UPS Brokerage Fees: What They Are and How to Avoid Them

Learn about unexpected customs fees that UPS imposes on certain international shipments going to Canada and Mexico
UPS brokerage fees
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If you’ve ever shipped an international package with UPS, you probably felt excited to take advantage of cheap rates and fast delivery (“cheap” depending on the service you choose of course). However, depending on the value of your shipment, you or your recipient also probably had to pay some hefty UPS brokerage fees…which is one of the rudest awakenings we have ever experienced when it comes to international shipping. This guide explains the purpose of those fees, and how you can avoid them in the future.

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UPS Brokerage Fees Apply to All International Services, Not Just Standard Shipments to Canada and Mexico

Though UPS doesn’t advertise them whenever individuals or businesses purchase labels, brokerage fees are a type of customs tax that UPS applies to certain international shipments. We’ll keep it simple for you: UPS brokerage fees apply to all international services. That said, we see them most often in UPS Standard shipments. This is because UPS delivers these packages to Canada and Mexico via ground transportation, and manually clears them through Mexico and Canada’s customs departments. After UPS works to clear the packages through customs, they pass those fees onto you, the shipper. Think of it like an added service that you pay for on top of your postage. While it’s unfortunate that most shippers aren’t aware of them upfront when they buy UPS postage, they still need to be paid…no “ands, ifs, or buts” about it.

To see more about these fees and see the different types of fees your shipment may be subject to, check out the UPS Daily Rates page and enter information about your shipment.

These Fees Still Apply to Labels Purchased with Shipping Software

Think brokerage fees only apply to labels you buy at the UPS Store? Think again! Unfortunately, you aren’t exempt from UPS brokerage fees even if you use shipping software to buy labels online.

Buying labels online through shipping software gives individuals and businesses a lot of perks, including accessing deep discounts through the UPS Digital Access program. However, while you may pay less for your UPS Standard labels themselves, you’ll still need to pay brokerage fees. As we said before, UPS doesn’t build these fees into the cost of their postage. Instead, brokerage fees will often come back to you as secondary charges once your package makes it through your destination country’s customs department.

Some Strategies to Avoid Brokerage Fees

We get it: no one likes having to pay crazy customs fees once a package gets delivered. This is especially true when you may not have known about them in the first place! Here are a couple of ways you can avoid UPS brokerage fees:

Use an Express International UPS Service (Though Fees May Still Apply)

The easiest way to avoid these fees is to opt for an express UPS service! UPS Standard isn’t the only international service UPS offers; there’s also Worldwide Expedited, Worldwide Express, and Worldwide Express Plus…and UPS builds the cost of clearing customs into the prices of these other services. Simply put, because you pay more for these services, you get more bang for your buck. As a general rule of thumb, the more express or “premium” service you pay for, the less likely you are to be subject to brokerage fees from UPS.

Express UPS shipments cover more brokerage fees than UPS Standard service, but it isn’t a 100% dogmatic rule, of course. Although express international UPS services offer free customs clearance, “charges may apply for more complex customs clearance procedures,” according to the UPS website.

Use a Different Carrier Altogether

The second option is to ditch the brown logo and choose a different shipping carrier. As far as our experience goes, UPS is the only carrier to impose brokerage fees on shipments traveling to international destinations after the package is delivered. Other carriers, like USPS and DHL, don’t impose any brokerage fees on their international shipments. Generally speaking, USPS is the most affordable option, offering services such as First Class Package International and Priority Mail International.

If you’re trying to save the most money possible, you’ll need to dig into other niche international services exclusive to certain shipping software companies. One example of a “niche international service” is Simple Export Rate, which is available on Pirate Ship. Simple Export Rate offers the cheapest international rates on the market for packages that weigh 4 pounds or less. On top of saving way more money than you would with UPS, you and your recipients won’t pay brokerage fees!

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One Comment

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  1. Peter J Stock

    two other strategies are:
    1. use a different customs broker and specify that to UPS. They will shift the shipment to that broker.
    2. tell UPS you will clear your own shipment. though that requires going in person to a CBSA location and doing the paperwork yourself. and that is only practical if you live near a major airport (CBSA has very few offices open to the public)


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