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The holiday season is in full swing, but this year is presenting revelers with several challenges. Amid rising costs and supply-chain constraints, shipping will be more expensive and potentially face extended delays.
Estimates from the State of Holiday Shipping report from LateShipment.com indicate between 16% to 20% of packages shipped with UPS and FedEx will not arrive on time during the 2021 holiday season. And this has many Americans worried, as Loqate's 2021 Holiday Shopper Insights Report found 80% of consumers are concerned with packages arriving in time for their celebrations.
Fortunately, with careful planning, there are some ways to save. Ahead, Select spoke with Sarah Casalan Bittle, president of The UPS Store about what consumers can do to ensure a stress-free shipping experience this holiday season, regardless of which delivery service they choose.
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Headlines have reiterated one common theme this holiday season: Don't wait until the last minute.
Bittle emphasized the importance of knowing your shipping provider's deadlines in order to get your gifts where they need to go on-time.
If you plan on shipping with UPS, its deadlines for packages to arrive before Christmas Day are:
- December 15 via UPS Ground
- December 21 via UPS 3 Day Select®
- December 22 via UPS 2nd Day Air®
- December 23 via UPS Next Day Air®
If you plan to ship with FedEx, the deadlines for on-time Christmas arrival are:
- December 9: Ground and Freight Economy
- December 15: Ground and Home Delivery
- December 21: Express Saver
- December 22: 2Day & 2Day-AM
- December 23: Overnight services
- December 24: Same-day services
If the United States Postal Service (USPS) is your preferred shipping method, its deadlines are:
- December 15: USPS Retail Ground® Service
- December 17: First-Class Mail® Service
- December 18: Priority Mail® Service
- December 23: Priority Mail Express® Service
Additionally, the longer you wait, the more expensive it will be to ship your package to ensure it reaches its destination on time. And even with next-day services, there is no guarantee your package will make it on time as delays are inevitable.
A quarter of parcels shipped via FedEx Overnight and 11.2% of parcels shipped via UPS Next Day Air were delayed during the 2020 holiday season, according to the Holiday Report from LateShipment.com.
For the sake of your wallet and keeping the holiday spirit, Bittle summarized her number-one tip in two simple words: "Ship early."
Nothing is worse than opening a box to discover a broken or damaged gift. So if you're shipping something fragile this holiday season, proper packaging is vital.
The same report from LateShipment.com reports that 10% of all parcels shipped are either delayed, lost or damaged.
Bittle suggests a few tips for consumers to keep their holiday presents safe and secure during transit:
- Use a sturdy box, rated for shipping. She doesn't recommend using cereal boxes or shoe boxes.
- Use air pillows or cushioning. Even if something isn't glass, any shifting around during shipment can damage the item, or the item can damage the box enough for it to open.
- Seal with graded packaging tape. Duct tape or painters tape is not durable enough and could cause your box to open during transit.
- Remove any prior labels or barcodes. This could cause logistical issues for your shipment.
The term porch-pirate has become common, especially around the holidays. According to C+R Research, 43% of respondents had at least one package stolen in 2020. If you're shipping something of value, be sure to consider a few options:
- Shipping insurance: Nearly all shipping providers offer insurance to ensure you're packages are covered in the case they are damaged or lost, for an additional fee. The fees differ based on what shipping provider you choose, as well as the value of the item. For example, if you ship with USPS, insurance rates start at $2.45. However, some shipping services come with complimentary insurance. If it's an expensive item or something of sentimental value, Bittle encourages purchasing additional insurance. "Look at the valuation of the item and understand the scope of the protection you purchase," she suggests.
- Safe arrival and opt-in text service: If you're concerned about package theft, UPS offers in-store holding of items for pick-up. In this case, you can automate text updates to monitor the shipping process, and ensure your package makes it to a local UPS store.
If you're shipping something from Amazon, you can take advantage of Amazon-branded lockers where you can pick up any items you ordered from the retailer. Once the package arrives, you'll receive information via text on the locker location and how to retrieve the package.
Before you set out to mail your holiday gifts, look into discounts to help reduce the cost. Here are a few examples of discounts that are available:
- AAA: Show your AAA membership card for 5% off domestic and international UPS® shipping and 15% on other eligible products and services.
- AARP: Show your AARP membership card for save 15% off eligible products and services and 5% off domestic and international UPS® shipping services.
- USAA: Show your USAA membership card to save up to 36% on select FedEx Express International® services and 28% on select FedEx Express shipping services within the U.S.
- Amex Offers: If you have an American Express card, you may be able to find an Amex Offer to help you save on your purchase. Currently, my Amex customer portal is giving me this discount when I use my Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express.
This is not an exhaustive list: Call ahead to see what discounts your local shipping provider offers.
Additionally, if you're shopping online, there are many ways to save on shipping costs. For example, several cards, including Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express and Citi® Double Cash Card (see rates and fees), offers free ShopRunner benefits — giving cardholders free two-day shipping from over 100 retailers. (Read our full article on how to take advantage of the ShopRunner benefit.)
The holidays can be a stressful time for many reasons, and shipping gifts to bring holiday cheer to friends and loved ones shouldn't be one of them. While there isn't much you can do about the rising prices and shipping delays, you can help combat them with discounts, using the right credit card and taking the necessary precautions to ensure your package arrives on time and safely.