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Cross boder shopping: Shopping in USA . Tips for Canadians

GaramChai Canada >> Shop in America

With the Canadian dollar trading at record high against the US dollar, it is certainly tempting for those living in Canada to plan shopping trips across the border. In this page, we hope to provide some tips and ideas on cross-border shopping


Why Shop in America? //Reader Comments // Links

Why Shop in America?

The Business Week article "Why Canadians Shop in America" [by Diane Brady] made for an interesting read [Reader Comments]. The article talks about how "With the loonie worth more than the greenback, Canadians head south for deals-and gripe about the high prices at home. . . Five years ago, Canadians had to put up with paying more than Americans for everything from Buicks to books when their dollar, or loonie, dipped to a low of 62¢ (U.S.). But while the soaring loonie is now worth more than its U.S. peer, prices north of the border remain high.

The online shopping angle for Canadians" The author says "Rachel Barney of Toronto goes to (AMZN)-instead of her book purchases these days. As she puts it: "I won't pay a 50% markup for no reason."

If you happen to be living in Canada, probably within 100/150 miles of the US border, you may be considering driving across the border for shopping. You can also expand the scope of shopping by going online. Following are a few reasons for you to do it:

  • Free Shipping. Several online retailers offer FREE shipping for orders. For instance, Amazon currently offers "FREE Super Saver Shipping." for orders $25 and Over. If you are really into shopping, you could have your online shopping delivered to a mailbox or a friend's place across the border in the US and drive down there during the weekend.
  • No Tax at source. Again, many retailers including currently do not automatically deduct tax for online goods directly sold by them. Depending on the length of your trip and travel outside Canada, you may be eligible for tax-free shopping so you don't have to worry about US State taxes. Check out "Personal exemptions" section of the Canadian Government notification "When you return to Canada, you may qualify for a personal exemption. This personal exemption allows you to bring goods of a certain value into the country without paying the regular duties except for a minimum duty that may apply to some tobacco products."
    • After each absence of 24 hours or more: You can claim up to CAN$50 worth of goods without paying any duties. This is your personal exemption.
    • After each absence of 48 hours or more: You can claim up to CAN$400 worth of goods without paying any duties.
  • Convenience. Online shopping is convenient and flexible.
  • Use your Canadian Credit card. This is the best part about shopping online. Use your Canadian credit card and benefit from a good dollar exchange. Though your card company may charge a small fee for forex, it is still probably worth it.

Reader Comments for Why Canadians Shop in America


Peter : I don't want to burst anyone's bubble but a lot of the perception of increased U.S. shopping activity is due to very long wait times at the U.S. border because Homeland Security has made border crossing irritatingly slow. It would be hard to say the Canadian retailers are hurting. I recently checked 2 fairly new lifestyle commercial-residential power centres here in the Montreal area, both were packed with cars for shopping even as their office towers and condo towers were still under construction. One spreads over 230 acres and I felt I needed a navigation system to get around. The second was even very busy with pedestrian traffic on what seemed like fake city streets. If you do your research you'll find many U.S. shopping centres near Montreal were going under a few years ago while these Canadian centres were being developed. It will take time for the U.S. to catch up and may never in some states like Vermont where 230 acre developments are just not on any agenda.

Strategery : Another reason not to shop in Canada: Sales Taxes. They have national and providence taxes. Maybe Canada can make up sales by exporting more prescriptions.

Roma : We have always been doing this. I live in the states and my family moved to Canada recently. So i shop for them and take it with me whenever I am going there.(which is every two months) Recently I shipped a notebook computer which was still cheaper after I paid for shipping and taxes(Including GST, PST).

Ben H. : The fact of the matter is, it's more expensive overall to live in Canada. It has to do with several factors - smaller market, more packaging (Canadians produce more packaging garbage than the whole U.S. population does), and transportation costs (a smaller network).

shirish kokatay : One would think we have learned by now that that - The more regulated an economy of a country is, the greater the burden the citizens, have to bear in higher costs. Canada is a lot more socialist and more regulated than USA and therefore the mearkets reflect diffent pricing realities. The only effective way for Canadians to not be bothered by the lure of relatively freer markets is to either build a wall to keep the evil free market influences out, or reduce their own regulations, taxes and other burdens to bring down the prices. This is not much of a mystery.

carlos voce : We must have a conciuss thinking about what kind of products are killing our mother earth, or wich products are killing the dignity of the workers in other latinamerican countries.

Robert in Puget Sound : Not surprising there HERE! Beer 6 pack (local!) C$13.00. Sm bag BBQ coals- C$11.00. BUT...everyone GETS a living wage, reasonable healthcare, and rarely do they send their families off to die in some pols' Foreign Mis-adventures. They whine, but they do have it pretty good. They also lack the superpower egomania - LUCKY Canadians!!

Mark : Its funny how prices have only come down since people have complained. The Canadian dollar has been increasing value for years, but prices have basically stayed the same until now. The Canadian retailers really are a greedy bunch. Time for a little pay back this Christmas...

lydia: As an Ebay seller, I see more Europeans buying from me rather than David Yurman and John Hardy (who is a Canadian born designer)from Canadians. I work with them to help them with shipping and other importing issues however we don't see that much of an increase online surprisingly it has remained steady. One would think with the dollar so low that it would increase. On the hand, Australian and European imports are very healthy although USA buyers remain the number 1 source, it appears some are having trouble paying for their items by comparison. Hoping the business climate stays healthy for us designer and artisan jewelers on Ebay!

