The True Cost of Cross-Border Shopping

Living in Canada, we’re used to a lot of products being unavailable to us as consumers. From the latest technologies and fashions, toys, and everything in between, the Canadian market often has to wait for products well past their launch in the United States and other countries – if they get here at all.

As a result we’ve taken to cross-border shopping for those products that we absolutely must get our hands on. Obviously, there are costs for cross-border shopping as it a less direct way of purchasing than buying in-store, or direct from retailer or online marketplace.

As Wantboard’s mission is to make the world more accessible by letting people get anything from anywhere, we’ve written up this handy guide on the different options available for cross-border shopping, as well as all the (sometimes hidden) costs that come along with them.

  1. Package Forwarding Services

Package forwarding services are a fairly popular cross-border shopping option for consumers, particularly for U.S. to Canada cross-border shopping. They typically work in the following way:

  • The customer places an order and has the package delivered to the package forwarder’s warehouse
  • The package forwarder handles storage, repacking, and package consolidation (if applicable)
  • The customer pays a fee to the package forwarder to cover handling as well as any international shipping fees
  • The package forwarder ships the item(s) to the customer’s home address

While package forwarding services can be a good cross-border shopping option, there are some downsides. First, as a customer, you need to pay and interact with two different companies – the retailer and the package forwarding service – to complete your transaction. Purchase and delivery of your product are handled separately.

Additionally, there are typically a number of added or “hidden” fees involved that aren’t shown upfront. With U.S. to Canada cross-border shopping, these can include:

  • Shipping and return costs
  • Duties and taxes
  • Brokerage fees
  • U.S. sales tax, depending on the package forwarding service

Furthermore, package forwarding services have limitations which include not being able to access items that require a U.S. credit card for purchase, not being able to pay in CAD (in other words, having to make the currency conversion calculations yourself),  and not being able to purchase items that aren’t sold online.

  1. U.S. Mailbox Services

A slightly different option for U.S. to Canada cross-border shopping are U.S. Mailbox services. This is a relatively simple process – you rent a U.S. address to ship to from a company that offers these services. When you make a purchase from a U.S. retailer that requires a United States address for shipping, you have it shipped to the address you rented.

The downside to U.S. Mailbox services is that – unless you arrange some sort of shipping to your address at an additional cost to you – you have to drive and pick up anything you have purchased. Furthermore, there are a number of costs associated with choosing this cross-border shopping option, which may include:

  • Cost of gas to drive and pick up the item
  • Pick-up fees
  • Border fees
  • Sales tax, depending on state
  • The time it takes to drive and pick up the item

To add to that, there are other limitations similar to those of package forwarding services: you can’t purchase items that require a U.S. credit card; you have to pay in USD; and you are unable to purchase items that aren’t sold online. 

  1. Wantboard

At Wantboard, we offer a simple cross-border shopping option that allows you to purchase items from the United States as if you were shopping on Amazon, eBay, or any e-commerce service that ships to Canada.

With Wantboard, you are given an upfront price for items in Canadian dollars, which you can purchase with a Canadian credit card and have delivered directly to your home. Our model is simple – we take the price of the item in USD, convert it to Canadian dollars, and add our service markup, which is about 16% (for items under $250 USD; less for items over $250 USD). The total cost of the item is displayed upfront, plus HST.

Once you purchase a product from Wantboard, all you have to do is wait for it to arrive at your doorstep, usually about 1-7 business days. There are no U.S. sales taxes, brokerage fees, or other additional or hidden fees that often come up in other cross-border shopping options like U.S. Mailbox or package forwarding services. As an additional benefit, we also offer a request feature that lets you access particularly hard-to-find products – something not available with other cross-border shopping options.

For more information about Wantboard and how we work in comparison to other cross-border shopping options, please visit our Frequently Asked Questions page. Still have questions? Feel free to email us at!