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Top Mail and Package Forwarding Services for U.S. Expats

No, I am neither a moderator, expert or adviser.   I decided to create this thread because I have been thinking about seeing if there are new services on the internet that may be better or cheaper than what I currently have, and I thought I would comment on that research using this thread.

What sort of new services are you looking at?
Is it internet shopping, financial services or just general IT stuff?

As always your best bet is to have a fellow expat bring it in...

If that is not possible... then my preference has been for DHL ...and that solely due to their customer service on this end when the package is inevitably misdirected.

The 1-800DHLDHL number can be placed from any landline.  Of course finding a landline is difficult as most folks have a cell phone and cyber cafe phones won't work either for in Ecuador Toll-Free.

This has been my preference here on the coast for almost 10 years of receiving packages with time sensitive and important documents.

Next best is FedEx, but there have been occasions where Fed Ex has sent packages to JAPAN.  Something about the routing numbers.

Having someone stateside to make the contacts via USA toll-free is often helpful but not always.  Making the contact with someone in the Miami (Kendall Miami Airport area) location can often be the difference between finding a lost package and total loss.

If you would like to hear more about this or about anything having to do with living, moving, working, retiring, or visiting Ecuador, contact me through my mailbox and I would be happy to chat with you privately.

Susan

Susan_in_Ecuador :

As always your best bet is to have a fellow expat bring it in...

Yep, just ask my sister. Bet between family and friends we have probably brought in at least 10-15 large suitcases of things. In all fairness to her, about 99 percent of the things has been for her babies.

Recently received my 5th package using econexpressbox.com.  Haven't had any problem with it, although I think they bumped up their shipping charges a few months ago.

My last shipment weighed  3.76 kg (8.28 lb).   They charged me $79.85 for the shipment, $10 for the package consolidation.   

I am now looking at this new site called LiteMF.  According to their pricing page, they would charge me $62.65 for the same shipping method (USPS Priority Mail International).   

Obviously that is about $17 cheaper. However, there appears to be other fees related to warehousing or processing. I need to nail that part down before I decide to try them.

Susan_in_Ecuador :

If that is not possible... then my preference has been for DHL ...and that solely due to their customer service on this end when the package is inevitably misdirected.

The 1-800DHLDHL number can be placed from any landline.  Of course finding a landline is difficult as most folks have a cell phone and cyber cafe phones won't work either for in Ecuador Toll-Free.

This has been my preference here on the coast for almost 10 years of receiving packages with time sensitive and important documents.

Next best is FedEx, but there have been occasions where Fed Ex has sent packages to JAPAN.  Something about the routing numbers.

Shipping a package by DHL or FED EX would subject the recipient to an additional of $42 which might be ok depending on the shipping cost. 

So my question to you Susan is if someone in Ecuador wants to buy stuff from Amazon.com or other online store in the U.S. and have it sent here without use friends or family as intermediaries, what shipping or package forwarding service would you recommend and what would be the cost for a 4kg package using DHL or FEDex as the courier, including the $42 duty?

I decided to calculate the cost of shipping with DHL using my U.S Global mail forwarding service a 4 kg package, excluding the $42 duty that would be imposed.  The shipping cost would be $195.30.

Unless it is a small item and you don't want to wait 3 weeks or so to receive your package, I would not recommend DHL.

I have used TransExpress.com for over two years for my internet shopping forwarder.  Their service is excellent and the rates are very good.  On the Ecuador end they use LAAR Courier for receiving  your shipments, getting them through customs and then delivering them to your home. 

That package weighing 3.78 Kg, if it were valued less than $400 would cost about $135 to ship...including the $42 tax under 4x4.

Charlie B

icemeister :

I have used TransExpress.com for over two years for my internet shopping forwarder.  Their service is excellent and the rates are very good.  On the Ecuador end they use LAAR Courier for receiving  your shipments, getting them through customs and then delivering them to your home. 

That package weighing 3.78 Kg, if it were valued less than $400 would cost about $135 to ship...including the $42 tax under 4x4.

Charlie B

That's pretty good, so let me get this straight, the $135 includes the $42? So basically a 3.78 kg package costs $93. Any idea what the maximum size (volume) the package can be?

The shipping cost I posted would be for an actual weight.  A dimensional weight could cost more than that.  I don't know offhand how it's determined, but if you go to their website try their Calculator.  It can give you freight estimates for both actual and dimensional weight. 

http://www.transexpress.com/eng/index.php?lang=en

Charlie B

Even with these courier services, I think the consensus is you don't want to exceed 4kg and $400 in value in any shipment, otherwise you will be subject to a different set of duties and customs review.

