Amazon.com - Online Cross Border Shopping Guide for Canadians
As many Canadian online shoppers already know, Amazon’s U.S. website is far superior to Amazon's Canadian website, offering significantly lower prices for identical items, a much larger selection of products and better sales and deals on Amazon.com.
In fact, Amazon.com is often the best U.S. website to use for online cross border shopping, period. They usually offer better prices and selection than other U.S. websites for just about any product you can imagine, and we strongly recommend that you search Amazon.com to ensure you are getting the best price before making any online purchase from a U.S. website or retailer.
To help Canadians navigate the ins, outs, benefits and potential pitfalls of shopping on Amazon's U.S. website, we have created the following guide exclusively for online cross border shoppers. The guide contains a variety of helpful information, including:
Shopping on Amazon's U.S. website makes the most sense for Canadians in the following situations:
Purchasing Big Ticket Items: If you are buying an expensive item that is significantly cheaper in the U.S. than Canada, you should consider using Amazon.com. Even with Canadian duty, taxes and shipping costs, the item may still be significantly less expensive to buy in the U.S.
Some of the Big Ticket items you should consider buying in the U.S. on Amazon include Cameras, Cell Phones, Computers, Electronics, Jewelry / Watches and Appliances.
Purchasing Items Not Available in Canada: Amazon.com has a far greater product selection than its Canadian counterpart. If the item you want isn’t available in Canada, you will need to order it from Amazon.com.
Shipping to the U.S. Border for Pickup: If you live close to the U.S. border, you can have your Amazon.com purchases sent to a U.S. shipping address location just across the border and pick them up. This is a great way to save on shipping costs and possibly reduce duties and tax (learn more about shipping to the border below)
Purchasing Multiple Items: If you are buying multiple items at one time, you should consider using Amazon.com for the same reasons outlined above.
If you’re purchasing a single, low cost item, you are probably better off making your purchase from Amazon.ca.
Before ordering your item, make sure that Amazon will ship your item to Canada from the United States. In most cases this won’t be an issue, as Amazon states that it will ship the following items to Canada from the U.S., but it’s better to be safe than sorry, so double check before you order:
Automotive, Baby, Clothing, Consumer Electronics, Health and Personal Care, Home and Garden, Industrial and Scientific, Jewelry, Pet Supplies, Shoes, Software, Sporting Goods,Tools, Toys, Video Games and Watches.
While Amazon.com doesn’t offer free shipping to Canada, their Canadian shipping rates are surprising low, particularly if you choose their Standard or Expedited shipping options.
Important Note: If you are purchasing an item from a third-party seller on Amazon.com, you may be subject to additional charges from Freight Forwarders.
If you live close to the U.S. border, you can have your Amazon.com purchase shipped to a U.S. border shipping address in your area and pick it up. If this is an option for you, it has several advantages:
Free U.S. Shipping: It allows Canadians to take advantage of Amazon's FREE U.S. Shipping Policy for orders of $35 or more, as well as low cost U.S. shipping for smaller orders under $35.
Lower Likelihood of Paying Canadian Duty and Sales Tax: Driving your goods across the border with you decreases the likelihood that you will be charged Canadian sales tax or duty on your purchase, as opposed to shipping your goods to Canada, which has a much higher likelihood of attracting sales tax and duty.
Avoid Canadian Customs Delays: Picking your goods up in the U.S. and bringing them back with you helps avoid annoying customs delays that can sometimes happen when you ship goods to Canada from the U.S.
One drawback for Canadians shopping online at Amazon.com, or any other U.S. website for that matter, is that physical goods shipped to Canada from the United States often have Canadian duty and sales tax imposed on them when they enter the country.
In many cases it is still less expensive to purchase goods from the United States, even when Canadian duty and sales tax is added to the price, however it is important for Canadians to be aware of these added costs to determine whether online shopping at Amazon.com (or any other U.S. website) makes economic sense.
Canadian Sales Tax: Sales tax refers to HST, GST and PST, and ranges from 5% to 15% depending on which province you live in. If you purchase goods from Amazon.com and ship them to Canada, it is likely that you will be charged Canadian sales tax on the value of your goods when they arrive, so factor this into your purchase cost.
Canadian Duty: Duties are like taxes that are added to the value of goods when they enter Canada. If the items you are ordering from Amazon.com were produced in the United States, it is likely that they will be exempt from Canadian duty. However, if the goods were produced in another country, they may attract duties ranging from 5% to 20% or more, depending on the type of goods you are purchasing and the country where they were produced.
Remember, when you make U.S. purchases online in Canadian dollars, you will have to pay the foreign exchange rate, which is usually in the 2% – 3% range. If you use a Canadian dollar credit card or PayPal to make your purchase (which almost everyone does), you will also be charged what is known as a foreign currency transaction fee which is equal to about 2.5% of the value of the transaction, so you will ultimately end up paying 4.5% - 5.5% in foreign exchange and transaction fees that you should factor into the cost of your purchase.
Reducing your foreign transaction fees:
The best way to reduce your foreign exchange costs when making a purchase on Amazon.com or any other online purchase in U.S. dollars is to use a No Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Card like the VISA Marriott Rewards Card.
The VISA Marriott Rewards Card is a unique Canadian dollar credit card with no foreign transaction fees (and free hotel nights!). If you use this card to make purchases at Amazon.com, you will not be charged a foreign transaction fee. You will only have to pay the foreign exchange rate, saving you 2.5% on your U.S. dollar purchases.
Canadians who purchase products from Amazon.com can return their purchases to the United States. You will have to pay for return shipping, but Amazon states in their return policy that you will be reimbursed for your shipping costs, as long as you use an economical shipping option. You may be responsible for covering return shipping costs for products that you purchase from a third-party on Amazon.
One cost you will not be reimbursed for by Amazon is any Canadian sales tax and duty that you paid when your goods arrived in Canada. In order to claim a refund for Canadian sales tax and duty on goods that you return to the United States, you can prepare and mail your own Casual Refund Program claim with a B2G Form.