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Consider shipping costs when ordering overseas

Oct. 1, 2007 - 06:17PM   |   Last Updated: Oct. 1, 2007 - 06:17PM  |  

Listen up.

A reader at Osan Air Base, South Korea, has an issue with companies that charge extra for shipping to an APO or FPO address. While trying to order a camera online, he was told he'd have to pay $20 more than the usual shipping fee to have it sent to him.

"I thought that was wrong and didn't order," he said.

Are companies wrong in charging extra? Not necessarily. Should you pay it? Not if you can find another option.

Some companies do not charge extra to ship to an APO/FPO address. Some do. Some companies refuse to ship to APO/FPO addresses. Some retailers offer free shipping.

The military exchanges' online store does not charge extra to send to APO/FPO addresses. And in many cases, shipping is free through the online exchange.

Regardless of location, shipping is free for online exchange purchases made with the exchanges' Military Star card. Shipping is free for purchases of $49 or more when you use any other form of payment. Purchases of $48 or less not made with a Military Star card are subject to a standard shipping fee of $4.95.

Bulk fees might be added for oversized items such as refrigerators and furniture, Army and Air Force Exchange Service spokesman Judd Anstey said.

When you consider U.S. Postal Service rates, or other shipping companies' rates, $4.95 can be a good deal.

But be aware that if you buy through the Exchange Online Mall — formerly CentricMall — shipping charges vary by site, because you're not buying directly from the exchanges. Rather, you're getting a discount through companies that have signed agreements to be part of the Exchange Online Mall.

Authorized shoppers are active-duty, retired, National Guard and reserve members and their families, some disabled veterans and their families, surviving spouses and former spouses. You can find out more about prices at http://www.aafes.com">http://www.aafes.com, http://www.usmc-mccs.org">http://www.usmc-mccs.org, http://www.navy-nex.com">http://www.navy-nex.com and http://www.cg-exchange.com">http://www.cg-exchange.com.

At http://www.oconus.com">http://www.oconus.com, you'll find links to some companies that are APO/FPO-friendly. Check their policies to see whether they charge extra for shipping to APO/FPO locations.

If you've found something you really want, but the company will not ship to APO/FPO addresses, check out http://www.shipitAPO.com">http://www.shipitAPO.com. For an extra handling fee that depends on the size and weight of the package, you can have the manufacturer ship the item directly to ShipItAPO, which will forward it to the APO or FPO address. The extra handling fee starts at $7.50 for a package up to 19 pounds.

You'll also pay the postage that the Postal Service charges to get it from the ShipItAPO hub to the location overseas.

To find out rates for mailing packages of various shapes and weights, go to http://www.usps.com">http://www.usps.com. Click on "Calculate Postage" at the top, then go to "Calculate Domestic Postage." When you enter the APO/FPO address, the chart that appears reflects military mail rates.

ATM fees

With the news that Bank of America plans to raise its ATM fees to $3 for noncustomers, other financial institutions cannot be far behind. This means that if your bank is not Bank of America, and you use a Bank of America ATM, you'll be charged $3 — up from $2 — on top of whatever your own bank charges you for that transaction.

Let's say you spend $40 a week for assorted lunches, coffee, etc. If you pull out $20 for the sake of convenience at a Bank of America machine on Tuesday, it will probably cost you $4, including the $3 fee from Bank of America and a $1 fee from your own bank.

Do that again on Friday, and you've just paid $8 to get $40 of your own money. If you did this every week for a month, you would spend $32 to get $160 of your own money.

Instead, scope out the closest ATM in your bank's or credit union's network. Then stop by that ATM on your way home from work on Friday and pull out the $40.

Your bank might reimburse you for noncustomer ATM fees. For example, USAA offers members free ATM use worldwide because it doesn't have brick-and-mortar branches and an ATM network. However, that's limited to 10 free ATM withdrawals and $15 in refunds per month.

Got that? You're good to go.

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