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Tips and Tricks for International Shoppers in the US

Shopping should be fun.  There are several ways that it can become not so fun, which makes it even that much less fun when trying to deal with it from 10,000km away. Try to remove as many red flags as possible.


1. Here's a quick summary of some of the tips in this section:

  1. Use a VPN to "locate" your computer in the US so that websites will see that you are shopping domestically.
  2. Use your PacMe address and mailbox number as both your billing and shipping address.
  3. Purchase a Skype Number with a 503 area code to match your billing and shipping address.
  4. Sign up for a PacMe debit card if you do not have a US-based credit card.
  5. Use the PacMe concierge service if the online retailer will not ship to a freight forwarder.
  6. Sign up for Amazon Prime for free 2-day domestic shipping on most items.


2. What if a US merchant won't accept website orders from a foreign country?

Use a VPN (Virtual Private Network).  

Many websites reject orders made from computers with IP addresses outside the US.  Other retailers might direct you to their "international" store, where they often increase the prices and limit the availability of many items.  

Since you are actually shipping your purchase to your US address at PacMe, a simple solution is to use a VPN service that will make it look like you are ordering from a computer in the US.  

Using your VPN, you first log in to a gateway located in the US, then seamlessly visit the shopping website to make the purchase. All your web traffic will then go through your VPN tunnel so it appears as though you are in the US.

A good VPN service will also encrypt the connection from your computer to the Internet.  In fact, many of us use a VPN everyday.  Whenever you log onto the Internet from a public access point (e.g. Starbucks, airport free wifi), it is a good idea to use a VPN.

Here's a list of a few VPN providers:

VPN Reviews:


3. What if a merchant won't ship to a different shipping address?

Use your PacMe address as your both your billing and shipping address.

Retailers are often nervous about shipping to addresses that are not the same as the "verified" billing address on the credit card that was used to make the purchase.  Some bad guys steal credit card numbers, and can't log into the account to change the billing address, but they can ship to any 'ol drop off location.  Online retailers are wary of this, particular if the credit card's billing address is overseas.

If you want, you can use your PacMe address as your billing address for your card.  Or sign up for the PacMe debit card. Please ask for electronic statements, however. As a general rule, we discard all mail unless you sign up for the "Yearly + Mail" plan.


4. What if retailers require a US phone number?

It is probably best to get something like a Skype Number so that you will have a US-based phone number you can attach to your billing and shipping information.

Skype Numbers cost around $60-70 per year, but are often discounted if you also by other Skype services.  Incoming calls to your Skype Number are free.  You answer the call within your Skype account (e.g. on your computer), or you can send incoming calls directly to voicemail or forward them to another phone number. You can also get a subscription so you can place outgoing calls, but a subscription is not necessary to have in order to have a Skype Number (it might be a little confusing on the Skype website).

When signing up for a Skype Number, choose USA, Oregon, area code 503, and Sherwood.  That way, your phone number will exactly match your address location at the PacMe warehouse.

Make your online shopping go smoothly by lowering as many red flags as possible:

  1. Use a VPN when surfing your online shopping sites so that you appear to be coming from a US Internet node.
  2. Use your PacMe mailbox as both your billing and shipping address.
  3. Get a Skype Number and attach it to your address.


5. What if a merchant won't accept a foreign credit card?

Get a PacMe debit card or use our concierge service.  But first, ask your Aunt Sally.

It is getting increasingly difficult for non-US residents to obtain US-based credit cards. Banks are required to "know thy customer" and usually need to confirm a physical residential address before issuing a credit card.  Perhaps you can use your friend's or a family member's US address. It is worth a try since, generally speaking, a credit card is better than a debit card when shopping online.

There are a number of pre-paid debit cards that will work, however.  We offer one ourselves.  The fees are quite expensive if you don't use it regularly, but it will at least get you shopping until your sort out a better solution.

Lastly, you can use our concierge shopping service and we will use our own credit card.  You would reimburse us through your virtual account, which you can fund by wire transfer, PayPal, or bitcoin.


6. What if a merchant won't ship to a freight forwarder?

Use our concierge shopping service.

Some retailers will not ship to "freight forwarders" because of past fraud in the industry. This is why PacMe is hyper-diligent about screening our customers and requiring validation of all accounts.  

For a list of unfriendly merchants and potential work-arounds, see the discussion in our customer forums.  

You might be able to use our concierge shopping service.  If we make the purchase on our own account, sometimes the retailer will ship to our warehouse.


7. What is Amazon Prime?

An Amazon Prime membership costs less than $100/year and gives you free domestic 2-day shipping on hundreds of thousands of items listed as "Prime" on the Amazon website.

Products marked as "prime" also are more likely to be vetted by Amazon since they either own the stock themselves or hold the inventory on behalf of other vendors that they have vetted.

There are other benefits (e.g. free streaming movies), but not all of them are available to international customers, though you can always log in through your VPN.

For anyone who does a lot of shopping on Amazon, Prime is a great deal.


written in: Things to Know

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