Are you new to online shopping? If you're on the Canadian side of the border and thinking of shopping on U.S. sites, hidden costs may catch you by surprise. There are things you should check before you give out your credit card number.
First, check that the site offers international shipping or at least shipping to Canada. There is nothing more irritating than going through an e-commerce site, filling your shopping cart and then discovering that the vendor does not ship outside the continental United States.
Shipping Charges to Canada
Good sites will list their shipping policies and procedures up front, usually under the customer service section or the help section. Shipping charges are determined by weight, size, distance, speed and number of items. Be sure to read the details carefully. Don't forget to factor in the exchange rate for the shipping charges as well as for the cost of the merchandise. Your credit card company may also add a charge for currency conversion.
The shipping charges and methods of shipment (usually either mail or courier) aren't the total of the costs you'll have to pay to get that package across the Canadian border though. If goods are coming across the border, you will also have to consider, and be ready to pay, Canada customs duties, taxes and custom brokerage fees.
Canada Customs Duties
Because of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Canadians do not have to pay duty on most American and Mexican manufactured items. But be careful. Just because you buy an item from a U.S. store does not mean it was made in the United States. It's quite possible it was imported into the United States first and, if so, you may be charged duty when it comes into Canada. So check before you buy and if possible get something in writing from the e-store in case the Canada Customs people decide to be particular.
Duties on goods vary widely, depending on the product and the country in which it was manufactured. Other charges and duties may also apply depending on the item, for example excise duty and excise tax on luxury items such as jewelry. In general, on goods ordered from a foreign retailer there is no assessment unless Canada Customs can collect at least $1.00 in duties and taxes. If you have specific questions about Canada customs and duties, please contact a Canada Border Services Agency office or the Border Information Service.