I used transexpress when I first got to Ecuador and then switched to econexpress which now goes by the name econexpresscargo, apparently.  However, once the $42 duty began to be imposed I got scared off.

About a year later the sister company of econexpresscargo called econexpressbox came along promoting the fact the $42 could be avoided by using the USPS. So I have been using them of late.

I used EconCargo in 2013 when they were handling the freight for Club Correos and for a short time after the $42 tax was implemented.  I started having a lot of unexplained delays and unanswered questions, so that's when I switched to TransExpress.com.

To help avoid the $42 they started grouping up to 5 packages per single shipment so you only got charged the $42 one time.  They later initiated a program to allow online shipping outside of the 4x4 Category B. 

For example, I recently bought a new cell phone for $40 on Ebay.  It weighed under 1 lb so the freight  was $9.50.  They shipped it under the Category C and the total duty and IVA tax was just under $15, so I saved $27...and it was delivered to my home.  I did the same earlier this year for some inexpensive electronics parts and saved even more.

Charlie B

icemeister :

For example, I recently bought a new cell phone for $40 on Ebay.  It weighed under 1 lb so the freight  was $9.50.  They shipped it under the Category C and the total duty and IVA tax was just under $15, so I saved $27...and it was delivered to my home.  I did the same earlier this year for some inexpensive electronics parts and saved even more.

Charlie B

Wow!  First time I have heard of somebody sending something to Ecuador knowing in advance that it would fall under a different category than 4x4.  And you confirmed something that I had read but doubted: you can mail one cell phone to ecuador.

Icemaster,

Do you remember how long the package took to get to you once it got shipped from the Transexpress warehouse? I would like to compare shipping times between USPS priority mail international and the courier Transexpress uses..

Went to to transexpress calculator at the bottom of the page where it says:

TransExpress has been implementing, for some countries, a comprehensive cost calculator, which also includes the estimated value of international freight, an estimate of costs associated with duties and taxes calculation and nationalization charges that apply for each country.

Countries that until now to have this comprehensive cost calculator are: Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama. Other countries will be added as they develop during 2015. For other countries use the cost calculator international freight available on this page.

When you put the details into calculator and the product type as celular, it pops up the following message on my computer:

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/aG_5b4InElfTk_6vP1bQUBA5305fKKjCHssgy_KNSQuuXTdExt7sZ2aOjt7VjFyeQRFz3zoXweHmlF6joGGzZahngZND3BPcnWwSqWrdsqdRhTETx7bZHXtKdb38VpPpm5dZ9YkflmvyjgJjzxrhJFNaEkMj9Mb8LVhlm3i28G_rRRyyLjXPy11PZhXLRxUDZC5rITZIivzEI8DkYNTTRq5NpY_DzfIA3H8MtCSrePLV4oraquGcDIueQKN-Ky1j291vAra2GvI5VWqVfSHJNPjjwzB0a-x-L75WmzcxUJIH9-0kR5qCnl25bbzTlJ0FumQjiVqeLg0Az5UKnS8HPIIJyxJ5P8t_b1Ld0_G6QWxotdDV8NrFE7dFJxnMlXbfCxMLmJeRZOtkSedb1az__aQVsHp_jnnMLumqdwf3UhUxVHuzk656w9pthjuMK64uSOw_xkkxrPR7CHl3SzaNQYWLbIjDOR45Au_edxQAhVrYwRZo9PKtexIsRhnfJCHEo9_c68w5U6UaeQyMA8IE4M8rMuaFv2q7UbsCsDRb6jfSYv_rOso6tleEbB1IXmofY3opc9lXjEipu7V3vLqiDpkAtckrn6D91ylJSkZD7QW4CcW8=w448-h180-no

That box says in English that you can import  one cell phone per year under your cedula identification number.  I wonder if that is one cell phone per calendar year or every 12 months.

Nards Barley,  My phone arrived at TransExpress on  Oct 18 and was shipped to Ecuador the next day.  Because it's a cell phone the govt requires the phone's IMEI number  be searched and registered in their database, so that took several days.  On Oct 24 it was in Customs,  on Oct 25 I paid the taxes due online by bank transfer and my phone was delivered Oct 27 to my door.  I never had to leave the house.

Charlie B

That's true, only one new phone per year per cedula.  I don't know how the year is defined.  Laar Courier handles such questions on the Ecuador end and they have a parallel website... Laarbox.com.

Just create a service ticket, ask your question and they usually respond within a day.  Thay have been very helpful.  Here in Guayaquil there's a fellow named Santiago who speaks good English so that's helpful.

