Buying from Amazon in a different country: Your complete guide
Amazon is the biggest online retailer in the US, thanks to the convenience, low costs and huge product range on offer. In fact, in 2019, 50% of all US retail sales were through Amazon. But what if you’re relocating, or can’t find the products you need on your local Amazon site?
The good news is that buying from international Amazon sites shouldn’t be difficult. However, there are a few extra hurdles - and potential costs - to consider. This guide walks through them all, and also covers how to use TransferWise and the TransferWise multi-currency account to save money on currency conversion when shopping with overseas retailers.
TransferWise can help you manage money in multiple currencies
Before we get started, let’s look at how TransferWise can help you avoid one of the major headaches with international shopping - excessive currency conversion costs.
Whenever you buy an item online from a retailer based overseas, they’ll need to convert your currency to receive the payment. So if you use your US based debit card to make a payment to a store in Paris, you’ll incur extra costs to switch your dollars to euros. These costs can be particularly high when you allow the retailer or platform to do the currency conversion for you, as you may face steep fees and a marked up exchange rate.
That’s where TransferWise can help. Make an international transfer with TransferWise to cover your payment - or even better, get a free TransferWise multi-currency account and use the linked debit card - to get currency conversion with no markups and no hidden fees.
Simply add money to your TransferWise account in dollars, switch to the currency you need using the real mid-market exchange rate, and use this to pay for your online purchases. You’ll only ever pay a small transparent fee which can be much cheaper than using your regular bank.
Is it possible to buy from Amazon in one country if I live in a different one?
You can buy items on Amazon from all over the world - or choose to buy on the US Amazon site, and ship your products abroad. However, the shipping options which are available vary depending on the sellers and the specific products. Some items simply aren’t suited to international shipping due to their size, weight or value, for example.
The best way to check whether or not you can get the item you want, in the country you need it, is to search for it and review the shipping options available. You might find you get better results if you look on the Amazon Global site. This is technically part of the US Amazon site, but has a focus on items which can be shipped abroad. You’ll still need to check that your specific product can get to your location, though, as not all items can be delivered to all destinations.
International Amazon sites
Amazon operates in a broad range of countries around the world. You can see the options for international Amazon sites by clicking on the flag symbol which you’ll find on the top right of your home screen. Here you can browse other countries, and change between onscreen languages if you need to.
Creating an account on Amazon from another country
You should be able to use your Amazon US details to log into Amazon sites in other countries. You can also transfer your account to another country if you’re relocating permanently. This means you’ll be able to keep digital content like Kindle books and music, which will transfer over onto your new country profile. Not all content and services can be transferred though, so check out the details before you proceed.
You’ll be able to switch back to your previous Amazon country account if you still have a billing address there.
Can I use my Amazon account in other countries?
You should be able to use your Amazon US account in most other Amazon markets. The only exceptions are China and Japan - you’ll need to create a new account if you want to shop with Amazon in these countries.
Can I use my Amazon Prime account abroad?
You can use Amazon Prime video and music services when you travel or if you move outside of the US. To access services while you travel, you won’t need to do anything - but you’ll need to update your address and location if you’re planning on moving permanently to get the best available service.
Amazon Prime delivery benefits apply only in the country in which you’re a member.
Amazon international shipping tips
Here are a few other things to think about when buying from Amazon in a different country.
Give yourself ample time for deliveries
International shipping takes time. You might find Amazon offers expedited services to get things to you more quickly if you need it - but you’ll pay extra for this service. Ordering with plenty of time to spare is a better way to reduce both the cost and the hassle.
Combine items where possible
You can find information on international shipping costs over on the Amazon website - but one thing it’s good to look at is how the costs vary depending on the number of items in the order.
For example, if you’re in Mexico and want to order from the US site, you’ll pay a standard fee per order, plus a per item fee. That means that the more items there are in the shipment, the lower the relative cost. That makes it well worth ordering fewer, larger shipments where you can.
Consider a freight forwarder
If the item you want can’t be sent directly to you through Amazon, you might be able to use a freight forwarder. This service means you commission a forwarder to buy the item you want from Amazon US, and ship it to you wherever in the world you are. This can be a useful option - but does come with downsides. Costs may rack up, and you can’t return an item exported by a freight forwarder in this way, for example.
How long does shipping take?
Shipping times can vary significantly depending on what you’re sending, where. You’ll see an estimated shipping time before you confirm your order - and will often be offered several different types of shipping. This means you can pay an extra fee for an express service if you need a product urgently.
It’s worth remembering though, that international shipping can be more or less reliable depending on where you are in the world, with poor local infrastructure, complex customs and a range of other problems making it tricky to receive parcels in some regions. Make sure you have an idea about the local situation wherever you are before you make expensive purchases.
Fees when I buy from Amazon.com
If you’re buying items through Amazon which will be imported into the US - from the Amazon Global Store for example - you may pay an import fees deposit. Amazon calculates the import costs on your behalf and holds the estimated amount to make sure your products can get into the country. If there is money left in the end, you’ll get a refund.
If you’re buying items from the US which you’re having delivered elsewhere in the world, you’ll need to look closely at the import fees which include customs duties and taxes. Tax systems vary across the world, so you’ll need to check what will be levied on your purchase to avoid nasty surprises.
Paying for your Amazon purchase
Once you have all your products in your Amazon cart, you’ll need to complete the payment. Here’s how:
- Click on cart to review your items
- From here you can select Proceed to checkout, and enter the delivery address you require
- You’ll be shown the delivery options available to you, which may include premium services to get your items faster - select the one you need
- Next you’ll be asked to enter your payment details. You might already have a card or bank account linked to your Amazon account, but when shopping overseas, using the debit card linked to your TransferWise multi-currency account can save you money.
- The next page should give a full picture of the costs including shipping, and any import charges you’ll need to cover. Check you’re happy with the fees before confirming the payment.
One of the great things about shopping online is that you can find fun and unique products from all over the world. However, if you leave your currency conversion to Amazon, you’re likely to find that the exchange rate used won’t be as good as the one you find using an online currency converter. This can push up the costs and mean your chosen products are more expensive than you expect.
Avoid this issue entirely by paying in the currency of the country you’re buying from, with your TransferWise multi-currency account. See if you can save with TransferWise, today.
Disclaimer: This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.
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