5 Thrifty Tips for International Online Shopping

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Though online shopping has become an increasingly popular practice around the world in recent years, many Filipinos remain hesitant about ordering things from overseas. There are many valid reasons for this, from horror stories about excessive taxes to worries about lost packages and lengthy shipping times. But being too scared of shopping online means you’re likely to miss great deals from foreign stores—yes, even with shipping costs factored in.

Savvy shoppers know that the keys to a successful international online shopping experience are patience, resourcefulness, and the readiness to explore all available options. These 5 pointers will allow you to enjoy the endless array of international shopping options at your fingertips to the fullest:

Check for Discounts, Coupons, and Promos

Everybody loves a good promo, and Filipinos are no exception. Before they get out their credit cards Philippines-based consumers will often scour the web for discount codes, coupons, and other special offers for an item they want. This is a habit that will serve you well if you intend to shop at international online stores frequently. Some online stores, for example, will offer vouchers or discounts to customers that meet certain conditions. A quick Google search will also show you if there are any running sales or ongoing promos for your desired product in other online marketplaces.

If you browse and buy from a lot of online stores, it might be worth it to subscribe to the newsletters of those you especially like. That way, you can get timely updates about any upcoming sales and promotional events and plan your shopping sprees accordingly. Many stores will even give you special coupons you can use on your birthday.

Use Google to Find Less Expensive Offers

People are often led into purchasing something online by sponsored posts and advertisements they see on their social media feeds. While it can be tempting to jump on a shiny new product as soon as it catches your eye, it’s worthwhile to do a quick Google search to see if you can find a different store that offers it at a lower price.

Trawling the internet for a better price on an item you’re interested in buying is easier than it looks. All you need to do is type in the word “cheapest” before the product name, include the country you’d like to order from at the end of your search entry, and hit the search button. This will usually turn up lots of less expensive options than the one you were initially considering. Visit a few sites and check their customer reviews before you ultimately settle on which store to buy from.

Use a Debit Card to Encourage Responsible Spending

While credit cards are the most widely accepted payment method at online stores and marketplaces, managing credit can be tricky for those who struggle with impulse control. If you’re trying to curb a tendency to make snap purchases or go on unplanned shopping sprees, then a debit card may serve you better. While debit cards work more or less the same way as credit cards, a crucial difference is that they only work if you have money in the bank account they’re connected to.

Many banks and companies offer debit cards. One easy way to know if your debit card can be used for online purchases is to check if it has a 16-digit card number on the front and a 3-digit CVC number on the back. While it may be tempting to simply use your ATM debit card for online shopping, doing so may put your hard-earned money at risk if you find yourself a victim of card fraud. It’s best to keep a separate debit card that you use primarily or exclusively for online shopping purposes.

Know the De Minimis Rate

The Philippine Bureau of Customs (BOC) has raised the minimum value of overseas packages that can be taxed to PHP 10,000. This rate is known as the De Minimis Rate, and while it’s common knowledge now, certain customs officials may either be unaware or willfully ignorant of this rule. It often happens, for example, that postal workers insist on taxing packages under the PHP 10,000 threshold. The best thing to do in these cases is to show them a printed copy of the BOC ruling or the BOC website and insist that they respect the order.

Be Patient

Items you order from overseas aren’t going to get to you overnight. While some packages may arrive a week or so after ordering, most international packages will take between 2 and 3 weeks to arrive by regular mail. Your mail may also be slower to come if you live in a large, crowded city. But while it may be tempting to pay more for expedited shipping, express shipping costs can add up to exceed the cost of the item you’re buying. Needless to say, this cost is probably not going to be worth it unless you’re buying something you really, really want and need within a certain time frame.

While international online shopping can be daunting, it’s also much more manageable now than before. With the right attitude and tools at your disposal, you can order things from overseas stores with minimal stress and at the best possible value.

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