Duty-Free shopping is not as cut and dried as it might seem on the surface. The vast majority of people that buy Duty-Free products have no idea what they are doing and if they are actually saving money or not. In fact, stores and places that sell Duty-Free probably count on that ignorance. Sometimes they sell items for more than you would pay elsewhere and label it Duty-Free anyway. So how can you be a savvy Duty-Free shopper and find the actual deals? It begins with learning what Duty-Free means and the laws that surround this type of shopping.
What is Duty-Free Shopping?
Duty-Free shopping is when you purchase items from airports, places of port, cruise ships, and various other places throughout the world that are free of local taxes (duty taxes) and the additional charges that are often added via the retail chains. Items that you can buy Duty-Free include everything from booze to perfume and anything in between. The savings can be significant, but you can also get taken if you are not careful.
The best items to buy Duty-Free are tobacco and alcohol because they are heavily taxed in most areas. Saving that is a great way to save cash. That said, there are limitations set by your home country as to what you can and can’t do.
Here is a quick overview of the United States laws on the matter:
● Citizens can bring up to $800 bucks into the country without paying, but each $1000 after that is taxed at 3%. Higher taxes apply after that amount.
● Each individual person gets these amounts, so you can combine if you live in the same home. ● Kids are not allowed these amounts on adult items like tobacco and alcohol.
● You must stay at least two days outside the country for these allowances to apply. Only $200 is allowed if you stay less time.
● Alcohol and tobacco have special rulings depending on where you were and where you live. Generally speaking, you can import one carton and one liter.
● These amounts do not reset again until after one month. Frequent travellers are not allowed these amounts within 30 days of one another.
How do I prepare for Duty-Free Shopping?
The most important thing to realize is that Duty-Free shopping is not cut and dried. Knowing the rules above will help you to plan the items that you wish to bring back home when you travel abroad. It also helps to know how much you can get certain items for back home. If you know you are going to investigate fragrances, for example, do some serious research and make a “lowest price list” for your trip. Be sure to figure in total cost including taxes to truly get an idea of whether the savings are worth the hassle.
Duty-Free shopping is not a complicated thing, but it does require that you learn the rules. If you are willing to do some research you can truly find some great bargains. Another common practice is to buy Duty-Free goods with your foreign money rather than converting it back to American. This is a great way to avoid the conversion fees that are often charged when you move back and forth.
Also make sure you consider the exchange rate when you make such decisions. By using a little common sense, you can truly make a difference in your shopping budget. Just pay attention to the Duty-Free details!
Have you experienced Duty-Free shopping? What would you recommend purchasing?