They also include receiving US mail in their service.  There's no added cost.  They will send any mail you get once every two weeks at their regular freight rates.  They won't sort, scan or throw out anything like some mail forwarders do, but the this is free.  I find it very handy for getting my new credit cards from my bank.  The post office has already lost a couple of mine sent regular mail and this will on;y cost $9.50 if it weighs less than a pound.

Charlie B

icemeister :

They also include receiving US mail in their service.  There's no added cost.  They will send any mail you get once every two weeks at their regular freight rates.  They won't sort, scan or throw out anything like some mail forwarders do, but the this is free.  I find it very handy for getting my new credit cards from my bank.  The post office has already lost a couple of mine sent regular mail and this will on;y cost $9.50 if it weighs less than a pound.

Charlie B

Great information.   I remember when I used Econcargo years ago they refused to forward regular mail. 

Question: Are you using the transexpress box in Florida as your official mailing address for banks, credit cards, tax returns etc or do you only forward mail to them from time to time from another mailing service?

I changed my residence to here in Ecuador.  My US bank was OK with that, as were Social Security and IRS, so they send their communications via USPS which takes 7-8 weeks.  I am OK with that.   ;)

TransExpress told me that any and all mail sent to your box will automatically be gathered every two weeks, shipped to you and charged to your CC at the normal shipping rates, so if you don't want a lot of expensive US junk mail, don't give out you Miami box address to everybody.

Charlie B

Final question icemeister.  Does Transexpresss still charge a $12 annual fee for the postal box? While I still have an active account with them, I can't find any mention of that on their website. Thanks.

No annual fee with TransExpress.   I think they did back when they were affiliated with Club Correos, but not now.

I am sure it is wasn't a coincidence, but one of the advertising banners on expat.com directed me to a site called iPostal1.com

There most basic plan is $9.99 which is cheaper than what I currently pay US Global Mail.

The cool think about this service is that apparently you can pick the state for your box's mailing address. This could be desirable in order to avoid sales tax.  While I am not entirely sure, I think Amazon.com charges me the Texas sales tax rate on my purchases since my mailing address for my credit card is that U.S. Global Mail in Houston, Texas.

Something to think about anyway.........

Last time I was thinking about changing Mail box services I quickly decided against it because  I was going to have to supply a notarized postal form and the cheapest online service was notarycam.com at $79 for international signature. 

This time I around I found an online notary that charges the same-$25-whether you are located in the U.S. or international.  Although they never address of people living abroad on their website unlike the other website, I sent an email to them and they said no problem.

http://notarize.com/

I have been researching a bit on how Amazon.com charges sales taxes.  It charges based on destination and there are some 29 states it collects tax from.  Generally I get charged around 7% on shipments made to Econexpressbox or Transexpress.  Apparently the Florida state sales tax is 6%, so the difference is city or municipality sales tax.

I recently added the mailing address for LiteMF to my address book at Amazon.com    LiteMF is located in the state of Delaware which does not have a sales tax.  From your Amazon.com shopping cart there is a drop-down menu that allows you to estimate your shipping and tax charges based on the destination of your package.  As a test, I put a computer selling for $284 in my cart. If I select my shipping address for LiteMF, the sales tax estimate is 0.00, while if I select Transexpress or Econexpress the sales tax is $19.95.

P.S.
While Amazon charges sales tax on the items it sells, many of its re-sellers don't for whatever reason.  So, even if you can save some shipping costs on using Amazon as the seller, it may be worth reviewing what a re-seller is charging for the same product in case the sales tax savings is greater.

Apparently,  that one a year limit on importing cellphones into Ecuador only applies to NEW cellphones. So don't try it with used cellphones.

I don't think I am going to use LiteMF to foward anythling unless I get some favorable reports from people in Ecuador who have used it.  While you can always find complaints about a business on the internet, without some positive feedback, I don't feel like being the guinea pig.

https://www.sitejabber.com/reviews/www.litemf.com

I got my ATM card and some other mail delivered this week by Transexpress/LaarBox . I picked up the mail at Laarbox's location on Paucarbamba. They would have delivered to my home, but I wanted to stop by and check out their operation.

