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Is it Worth Shopping in the States to Get a Good Deal?

A woman cross-border shopping online.By Julie Jaggernath

Canadian retailers are again anticipating a busy holiday shopping season, but they also know that many consumers are especially savvy as they hunt down the best possible deals. If electronics are at the top of everyone’s wish list in your house this year, one place you may look for deals is in the States. But is shopping state-side worth it?

Before you think about shopping at an American retailer or get caught up in the hype of Black Friday promotions, create a list of pros and cons, based on what you’re planning to buy.

Then use your list to help you make budget-conscious decisions, not emotional ones.

Start by Making a List of Pros & Cons

Check online to find out what stores on both sides of the border are offering. Look at store and product reviews as well as special offers and incentives for in-store and online buying. Check price matching policies, which may have changed since last year with the decline of the Canadian dollar against American currency.

Credit Card Fees & Points

Call your credit card company to find out if you pay an additional fee to use your card at an American retailer. If you’re required to pay a small fee, in addition to any exchange rate, you might be better off purchasing in Canada. Do the same if you’re planning to pay with debit across the line.

If you have store loyalty cards or credit card points to redeem, think about using those now. It’s early enough in the season that you will receive orders in time for gift giving.

In addition to shopping considerations, think about:

Warranties & Exchanges

If you need to return or exchange something, you’ll need to either make another trip south or ship your item back to the States. Warranties often don’t apply in Canada, for example with electronics, so factor that into your buying decisions.

Paying Duty

Depending on how long you plan to be in the US, or if you ship purchases to a Canadian versus American address,  find out what the rules are, and how much it will cost you if you go over import limits.

Traveling South to Shop in Person

While your kids may post their wish list quite prominently on the fridge, or text it to you on a daily basis, also think about how best to treat your spouse. Many spouses don’t exchange gifts, but think about taking a mini-vacation with them to do the shopping for the kids, and make the trip your gift to each other. Tag on a nice dinner, show or extra night to make what you’re spending on travel, accommodation, meals (and duty) worthwhile.

Related: What Does It Really Cost to Shop in the US?

The Bottom Line on Shopping in the States for a Good Deal: Worth It or Not?

There’s no deal to be had if you go into debt with what you buy either in Canada or in the States; it simply isn’t worth it. Routinely carrying a balance on your credit cards can add as much as 50% to the purchase price of everything you buy. If you plan to use a credit card for your purchases, also have a plan how to pay debts off in no more than 6 months. 

When it comes right down to it, let your budget be your guide, so that you still have money left to enjoy the rest of the season!


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