Top 10 Tips For Shoppers Excited By The Strong Aussie Dollar

With the Australian dollar having briefly achieved parity with the US dollar last week and looking likely to remain strong for some time, buying from US shopping sites seems more appealing than ever. It can be a great way to save money, but follow these tips to make sure you don't lose out.

Picture by squeakymarmot

10. Remember, parity isn't really parity

Even at those brief moments when the Australian dollar and the US dollar are nominally equal, the average consumer isn't likely to get actual 1:1 rates. Buying on your credit card will generally be pretty effective, but you'll still have to knock off a few cents to cover conversion charges and the fact you're not a full-time currency trader. That may not matter for smaller items, but if you're planning to spend thousands of dollars, it can make a difference.

9. Do comparison shopping locally

There's no denying that some items are much cheaper from the US, even after considering all associated delivery and conversion costs, and that many Australian online stores aren't up to scratch. But for anything that's not a unique one-of-a-kind item that you can only buy from the seller, checking relevant local online stores is a worthwhile step before you plunk down your virtual cash. As well as potentially getting faster shipping (and easier returns if something goes wrong), you may also do better in terms of warranty deals. Remember also for some electrical items, buying overseas can be a nuisance in terms of power supplies, picture formats and other regional restrictions. (Consoles and console games, for example, generally won't work

8. Factor in postage charges

Obvious, but people often forget it: while many online retailers have good bulk postage rates, the quoted price on the item page will hardly ever be the total cost. Make sure you've considered total postage costs before committing to a deal, and look at details such as how long the delivery period is and what the delivery arrangements are — couriers, for instance, won't generally deliver to a post office box, no matter how compact the item.

7. Set up a US account where appropriate

For some categories of items, you'll still need to 'fake' a US address to get the best deals. For instance, parity really highlights the iniquity of paying $1.69 for a track on iTunes, compared to $US0.99 stateside. We'd normally recommend setting up a US iTunes account for the greater range of content, but right now it looks like a good deal even if you don't want to buy anything that's not in the Aussie store. Either way, our guide to setting up a US iTunes account will get you started.

6. Bundle items to minimise cost

Another obvious but occasionally neglected trick with postage: for most major online stores, the postage on a handful of items is often the same as postage on one. Don't fall into the trap of buying extra just for postage savings, but if you're using a wide-ranging general purpose store, then it can make a significant difference to your final bill. Read the fine print carefully: Amazon's postage discounts, for example, won't necessarily apply for items shipped from third-party sellers, not Amazon itself.

5. Find the best seller in a given category

While general purpose etailers like Amazon can make shipping charges lower, in some cases a single-purpose store can have lower costs. Our favourite example remains the Book Depository, which has a zero-postage charge policy no matter where books are shipped in the world. Buying books from Amazon is unlikely to be cheaper unless you're also buying other goods (and as we note under 6, not always then).

4. Make sure you spot credit card conversion charges

Different credit card providers take different approaches to listing their conversion charges. Some incorporate them into the final item cost, but others list them separately. If your bank falls into the latter category, remember to include those charges when you're calculating the value of a deal — it's easy to neglect them.

3. Contemplate other overseas locations

The sheer scope of the US market means that it's often the most competitive choice, but that isn't invariably the case. When buying accessories such as HDMI cables, for instance, I tend to favour Hong Kong retailers (often via eBay) — the postage charges are lower and you get goods delivered more quickly. Do some prudent Google searching for recommendations and you may find that even with favourable exchange rates, the US isn't always your best choice.

2. Do some searching for coupon codes

Coupons are all-pervasive in the US market — no matter who you're buying through, chances are there's some online coupons available if you know where to look. Search Google or Bing for coupons plus the name of your preferred product or etailer, and you might find some useful bargains.

1. Use drop-shippers for non-Australia friendly stores

There's few things more frustrating than finding the perfect bargain in an online store and then learning they won't ship to Australia, but there are options. We've featured a range of providers in the past who offer the ability to order goods in the US and have them shipped to a US address, including ComGateway, HopShopGo, Price USA and WorldPurchases. This isn't always cheap — there's often a service charge and higher postage rates — but for unique goods or major discounts, it's a useful trick to have up your sleeve.

