How I Shop Awesome Deals From the U.S. to the Philippines

Photo by Leone Venter on Unsplash
It's been a decade since I was introduced to the madness that is Black Friday (and even Cyber Monday). I still remember vividly how I clamored to buy the best deals online while being 13,208KM away. Back then, I didn't know what I was doing and had a few setbacks which ended up costing me more. But, don't worry, I've found out the best ways to score those awesome U.S. only deals any time of the year - even outside of Black Friday. Here are my tips on how to shop in the U.S. stress-free:

Step 1: Do Your Research
Of course, research is everything. While it's easy to assume that the U.S. gets cheaper prices all the time, that may not be the case always. At times, pricing will be the same or even higher in the States. Even if there is a price difference, it may be too small to justify the additional cost of transporting it to the Philippines. You also have to factor in that items won't have warranty especially when it comes to electronics.  Buying that 65" 4K TV may be a whole lot cheaper during Black Friday but just imagine how much it will cost to actually ship it and if anything happens to the unit, that's going to be huge "paperweight "in no time.

There are also items that won't work in the Philippines easily or even at all. Case in point is buying a Nintendo 2DS/3DS. These units are region-specific and physical games bought locally won't work in the US-bought unit. So that's a hassle not worth the savings.

To check on the best deals any time of the year, my usual go-to websites are Slick Deals and Kinja Deals.

Step 2: Have a Credit Card and Use PayPal (if possible)
Trust me on this. Having a PayPal account is going to be a lifesaver. While I haven't had the chance to do a charge-back (lucky me and *knock on wood*), having that extra protection while shopping online is a basic. For example, I'm an eBay fanatic when it comes to anything refurbished and I can at least rest easy that I can get my money back if I get scammed.

For Amazon though, PayPal won't be available as a payment option so you'll have to risk using your own credit card details with them. 

Step 3: Avoid EMS and DHL/FEDEX options
Here's the problem with these options, it's either shipping is slow and risk spending a lot or shipping is fast and risk not knowing how much taxes you'll pay.

For EMS, it's going to take at least 30-45 days before it gets to your doorstep - that's a minimum so it could be longer. And don't expect to get your item at your doorstep. The post office will send a notice slip to get your item there. The issue is not only shipping time but the issue of corruption and red tape. There will always be some kind of stress or hassle when getting items via EMS. Supposedly, if you don't exceed $200 (Item Value + Logistics), you do not need to pay customs tariffs but if they feel you've under-declared or they see that delivery box, be prepared to shell out some cash. Not mentioning that some post offices are notorious for doing these dirty tactics all the time. In my own experience, I haven't had any issues picking up items from China using EMS when I have it delivered to my mother's home address as it processes this at the main post office. But when I had items delivered to my own home, it processed shipments on a satellite post office branch which charged me triple the usual processing fee and don't even provide official receipts.

For DHL/FEDEX, delivery times will actually depend on what you selected. They usually cost a lot, to begin with, and there's an issue where they pay customs tariffs without questioning Customs or informing you before they proceed. It's always going to be a surprise what your total bill for logistics will be. That's fun, right? It is very stressful and hard on the wallet. 

Step 4: Pick your Poison (of Forwarding Companies)
The best option is to use a forwarder. Why? Well, they have fixed pricing so you won't have to worry about settling any customs tariffs. You can also utilize the free shipping options in the U.S. to deliver it to your Forwarder's U.S. address. Typically, when I buy items from Amazon, I get the item within 10 calendar days regardless of the service provider. So what are your options? Here are my personal go-to options through the years:

Ten years ago, I discovered Johnny Air and I have used them several times but to disclose stopped using them already (more on that later). I have never had issues with them in terms of shipping quality. In fact, they even accommodated a request I had when I felt I was over-charged. The three biggest issues I had with them is that first, there's no way to know how much your shipping fee is, second, they did not consolidate items easily, and third, they have limited pick-up points.

The first one is pretty crucial. While they can provide estimates on how much you'll have to pay, there's really no way of knowing how big a box will be used by the vendor. You'll only find out when the item arrives at their office and pick-up points. I learned this the hard way when I bought headphones and Amazon decided to use a box triple the size of the actual item. I had to pay almost the same price as the item itself.

Minus these issues, Johnny Air has been a staple forwarder since from way back and one you could trust any day.  

This is a godsend. This service completely changed the game in my honest opinion. Not only is this the easiest forwarding company I've dealt with but their prices are very competitive. What stands out for me is how modern and convenient Shipping Cart feels compared to the others I've tried. All you need to do is create an account, get a special address linked to your account, and everything is handled via their easy-to-use website - no emails or calls needed. They even take photos of your item with measurements and all. What really made me happy is that I'm able to know how much the logistics fee is, easily consolidate items, free storage for 30 days, and you can pay via credit card to settle. This may sound like an advertisement but that's how satisfied I am with Shipping Cart. Don't get me wrong though, they do seriously slow down during peak shopping seasons like Black Friday so expect frsutration getting your item uploaded on their site during these periods. So instead of a 10 day turnaround time, it can take a lot longer.

Do you have your own favorite method in getting your online shopping fix? I would like to hear from you.


  1. Hi, extremely nice effort. everybody should scan this text. Thanks for sharing.