Cheapest Way to Ship Internationally with Tracking – A Beginners Guide

All of the steps that I discussing will be using USPS. USPS is the Cheapest Way to Ship Internationally for smallish items. This guide will NOT cover all International Mail Services, it will cover most of your international shipping needs. To calculate shipping cost you can use use the USPS Postage Price Calculator. I have condensed my knowledge down to 3 easy steps which I call The Max Cost Shipping Method.

Shipping internationally is not for the faint of heart, there are many pitfalls, regulations and misinformation. I will attempt to demystify the exotic and scary world of International Shipping.

The Max Cost Shipping Method - For International Shipping
The Max Cost Shipping Method – For International Shipping

1. First Class Mail International – Max $35.00

Price Range – The price range to ship to just about any country for a 1 oz to 4 lbs package is $10 to $58 respectively. A 1 lbs laptop would cost me $15.50 in shipping to Canada using Fist Class Mail International service. The cheapest way to ship internationally is Fist Class Mail International. If your package goes over $34.00, go to the next shipping method, Priority Padded Flat Rate Envelope or Priority Small Flat Rate Box.

Priority Padded Flat Rate Envelope – $34.00

Priority Small Flat Rate Box – $35.00

Padded Flat Rate Envelops and Small Flat Rate Boxes are treated just as First Class International Mail except for the price. Flat Rate means the same price for all countries that the USPS ships to. Priority Flat Rate Envelope is the cheapest way to ship internationally using a flat rate service. The following restrictions apply to First Class Mail International, Padded Flat Rate Envelops and Small Flat Rate Boxes.

Maximum Weight is 4lbs to most country’s. Please check your county’s maximum weight limit.

Maximum Size – Limit of a combined length, height, and width is 36 inches (42 inches for rolls/tubes) for most countries.

Maximum Value – The value of the package cannot exceed $400 in value

Delivery Time 7 to 21 days but it is not guaranteed.

Tracking is included to a limited number of countries. Just because the destination country has tracking doesn’t mean that they will be consistent in using it.

Insurance is NOT available for this service.

Customs Form PS Form 2976 – Make sure you sign the form before mailing. The package you are sending has to be, at the very minimum, the size of the customs form. The customs form CANNOT be wrapped around the package.

PS Form 2976 - Cheapest Way to Ship Inter
PS Form 2976 – Cheapest Way to Ship Internationally

Custom Fees are paid by the person who is receiving the package. It is difficult to figure out what the customs fees are going to be. Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System or HS Tariff, can be looked up but is very complicated and would require a separate full article. I usually leave the HS Tariff section blank, the destinations country Customs Agent will fill it in and calculate a customs fee for me.

Shipping Supplies – Use your own packaging except for the Priority Flat Rate materials. Priority shipping materials are provided for free at the Post Office or you can have USPS ship them to you for free.

2. Priority Mail International – Max $96.00

Price Range – The price range to ship to just about any country for a 4.1 lbs to 70 lbs package is $42 to $450.00 respectively, using standard non-flat rate Priority Mail International. A 6 lbs car part would cost me $70 in shipping to Australia. Standard non-flat rate Priority Mail International is the cheapest way to ship internationally that includes tracking and insurance to some countries. If your package costs over $76.00 go to Priority Mail Medium Flat Rate Box. Or if your item does not fix in a Medium Flat Rate Box, then once your package cost over $96.00, go to Priority Mail Large Flat Rate Box.

Priority Mail Medium Flat Rate Box – $76.00 – Max 20 lbs

Box 1 Size – 11 x 8.5 x 5.5

Box 2 Size – 11.88 x 3.38 x 13.63

Priority Mail Large Flat Rate Box – $96.00 – Max 20 lbs

Box 1 Size – 12 x 12 x 5.5

Board Game Box Size – 23..69 x 11.75 x 3

Maximum Weight – The max weight limit for non-flat rate Priority Mail International is 70 lbs. The max weight limit for Priority Medium and Large Flat Rate Boxes is 20 lbs. Each country will have there own max weight limit. Please check your county to see its maximum weight limit. Example: USPS has a Max weight limit of 70 lbs but Canada’s weight limit is 66 lbs.

Delivery Time is 6 to 10 business days.

Tracking is included to many but not all countries.

Insurance – Includes insurance up to $200 to some countries. More insurance can be purchased if offered. There are some countries where the USPS does not offer insurance.

Customs Form PS Form 2976-A – This form is MANDATORY. Make sure you sign ALL the forms before mailing.

PS Form 2976-A - Cheapest Way to Ship Internationally
PS Form 2976-A – Cheapest Way to Ship Internationally

Customs Envelope PS Form 2976-E – The Customs Forms PS Form 2976-A must be placed inside of of Customs Envelope PS Form 2976-E. This envelope is MANDATORY. The Customs Envelope then can be placed on your package. The package you are sending has to be, at the very minimum, the size of the customs form/envelope. The customs form/envelope CANNOT be wrapped around the package.

PS Form 2976-E - Cheapest Way to Ship Internationally
PS Form 2976-E – Cheapest Way to Ship Internationally

Custom Fees are paid by the person who is receiving the package. It is difficult to figure out what the customs fees are going to be. Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System or HS Tariff, can be looked up but is very complicated and would require a separate full article. I usually leave the HS Tariff section blank, the destinations country Customs Agent will fill it in and calculate a customs fee for me.

Shipping Supplies: USPS provides Priority Shipping Material for free including the Customs Forms/Envelopes. Or you can use your own packaging.

3. Restrictions and More

USPS has restrictions on what they allow to be shipped using their services. In additions to USPS restrictions, each destination country also has their own restrictions. Please check your destinations restrictions to see if the item you are mailing is or is not allowed.

Examples of a few restrictions for Canada:

Gold bullion, gold dust, and nonmanufactured precious metals.

Non-refillable lighters or any other lighter that contains fuel. New lighters with no fuel may be sent.

Oleomargarine and other butter substitutes, including altered or renovated butter.

Plumage and skins of wild birds.

Restrictions do change, please make sure you check the Destinations Counties Import restrictions from one of its government websites.

Only ship items that you would not mind losing. I know that you don’t want to lose anything but if I was extremely worried about losing an item that would cost me $100 to replace, then I might not want to ship it abroad. But if I had an item that would only cost me $15 to replace, then it wouldn’t bother me as much if it gets lost in transit. Many things can go wrong with shipping internationally, so do it at your own risk.

Shipping prices increase every year, so the above prices will be out of date soon but the order of the shipping service will stay the same. So the cheapest way to ship internationally with tracking will be First Class Mail International then Priority Mail International.

If your going to be shipping a lot of packages over time, make sure you get shipping discounts. At the end of the year when I do my taxes, I go over all my fees and Shipping is the BIGGEST by far! Anything you can do to reduce those costs are mandatory in order to stay in businesses and stay competitive. To get the cheapest way to ship internationally you can find discounts online. There are online shipping services where you can buy shipping at discount rates. Companies like Stamps.com have special agreements with USPS, FedEx and UPS where you can get up to 20% off shipping costs.

If your interested in the Cheapest Way to Ship a Package Domestically check out my article.

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