Got your own money-saving tactics that take advantage of the favourable exchange rate to share? Tell us in the comments.

Lifehacker's weekly Loaded column looks at better ways to manage (and stop worrying about) your money.


Comments

    good advice, i've recently picked up a bunch of t-shirts from the Valve store and Threadless, so a lot of this advice wasn't really applicable to those, but hopefully the HTC Desire-Z is released in the US before the aussie dollar drops too far away from the USD

    watch out for import tax for items more than $1000

    What about keeping an eye on the total spend to avoid paying customs duties? Typically you get whacked for anything purchased over $1000... Customs holds it until you cough up the duties, sometimes up to 20%.

    So Pleased you are giving some sound advise on overseas internet shopping as there is a lot of scarmongering going on by Australian retailers.
    I have been researching this market in Fashion and Beauty and have found that many retailers are selling sale stock from US and Eurpoe (summer sale stock as thy are now moving into winter) in Australia at more than full price.
    I working on a website, launching in December that has over 100 US & UK stores, all that will ship to Australia, all have been checked out and are well known brands and fashion retailers,selling Fashion & beauty for Women, men, Kids and Eco fahion as well as aftersahves, Fragrance and other beauty products at a fraction of the cost that you can buy it here. Until launch you can sign up to the news letter at www.clubqt.com
    Keep up the great work of informing Australians on smarter shopping!

    Great write up.

    www.eastbay.com (NOTE East not e!) is a great online sporting retailer from the states which stocks heaps of american sporting goods but they also do a lot of surf, skate, and general sporting clothing.

    The last few times I have ordered it has taken about 5 days from ordering to having it delivered by UPS (Courier) to my font door.

    As mentioned above check out coupon sites (I use http://www.retailmenot.com/) for discounts where generally the best coupon covers the postage cost or comes close to it. Again be careful with what you order as it is hard to send it back if you get the wrong size etc and use paypal if you can to pay for items.

      Just bought $400 in baseball gear from Eastbay. If you're a first time user, they do a credit card verification email which adds a day, but otherwise my kit arrived in Melbourne within one week. Very impressed..

      Also, as alluded, there are *always* online coupons available for this site. I had the entire shipping charge ($60) knocked off thanks to the coupon.

    Buying bike parts online is so much cheaper than in store. For example I was quoted $100 for a front derailleur which I then purchased from the USA for $20 + $25 shipping.

    PS3 Games from the US definitely work on aussie ps3s, normally buy them from ebay and save around $40 anyway.

    Bit surprised you missed GST and possibly duties on items over $1000 (landed cost) and fees for customs documents. While not everything is subject to a duty, everything over $1000 (landed) *is* subject to GST unless you misrepresent the paperwork.

      Customs might decide to collect if you import items assessed to be more than $1,000. It's not a per-item limit.

    Wizard Clear Mastercard is worth a look in for people travelling overseas and also is useful when buying online.

    No international transaction fees & no fees to withdraw cash O/S if you put the card into credit beforehand.

    Just watch out for HopShopGo's new "remote area" charge of $29 which seems to cover most of NSW unless you live in sydney or newcastle. I won't be using them again.

    http://www.hopshopgo.com/hsg/help-rates-remoteareasurcharge.do?l=en&c=#SHIP_CALC

    Might be good time to buy next year's texts if you are a student. The text I set is around AUD$130 to buy in Australia while the US edition is around AUD$90 posted from Amazon.

    I'm likely preaching to the converted, but when it comes to books, let booko.com.au do the hard maths comparisons for you on where to get the best deal all up including shipping costs. The answer is almost invariably Book Depository, but sometimes not, especially for harder to find titles.

    Good advice!

    this is definitely good advice, especially with the winter sales on in UK and US at present - there are bargains to be found! Check out some of the site aggregatiors such as shopstyle or http://ozstyleguide.com

    Guys i have seen a website called shopusa.com,they claim that they are the cheaper when compared to others of their kind.They will provide an US address for us on free of cost.I am planning to order an htc mobile from US.

    Last edited 09/05/14 8:46 pm

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