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I’ve just tried out an interesting shopping service which is pretty unique. You see, living in Europe does have its advantages. One of the problem, however, is that shopping on a U.S. based website can be tricky because many websites will not ship outside the America. Those which do tend to charge a premium for the service; a premium that negates any savings in shopping from them. There’s also a second problem; most credit card verification services require an address to verify that a credit card is legitimate. And if your credit card hasn’t been issues in the U.S., then the verification process is interrupted as the bank cannot verify the card.
However, sometimes you tend to find something unique; which you just need to purchase. And if the retailer doesn’t ship outside the U.S.; well, you’re stuck. Or are you? Enter US Unlocked, a company that provides a unique service allowing you to purchase from any retailer in the U.S. and get the item delivered directly to you home. They provide you with everything you, from a Discover credit card that works in the U.S. all the way to a delivery address. You shop normally from the retailer and use the details they give you. They, when they receive the item you ordered, they ship it directly to your home address.
So, a couple of week ago agreed to trial out their service, after an invitation from FuelMyBlog, a blogging network here in the UK. They put me in touch with Linda Hemerik, the CEO of US Unlocked, who after living in different parts of the world spotted a niche for the service that US Unlocked offers. I agreed to trial the service and off I went.
Creating an account on the system is simple. Just fill in a form and off you go. The next step is slightly more complex, but is only slightly harder and probably the only complicated part of the process. Here you need to supply information so that a credit card can be created for you. As part of this process you also need to provide some valid ID as a fraud-prevention measure if you plan to use your credit card to load up your card. The card is created by another service called NxPay, a payment gateway used by US Unlocked to generate a prepaid Discover card for you. Once this step is completed and you’ve loaded some cash into your card you’re good to go. Here’s what my card looks like (numbers hidden of course):
US Unlocked offers a shopping portal with a selection of the best sites in the U.S. to shop from, but you can also shop from other online retailers. After you’ve selected your goods and proceeded to the checkout process. Before you check out, US Unlocked will give you a quote how much shipping to your country will cost. The great thing is that this quote includes all the ancillary costs that might catch you off-guard; things like VAT and import duties. This means that before actually buying your items you know exactly what it’s going to cost you. If you agree with the quote, you can pay for delivery it up-front using PayPal (or credit card) and proceed to checkout using your prepaid Discover card and a shipping address that US Unlocked supplies. The shipping address is unique and helps US Unlocked identify who the shipment belongs to.
Once you’re done all you have to do is sit back and wait for your package to arrive. In my case, I ordered a couple of books off Amazon and got them just over a week later, which was pretty impressive if you consider how much travelling the packages had to go through. So now I have “Who Moved My Cheese” and “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” to read; two books which have been on my reading list for quite some time.
A couple of words of caution. First of all; if you buy electronics from the U.S., always bear in mind that appliances use a different voltage there; so they might not work here in the UK. So always check before purchasing. The other thing you need to be aware of is the cost of this service. There’s a $15 card creation charge and a $4.50 monthly maintenance charge (if there’s a balance on the card). There’s also a loading charge which varies depending on if you’re loading your card from a bank account or another credit card. This is besides the shipping cost that US Unlocked charge (which according to their FAQ is usually cheaper than the shipping charges retailers charge). Keep in mind, however, that this is a unique service and if there’s something that you can only find in the U.S., then this is the perfect service to lay your hands on it.