Hayes : Here in the US, we've driven taxes to a level that is not sufficient to maintain our infrastructure and urban physical plant. We also have private health care with a large uninsured population, creating a public health issue. Oh yes, there's a very expensive unfunded war we're fighting too. As I understand it, Canada's done a pretty good job of having excellent infrastructure and maintaining it on more of a pay as you go basis. Retailers are paying more for some of these taxes and for their less Just-In-Time retailing model, making things more expensive. What Canadians get for these taxes is a much more friendly, social, and sustainable quality of life. As evidence, visit Detroit and Toronto in the same week. Walk the streets of both cities, poor areas included, from 11pm to 9am on a hot August evening and then talk to me about which city you'd rather raise you children in.

Paakow Sackey : Funny that this article should be on today, because I read in one of the local Ottawa newspapers yesterday that Walmart Canada has decided to sell items in their stores across here at US$ prices. Some stores and bigger franchises are beginning to pay heed to the tons of Canadians shopping south of the border. However, I wonder if it is too little too late, perhaps?

Ann : It's a good deal really. When I lived in Canada, I noticed that prices of goods were higher than in the US, but there was so much there that was free or at low cost, like medical care and college. Food, services, and electricity were cheaper. To me, it more than balanced. I wasn't into buying a lot of stuff. But if Canadians can get their stuff cheaper, too, they're living very well at the moment. Maybe I should have stayed there.

Dave M. : I am truly amazed that the Canadian government is blaming retailers for high prices. The problem is shipping goods from the U.S. into Canada. The duties and brokerage fees charged by Canadian officials are outrages. It can actually double the cost of an item going into Canada. Do you really think a company like Wal-Mart Canada is making excessive profits? That is not Wal-Mart's business model. Canadian consumers should be mad at their government and not retailers. I live in the U.S. and have sold goods to Canadian companies for years. There is no way for retailers to absorb the huge fees their government charges when goods are shipped across the border. It is outrageous.

Blake : So true. Especially the last part about buying from the states. I buy everything I can from the US due to the cost difference; even with having to pay shipping, it's still cheaper than going to a store 5 mins away. And I can do it from the comfort of my own home.

Don Oakes : Such a rich topic and so shallow the article! There is no mention of the components making up the higher prices, one of the most significant of which is the tax for universal health care. Look more closely and you will see that most Canadians have a lot of cash around - in their pockets, in their houses or whereever. That's because there are two economies. The tax free economy may be as large as one half the taxed economy because the taxes are so onerous. Drive across the border and you will be asked who you are, why the visit, for how long and if you are carrying any "presents" for friends or relatives. If you really want to see fever pitch buying by Canadians, drop in to an odd-lot discount store in a border town on the U.S. side. The Canadian economy has many problems and the New Hampshire economy has many answers.

Stores scramble to match U.S. prices: Blowout sale! New loonie, new prices! Written on bright neon pink and orange paper, these tags dot the shelves at Mason's Chandlery, a marine supply store in Port Credit. Lucky for owner Lori Mason it's off-season for boat owners, so she has some time to adapt to the new economic reality of the soaring Canadian dollar.

Buyers finding roadblocks to car-shopping in U.S.: Dealers across the border say they don't want to cut in on Canadian turf. Delta resident Gerry Pyke is being stymied in his efforts to engage in a bit of "free trade" by buying a new Toyota Tacoma pickup truck in Washington State, and saving himself, in his estimation, about $6,000. It is not because there is a ban on purchasing and importing autos from the United States - with the Canadian dollar hitting par with U.S. currency, the number of Canadians car shopping across the border is skyrocketing. The roadblock is Toyota's regional distribution agreements which forbid dealers in one region from selling to customers who are going to register their cars in another dealer's territory.

Delayed, rebuked for cross-border shopping trip, say Canadians: A group of Canadians say they were chastised and forced to wait for hours in a bus at a border crossing between Buffalo, N.Y., and Fort Erie, Ont., because they had spent the weekend shopping in the U.S. The trouble for the shoppers, part of a group of 20, started when the bus arrived at the Peace Bridge border crossing on Sunday afternoon, said Angela Deason, a teacher from Barrie, Ont., who was on the vehicle. "We had an amazing time until we tried getting back into our country. We were stuck at the border in excess of five hours and treated very badly," said Deason.

Canadian dollar high spurs US shopping sprees: Bargain-hunting Canadians are hopping over the 49th parallel in their droves for cut-price shopping trips to take advantage of a record high in the foreign exchange strength of the so-called "loonie"

Internet shopping by Canadians causes parcel backlog: A surge in Internet cross-border shopping by Canadians trying to cash in on the soaring loonie is creating headaches for consumers, border service agents and Canada Post. There are already complaints of delivery delays as mail-sorting centers try to dig out from heaps of Canadian Internet order parcels from the U.S. -- and the holiday shopping season is barely under way. "With the retailers in Canada showing an immense reluctance to pass on any value of the dollar, I think there is going to be more and more stuff ordered across the line," Cran said. "This isn't going to go away. It is going to get worse."


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