation $2 with VM. Multiple Piece Shipment with VM.||USA NV (6.85%), CA (7.5%), OR (0%). Shipping cheaper from CA.
|Worldwide||Not BBB accredited|
|Shop and Ship||Standard||$45||Free||–||Dubai
USA NY (4%)
|Mostly MEA||Not BBB accredited|
|Stackry||Standard||Free||Free||Consolidation $2 per incoming package.||USA NH (0%)||Worldwide (select countries)||BBB A+ Rating.|
|Transexpress||Standard||Free||Free||Pickup service.||USA FL (6%).||Latin America||BBB F Rating.|
|USA2ME||Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum (not all plans to all countries). SGP have better rates and GP include free shipments.||$23 for Bronze, $15 for the other plans.||Free for Bronze, $10 for Silver, $33 for Gold and $44 for Platinum.||Repacking (50% of the savings). Document scanning.||USA TX (6.25%)||Worldwide||BBB A- Rating.|
|USAbox||Fast track or Platinum. Better rates with Platinum. FT only allows one week free storage.||Free||Free for FT, $10 per month for Platinum.||Repacking: $5 per box or 50% of savings. Consolidation $5 per box.
Personal Shopper $10 or 10%.
|USA FL (6%).||Worldwide||BBB A+ Rating.|
|US Global Mail||Individual plan or Family plan.||Free||$10 to $15 per month for IP and $15 to $20 per month for FP.||Repacking and consolidation: $5 per outgoing box. Package inspection $5.
Personal Shopper $10 or 10%.
|USA TX (6.25%)||Worldwide||BBB A+ Rating.|
|Viabox||Standard||Free||Free||Repacking and consolidation: free.
Personal Shopper: free.
|USA IN (7%).||Worldwide||BBB F Rating.|
|WannitUS||Standard||Free||$8.50 per package.||Consolidation $7.50
Personal Shopper $8.50 or 8.5%
|USA NJ (7%)||Worldwide.
Based in New Zealand.
|Not BBB accredited|
What about shipping costs? The charts below compare these for a few random countries scattered around the world.
Here’s how this works: when a company offers both the often-slow US Postal Service and a reasonably-fast regular logistics company (Fedex, DHL, TNT, UPS…), the graph shows both. If not, you can assume that only regular Fedex-like shipping companies are used.
Next, how is the monthly average cost determined? It matches the needs of a low-volume user. This user receives one flat parcel one month and one medium box the next month, and so on. The flat parcel weighs 500g (1.1 lbs) and is of a standard USPS size (32cm x 24cm x 2cm – 12.5in x 9.5in x 0.8in). The medium box weighs 2kg (4.4 lbs) and is also of a standard USPS size (29cm x 22cm x 15cm – 11.25in x 8.75in x 6in). These are pretty generic formats.
If a company charges a monthly fee, I took it into account. If it offers a discounted yearly fee, I took it into account instead. If it charges per package, I added that to the cost. If a declared value was requested in the price simulator, I used $1 USD. If there was an option for insurance, I didn’t use it. If I needed to create an account to get an accurate quotation, I did so.
If a premium-like plan ended up with a more interesting average cost, I used it. In general, however, one parcel a month keeps you in the amateur league and these packages aren’t generally worth the monthly fee.
What isn’t included is what the companies generally say is not included. Fuel surcharges. Customs. Also, I might have missed hidden costs, so if you suspect I got something wrong, let me know and I’ll look into it. Also, the setup fee is not included.
What stands out? Some companies appear not to be adapted to France as a destination country. I’d narrow it down to the ones in the $30′s and compare their service, reputation and first-time fee. The Airmail option stands out price-wise as the cheapest option available. That’s the regular post, with no tracking and no idea when the package will arrive. Also, some companies simply don’t seem to ship to France, often regional specialists.
The differences here are striking. Clearly, and not suprisingly, Morocco is just not a market for most package forwarding companies. It’s like they’ve left the country in the list just in case a guy comes over with $100 to spend on shipping. What stands out? Bongo US is a reasonable option, while Shop and Ship is the cheapest express solution and Shipito with airmail is the cheapest overall solution if you’re in no hurry and if the contents is “loosable”. Reship is reasonable but why choose USPS shipping when there are other options available? The rest, in my scenario, are too expensive, so unless they really have an option that’s interesting for you, I’d choose from the ones I’ve just listed.
Latin America, on the other side, is definitively a market for package forwarders, even to a great but modest country like Bolivia. The game here appears to be in the hands of Latin America specialists. Punto mio is one and Transexpress is another one. Still, Bongo US remains competitive and others offer reasonable prices too. Here, I’d look at the specialists and compare their service and reputation.
To Indonesia, prices begin getting rational. I actually suspect it would be even more so if I tested with Singapore or Hong-Kong as a destination country. In this Indonesian context, however, I’d take all the companies around the $40’s (Bongo US, Borderlinx, ComGateway, MyUS, ReShip, Shipito, Stackry, USA2ME, USAbox and Viabox) and compare them based on service and reputation. I’d also test the cheap airmail option on a cheap test delivery, considering the price difference as an insurance in itself (my personal logic…).
Is this information useful to you? Let me know and tell us about your personal experience is in the comments!