If you do a light Google search, you’ll find many articles that the cheapest international shipping is by using the US Postal Service. However, this conclusion only applies if you plan to ship domestically within the US.

Does the same apply to international shipping from the US? In that case, what is the cheapest way to ship?

I’ve decided to do some research and compare prices between USPS and popular express couriers to see who offers the best rates.

I personally ship often from Connecticut, USA to Hong Kong; considering how long a distance this is, I figured it would be a good example to use.

Which USPS service is the cheapest way to ship internationally?

Researching USPS international rates can feel overwhelming, as there are  different services based on your delivery time frame. You also have to take pricing based on weight and destination into account.

They also have specific pricing for certain countries, while some countries are assigned to a particular pricing group. (In my case, I found out Hong Kong is under “Group 3”, while mainland China actually has their own specific rates.) Do keep this in mind if you’re brave enough to navigate their complicated pricing tables.

The allure of flat rate shipping

At first glance, Priority Mail International – Flat Rate service appears to be the cheapest way to mail a package. A small box being sent to Hong Kong from my zip code in Connecticut is priced at $31.95 with a maximum weight of 4 lbs.

Seeing that the box dimensions are 8 11/16" x 5 7/16" x 1 3/4", the caveat here is that if you are a small business shipping out goods, it is unlikely to fit merchandise that is heavier than 2 pounds into a box this size (according to the experienced folks at My Wife Quit Her Job.)

It is more realistic to say that you’d use the medium flat rate box to ship anything that weighs over 2 lbs.

Before we go any further, let’s see how the price of the small flat rate box compares to other USPS services at the 2 lb mark, in addition to express couriers:

The cheapest way to ship from US to HK

It turns out that Priority Mail International – Flat Rate service is the cheapest way to ship internationally, especially if you don’t have a business account with express couriers.

It’s interesting to see that the retail price for express couriers such as UPS and FedEx can reach 3 figures (!!!) compared to USPS.

Comparing prices of Priority Mail International – Flat Rate for medium sized box

Now, let’s go back to the assumption that it’s more realistic to use the medium flat rate box to ship anything that weighs over 2 lbs. The medium box’s dimensions are 14" x 12" x 3 1/2", is priced at $67.95, and the maximum weight is 20 lbs.

After studying the pricing charts, my research shows the break even point for using the international medium flat rate box in this case is 6 lbs. So, if the weight of the package is between 6-20 pounds, the medium flat rate box will be the cheapest way to ship.

Let’s compare prices of the medium sized Flat Rate box, with a package weight of 6 lbs:

The cheapest way to ship from US to HK

But… you WILL get what you pay for.

Now, if we were to base our experience strictly on costs, clearly USPS is the cheapest way to send a package by a long shot.

But considering USPS’ not-so-stellar record of delivery times (they do not guarantee or commit to them), paired with spotty tracking service, it may not be worth it if you're running a business and looking to build trust with your overseas customers.

This is where Easyship can help.

Remember how expensive those express courier rates were if you didn’t have a business account with special negotiated rates? Let’s take a look at the 2 lb package rates:

The cheapest way to ship from US to HK

1 To get this figure, Easyship uses past shipments and looks at the median for the min and at the upper .85 percentile for the max.

The 6 lb rates don’t look too bad:

The cheapest way to ship from US to HK

1 To get this figure, Easyship uses past shipments and looks at the median for the min and at the upper .85 percentile for the max.

With Easyship, using express couriers are slightly more affordable.

But here’s a twist: what if I were to tell you that there is a dark horse when it comes to the cheapest courier that’ll ship to Hong Kong?

The cheapest way to ship from US to HK

The dark horse turns out to be SF Express, a regional courier that focuses on deliveries to Hong Kong and mainland China!

At $38.32, it turns out to be the cheapest shipping company, beating out USPS’ flat rate at the 6 lb mark.

This goes to show that although USPS does provide competitive international rates, it’s possible that their prices can be beat by a regional courier.

To conclude:

  • USPS international rates are cheaper than UPS and FedEx.
  • Using UPS and FedEx to ship internationally without a business account can be really costly, with rates almost being 3x higher than USPS.
  • With Easyship, you can save more than 50% on express courier rates when shipping internationally.
  • The results may surprise you when getting a quote on Easyship’s platform - you may find that a regional courier could end up being the cheapest way to ship.

If you want to learn more about shipping internationally, we suggest you start here.

To learn more about the courier services used in the comparisons, check out the following links:

USPS Priority Mail International
Fedex International Priority
FedEx International Economy

Also, if you're interested in more affordable international shipping options, consider checking out our hybrid solutions

Still can’t believe your eyes? Try and get a quote for your international shipment. Like what you see? Sign up for Easyship - it’s free!

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