A Beginner's Guide to Buying Internationally on eBay

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From time to time as you browse eBay, you may find yourself wanting to bid on goods listed in other countries. Can you bid on these goods? If so, how do you pay for them?

Generally speaking, the answer is yes, and payment is relatively straightforward. If you are shopping on your home country's eBay site, eBay will show in search results only those items you are eligible to buy according to the sellers' terms. So, if you see an item in your search results, the seller in question is willing to accept payments from you and ship across borders to you.

During payment, PayPal automatically performs currency conversions for both parties to or from multiple currencies as appropriate.

Are There Any Caveats to Buying Internationally on eBay?

Of course, nothing is foolproof, and any online purchases should be handled with care, especially if there may be a language barrier. Be on the lookout for possible problems with your international eBay purchases. 

For instance, some sellers may incorrectly fill out the item listing form, telling eBay that they're willing to ship to your home country when in fact the actual listing states that they do not. It's important to read the listing carefully to ensure that they don't exclude you as a buyer.

Watch Out for Shipping Costs

Buyers should pay careful attention to shipping costs when you are bidding or buying internationally since they can be extremely high for international shipments. Remember that you'll be expected to pay them, no matter what they are, should you win the item in an auction.

Be sure you know what you're getting yourself into. Most sellers will include shipping costs in the final price, but if not, make sure you are aware of how much they will be. 

Factor in Currency Conversion Rates

You'll also want to be aware of any transaction and currency conversion fees. If you use PayPal, you'll be dealing with an exchange rate premium for currency conversions, in addition to cross-border payment fees for international sellers.

Since many credit cards also do automatic currency conversions for you, you may want to check to see whether or not you can get a better deal from your bank or credit card provider if the seller can accept payments directly rather than through PayPal. Be careful about exchanging credit card information; you'll want to be sure your provider offers payment protection if something goes amiss.

Don’t Forget Customs

For international sellers, most shipment companies offer routine customs clearance service. If the person you're buying from is using UPS, for instance, you're all set. It is something to be aware of as a buyer, because if an item fails to clear customs, it may mean a delay in shipment. The seller should be responsible for any return fees if this happens. 

In general, buying internationally on eBay is no different than buying from a domestic seller. Just be aware of the small differences, so you're prepared for the unexpected.