https://lh3.googleusercontent.com/WoKNCeU_S_MEebSxh7QIRfcVF_onm48Lb__sP_Fc1ISGMsAkI4XtN_WHaU0Bd65owAmv1Rga7tmvC-zLR8sQikqxUad_Q0WfScp2aG3Cpe3HnZW0kgl2PBZL9ETq9rY6wU4_bHH3W8MIEcLg4aUZDFfpZjhvlXPcPe4npWrxVaTZKag71RMlkd_0UXZmxF5zoM6d4WSa7JafDaju-qF0eG9mPEQSmTiEm7BG94Xot3kUWzE0sgeEDD0hQUGJNL-TgW39Aszj8-71NKaR3KubKqcAys6WGCQkKWWuJVmexQshdk4iPZ5Zhp1QbxWw3SbNTvk8rFqBAzLimoGF25OrJANkUuMN6gwrTntZF3nKREmBJc2KArA4_UXVxUJTjVIDV_h1UaEVbUfBeXsuTMhAv8xGApBsMSO8jswuZXoVBpkxVjmuO_3i_vphZDkKKXIIbeTiYhG-MZtci4malZD22A0YiZ8sBB8CX7kxsD_lDQNBKtplGGTLpE0Kq877JHm1XPnLiLduEFAf3yuh0UpfdUvNEuIZBbZwkzZJM1ZYlv6VJ1RWAXfiYpMGxHjXAlyO31ZAD5-wf7JYBgpe_VrDEx5La1sVhgWq1psXhBDzNkrSxAaM=w1227-h920-no

I got a call from LaarBox telling me that they had a piece of mail (Charles Schwab ATM card for a friend of mine) to deliver to me.  I told them I would come by and pick it up since my place was hard to find.  Turns out the courier was on his motorcycle outside trying to find my place. I stepped outside and flagged him down.

So total cost of that delivery from the U.S. was $9.50.  That piece of mail was received in the Transexpress warehouse in Florida on 11-28 and was delivered today 12-01.  Pretty fast.

So you decide. You can pay DHL or FED Express $60 to deliver that replacement bank card to you, or you can pay LaarBox $9.50

That is fast.  TransExpress told me the mail is sent out twice a month, so you lucked out on this one.

Nards Barley :

I got a call from LaarBox telling me that they had a piece of mail (Charles Schwab ATM card for a friend of mine) to deliver to me.  I told them I would come by and pick it up since my place was hard to find.  Turns out the courier was on his motorcycle outside trying to find my place. I stepped outside and flagged him down.

So total cost of that delivery from the U.S. was $9.50.  That piece of mail was received in the Transexpress warehouse in Florida on 11-28 and was delivered today 12-01.  Pretty fast.  So you decide. You can pay DHL or FED Express $60 to deliver that replacement bank card to you, or you can pay LaarBox $9.50

LaarBox was really fast!

Over the years, I’ve had Visa cards from two U.S. banks sent to me in Quito with the bank picking up the cost of mailing/shipping of the card every time.

The most recent instance occurred just a few months ago, and I received the card in less than a week.

Perhaps your hard-to-find address or the fact that the card was being sent for a third party caused you to hire LaarBox.

cccmedia in Quito

icemeister :

That is fast.  TransExpress told me the mail is sent out twice a month, so you lucked out on this one.

That is the second mail delivery I have received from them in two weeks.  In each case they mailed out the letters immediately.

So I wonder if they have changed their policy on that or maybe due to the fact it is the holiday season. I will ask them one of these days.

cccmedia :

Perhaps your hard-to-find address or the fact that the card was being sent for a third party caused you to hire LaarBox.

Actually, I didn't want Capital One to know I am in Ecuador just yet, but maybe I will ask Bank of America if they will mail my replacement credit card to Ecuador when it expires in 2018.

I had a card go missing when sent by regular post to Ecuador from the US.  The one I did get took 7 weeks.  Then had another sent from the UK by regular Royal Mail and received it in 1 week.

Now I'll only use TransExpress/Laar Courier.  The only hassle may be to get the bank to send it to an address other than the one on your account.

icemeister :

The only hassle may be to get the bank to send it to an address other than the one on your account.

Good point. I vaguely recall asking Bank of America if I could use a foreign address as my mailing address and they said no. 

Eventually I may consider using my mail box with Transexpress as my mailing address for my Capital One 360 and Bank of America accounts.   Since they hardly send me anything in the mail these days, I shouldn't generate too much in shipping costs.  The risk would be if they would sell my info to companies that would send me junk mail. I would prefer that Laarbox would only send mail every two weeks, so I need to follow up on that issue.

I already changed my mailing address with Vanguard (retirement account) to Cuenca and I was told they would not mail any correspondence to a foreign address which is fine.

Nards, although still in the U.S., I have Bank of America and Vanguard accounts too and can confirm NOTHING (including tax statements) is mailed with the electronic delivery preferences checked online.  Anything received from Bank of America or Vanguard in the mail is junk marketing I would not pay to have forwarded.

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