Understanding International Shipping Costs

International sales can offer a huge revenue increase for your business! But because shipping costs vary so greatly depending on your product, its destination and your choice of carrier, it’s more important than ever to know your shipping options and how they can potentially affect your bottom line. Here are some points to ponder.

International Shipping with USPS

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is almost always the cheapest method to ship internationally – a huge plus! For less expensive merchandise, it’s a best practice for your business. Your shipping options with USPS are:

  • Global Express Guaranteed: USPS’s premium, date-certain international service, Global Express Guaranteed delivers between 1-3 business days and features a money-back guarantee, $100 in insurance coverage, advanced tracking and, in some cases, free Package Pickup right from your own door. Transportation and delivery is handled by FedEx Express. Pricing starts at $44.00.
  • Express Mail International: This option delivers within 3-5 days with access to USPS’s Track & Confirm tool; insurance against loss, damage and missing contents up to $100; and, again, free Package Pickup in some cases. Pricing starts at $26.91.
  • Express Mail International Flat Rate: For a low flat rate, your shipment is delivered within 3-5 days, with similar benefits to Express Mail International. Pricing starts at $59.95.
  • Priority Mail International: With delivery within 6-10 business days, Priority Mail International is considered USPS’s best value and includes delivery status tracking and in some cases free Package Pickup. Pricing starts at $22.09.
  • Priority Mail International Flat Rate: Fast and affordable at one flat rate, this option delivers your package within 6-10 business days, doesn’t require weighing your shipment and includes the benefits of Priority Mail International. Pricing starts at $12.95.
  • First-Class Mail International: An affordable option for envelopes and very small packages, this method’s timeframe varies by destination but starts at just $0.85.

To reiterate, USPS is the least expensive option in virtually all cases – after all, your buyers shouldn’t be paying $50 in shipping for a $15 trinket! Just keep in mind that you’ll potentially be dealing with multiple shipping and delivery players with this option. The USPS will handle the delivery out of the U.S. and the host country’s postal service will handle delivery to the final destination address. Because the host country’s mail service handles your shipment’s arrival, you’ll find that the process can vary from country to country, so do your research so you’re confident of what to expect at the start and end gates.

International Shipping with UPS

Unlike USPS, UPS has branches in other countries and therefore handles delivery at both ends. However, costs are significantly higher than USPS, so many e-business owners choose to reserve the use of UPS for high-value items only. Here’s a look at UPS International Delivery options and timeframes for export; all of these options include door-to-door delivery, with customs clearance (except to Canada via UPS Standard).

  • UPS Express Critical: Delivery time provided when the order is placed.
  • UPS Worldwide Express Plus: Delivery in 1-3 business days, typically by 9 a.m., to more than 25 countries and territories including major cities in Canada, Europe and Asia. Pricing starts at $100.
  • UPS Worldwide Express: Delivery in 1-3 business days by 10:30 a.m. or noon., to more than 65 countries and territories. Pricing starts at $60.
  • UPS Worldwide Saver: Delivery in 1-3 business days by the end of the day to more than 215 countries and territories. Pricing starts at $58.90.
  • UPS Worldwide Expedited: Delivery in 2-5 business days by the end of the day to more than 70 countries and territories.  Pricing starts at $62.20.
  • UPS Standard: Delivery by end of definite day scheduled to all Canadian provinces.  Pricing starts at $14.90.

With these international UPS options, pricing is determined by zone. Visit http://www.ups.com/media/en/retail_rates.pdf to determine whether your original U.S. state is classified as West or East, then locate the destination country on the Worldwide Zone Chart.

International Shipping with FedEx

Like UPS, FedEx has offices in other countries and handles delivery straight through to the destination, so once again, keep your costs under control by reserving FedEx for high-value and extremely time-sensitive items only. Your shipping needs will determine which FedEx International Shipping Service is right for your package. Cost is high, but there’s a great deal of service and assurance included, such as easy tracking, delivery and pickup. Here’s a brief look at the options:

  • FedEx International Next Flight: For urgent shipments, this option is available 24 hours a day to more than 220 countries and territories. Each piece can be up to 2,200 pounds, or more with prior approval, with unlimited total shipment weight.
  • FedEx International First: Outbound delivery in 2 business days as early as 9 a.m. to select European countries, and 3 business days by 10 a.m. to Singapore. Packages may weigh up to 150 pounds each with unlimited shipment weight, and measure 108” in length or 130” in length plus girth. Pricing starts at $101.50.
  • FedEx International Priority: Time-definite delivery in 1, 2 or 3 business days, depending on destination. Package dimension requirements are the same as for FedEx International First, with service to a larger number of countries than International First. Pricing starts at $56.50.
  • FedEx International Economy: Time-definitely delivery typically in 2-5 business days, depending on destination. Available to more than 215 countries, this option’s package requirements are the same as for International Priority and International First. Pricing starts at $57.46
  • FedEx International Priority DirectDistribution: High volume freight option. Deliver in 1-4 days to 5 countries; costs are lower because FedEx consolidates multiple packages or freight into single shipments to bypass distribution centers and enable efficient customs clearance. Contact FedEx for pricing.
  • FedEx International DirectDistribution Air Solutions: High volume freight option. Delivery in 3-10 days, depending on lane and final delivery location. Contact FedEx for pricing.
  • FedEx International Ground Distribution: Delivery in 1-5 business days, or 2-7 business days if tendered to FedEx Ground or FedEx Freight.
  • FedEx International Ground: A drop-ship option in which shippers may arrange for a bulk delivery in 1-5 business days, or 2-7 business days if tendered to FedEx Ground or FedEx Freight.
  • FedEx Flat Rate International Shipping. Available in 2 box sizes, 10kg and 25 kg, this option keeps things simple for shipments up to 56 pounds. You’ll pay a flat rate specific to the destination country for FedEx International Priority service to more than 220 countries typically within 1, 2 or 3 business days. Pricing starts at $110.29 for the 10kg box and $167.18 for the 25kg box.

For detailed information about these options as well as specific costs, visit the Comprehensive Guide at http://images.fedex.com/us/services/pdf/Service_Guide_2012.pdf which features rate tables by FedEx Zone as well as helpful tips.

Tracking Options with FedEx and UPS

While USPS offers limited package tracking for international packages, FedEx and UPS feature complex international tracking solutions similar to their domestic tracking services — albeit at a significantly higher cost.

  • USPS provides different levels of package tracking for international packages depending on mail class. For Global Express Guaranteed and Express Mail International, you receive delivery status information using the Track & Confirm tool. For Priority Mail International, you can get delivery information for all packages except the Flat Rate options.
  • UPS Tracking identifies and traces shipments through the UPS system. Choose to use a UPS InfoNotice to indicate delivery attempts, and receive detailed tracking responses by email for up to 25 shipments at a time.
  • FedEx Tracking is both fast and easy, with customization options for extra efficiency. Track via fedex.com or upgrade to FedEx Advanced Tracking for more visibility and options to customize, including filtering shipments; monitor the status of inbound, outbound and third-party shipments; and export information. FedEx Desktop delivers shipment status without requiring log-ins with watch-list capability and greater visibility. Finally, FedEx Mobile gives you all that and more on the go, including the ability to create shipping labels and locate FedEx offices.

Reaching the World

No matter what international shipping option you choose, your business becomes global the moment your first order crosses the border. Knowing the possibilities helps you price your merchandise and satisfy your customers in all corners of the planet!