Insuring International Destination Packages Through USPS
There's no doubt that eBay is a global marketplace. People in nearly every country around the world buy and sell on eBay, from Abu Dhabi to New Zealand to Zimbabwe.
Often, the subject of insuring their package comes up during the transaction, and I've found that confusion over insurance costs and availability is common. In an effort to get to the truth (good and bad) about insuring international packages, I've written this guide. All dollar amounts are in US dollars.
Is insurance available for every country?
No. USPS will only make insurance available to countries whose mail systems have signed an agreement with USPS regarding the handling, security and timeliness of the mail. For example, insurance is not available on packages sent to Mexico and some countries in Africa.
What mailing methods can be insured?
To countries where insurance is available, packages mailed Priority Mail International can be insured, excluding flat-rate envelopes and small flat-rate boxes. Packages sent via First Class International can not be insured. Leight-weight and/or small items that qualify for First Class International mail will cost a lot more to send if using Priority Mail. For example, a 1 lb 5 oz package to the UK would cost $14.20 to mail via First Class International versus $29.75 via Priority Mail International. For this reason, most buyers don't use Priority Mail International for small items, thereby forgoing insurance.
Global Express Mail Guaranteed and Express Mail International include free $100 insurance.
What is the new indemnity coverage I've heard about?
Quoted from the USPS website:
Indemnity coverage is now provided for all ordinary (uninsured) Priority Mail International items (flat-rate envelope and small flat-rate box not included). This coverage is provided at no additional charge and protects mailers against loss, damage or missing contents. Coverage is calculated based on the weight of the contents or the value of the contents of the parcel, whichever is less. Mailers may still purchase insurance for a fee to many countries. When insurance is purchased, it replaces the idemnity coverage provided on ordinary Priority Mail International parcels.
Addressee is the payee on claims for ordinary Priority Mail International items delivered in damaged condition or with contents missing, if addressee accepts delivery of item. If addresssee waives right to payment, in writing, or the item is returned to the sender, the sender is then eligible to file the claim. Coverage is limited to the actual value of contents or the maximum indemnity based on the weight of the article, whichever is less.
How much does insurance cost and is there a limit to how much an item can be insured for?
Insurance starts at $2.30 for the first $50 for all countries except Canada, which starts at $1.75 for the first $50. For insurance costs, you can go to the USPS website at www. usps .com
Each country has a maximum indemnity limit for reimbursement. For example, Canada's maximum is $675. The USPS website provides a list of all the indemnity limits for every country. Purchasing insurance for values beyond the maximum idemnity limit for that country is a waste of funds as the amount over the maximum will not be reimbursed for loss or damage.
What is USPS Registered Mail and can it take the place of insurance?
USPS Registered Mail is not insurance, but does offer limited protection in the case of loss, rifling or damage as these packages are kept separate and locked away from regular mail with only limited access by certain postal employees in both countries. This service is only available for First-Class Mail International and Priority Mail International Flat-Rate Envelope and small flat-rate box items and is unavailable for Priority Mail International flat-rate or variable weight parcels, or Express Mail International services. The maximum indemnity limit is $47.93, regardless of the value declaration on the package. This means that if you send a $200 watch to Australia via Registered Mail and it disappears, you will only receive $47.93 maximum reimbursement. The cost of USPS Registered Mail is $11.50 per package, which really makes it not worth the cost since the amount of reimbursement is so little.
Should I insure my package?
I'd say yes, especially for packages containing fragile items, however when mailing internationally it gets much more expensive and impractical. Generally, there is no point in spending more for insurance than you paid for the item or more than the item is actually worth. My suggestion is to only insure items that you absolutely can not afford to lose, whether because the item means a lot to you or because it really is too valuable to buy again or would be impossible to replace.
If the package was not insured and I don't receive my package, should I ask the seller to replace my item or refund my money?
Due to eBay's policies, sellers will not be able to offer buyers optional insurance on their package for an extra fee. Because of this new policy, I would suggest that all buyers confirm with each seller if insurance will be included in the S&H fees for their package, especially if delicate, fragile, very expensive or hard-to-replace items are being mailed. Most sellers will automatically insure such fragile items to protect theirs and the buyer's investment in the item if mailing domestically, but due to idenmity limits, insurance costs and other factors, many sellers will not purchase insurance on packages being mailed out of the US.
Please keep in mind that expensive, fragile and delicate items may have a higher Shipping & Handling fee in order to cover postal insurance on the package. Many full-time sellers purchase insurance through a 3rd party for a slightly discounted fee, so even if you don't see a USPS insurance label on your package that does not mean that it's not insured.
If you don't receive your item, don't panic. Give it more time to arrive. Contact the seller and ask for the date it was actually mailed, in case the seller was delayed sending it out. If, after a reasonable amount of time, your item doesn't arrive and the seller can not provide at least a customs number or any proof of mailing, most buyers will ask for a replacement or a refund. Please keep in mind that some sellers may be reluctant to or outright refuse to replace items if they suspect fraud on the part of the buyer or if not enough time has passed for the mailed item to arrive or if they suspect theft on the part of the mail handlers in the destination country. Buyers and sellers should save themselves the hassle by discussing the insurance, or lack thereof, on the package before it is mailed.
What is Restricted Delivery?
Quoted from the USPS website:
Restricted delivery is a service that generally limits who may receive an item. It is limited to First-Class Mail International items (including the Priority Mail International Flat Rate Envelope and small flat-rate box) using Registered Mail service. Each destination country that offers this service has internal legislation governing the details of the service such as whether an agent of the addressee may be able to accept and sign for the delivery. The fee for restricted delivery is $4.50. Service is available to certain countries.
What is Return Receipt?
Quoted from the USPS website:
Return Receipt service provides the sender with confirmation of delivery for Express Mail, Registered Mail, and insured Priority Mail International items. A Return Receipt must be purchased at the time of mailing. The fee for this service is $2.30. Some countries do not admit Return Receipt and many restrict to Registered Mail.
Is the customs number from the required customs declaration form a tracking number or equivalent to US delivery confirmation?
No, it is not. While the customs number on the form (the number that begins with LC on packages 4lbs and under and CP for packages over 4lbs) can be looked up on the USPS website, it is not technically a tracking number or proof of delivery. Many times customs form numbers will only indicate when a package has left the US mail system (meaning it is now in the mail system of the destination country), but it may not indicate if or when a package was delivered. If a package goes missing, the customs number can be used by USPS to try to find the package, but once that package leaves the US mail system, USPS can't do much once it's litterally out of their hands. Since you would then be dealing with another country's mail system, you would, undstandably, get mixed results if trying to use the customs number to prove delivery or locate a pacakge.
There have been times when I've gotten a track record of where the package had been when I've looked up the customs number, but at other times, once it entered the mail system of the destination country, there were no more recorded stops for that package, not even after it was delivered. The upshot is: don't rely on the customs number as a tracking number as it is not the same thing and can't be relied upon to prove delivery. If at least some stops along it's route have been recorded and can be shown under that customs number on the USPS website, you may have proof that it was mailed, but it may not be acceptable proof to certain parties if the buyers don't have the package in hand. Luckily, very few international packages are permanently lost, so relying on a customs form number to try to prove delivery or mailing is very infrequent for most sellers.