After months of extensive research and testing, we’ve found Planet Express to be the best, cheapest, most reliable package and mail forwarding service in the United States.
If you’re looking to shop online in the U.S., or to have mail or documents from the U.S. forwarded to you abroad, Planet Express is almost certainly the best option forwarding service for you.
What Is Planet Express?
Founded in 2017 to serve those living outside the United States, Planet Express is a California- and Oregon-based package forwarding service for mail and online purchases. It uses an efficient, low-cost forwarding model that receives goods at its warehouse in California or Oregon and ships them directly to buyers all over the globe. Of all the package forwarding companies we’ve looked at, Planet Express has both the lowest rates and the most reliable service of any we’ve seen.
November 2019 Update: Planet Express just opened an Oregon warehouse that can accept packages and avoid the 9.5% sales tax imposed on purchases made within California. It’s just one more reason why Planet Express is such an excellent package forwarding option.
Planet Express is also a full-service fulfillment agent for e-commerce businesses, for whom it offers services like advanced fulfillment, universal pricing, low shipping rates, and order-management software. Businesses can store their products in the Planet Express warehouse and have them automatically shipped out when they receive an order to their Shopify or other online store.
This review will focus on the first of these two business models: Planet Express’ package forwarding service. So if you’re looking to shop online from American retailers and get your items shipped to you overseas, read on!
#1 The Top 13 Features Of Planet Express
#1 Your Own U.S. Shipping Address:
As soon as you sign up with Planet Express, you get your own shipping/warehouse address, as well as a unique account number and box number. This means you can use their warehouse address as easily as you’d use your own home address when you shop online.
#2 Hassle-Free U.S. Shopping:
With a Planet Express account and unique shipping address, you’ll never run into problems shopping with any U.S. based stores. Simply use your U.S. shipping address when you order, and Planet Express will forward them on to you.
#3 The Industry’s Lowest Rates:
Planet Express can offer the lowest forwarding rates in the industry because of its unique “consolidation” system of shipping (more on that below). And because Planet Express ships huge volumes of goods on a daily basis, they get seriously discounted pricing from shippers like UPS and DHL all over the globe, discounts that they pass on to you. Planet Express customers often save as much as 80% when compared to single-use international shipping rates.
#4 Free Photos Of Packages:
Every package is photographed for free upon arrival in the Planet Express warehouse. The photos show the sender’s name and address and also the condition of the package as it arrived. If you want additional, detailed photos of your package, you can request them for as little as $2 for 3 photos, or if you order photos before your package arrives, they’re half price ($1 for 3 additional detailed photos).
#5 Intuitive Web Interface:
The Planet Express web interface allows you to manage all of your packages and have them shipped out to you when you’re ready. It’s extremely easy to use, and is available 24/7 for your convenience.
#6 Special Requests:
Special requests encompasses everything we haven’t mentioned above. Want the invoice removed from your package so you can forward it to a friend or customer? Easy. Want to split your purchase in half and send it to two different addresses? No problem. Ask and you shall receive. Special requests cost a flat fee of $5 no matter the request.
#7 Zero Hidden Fees:
There are never any hidden fees with Planet Express. All costs, charges and fees are disclosed up front, so you’ll never be surprised by a charge you didn’t know about. See our detailed section on costs below.
#8 Exceptionally Cheap Storage:
It’s worth pointing out how remarkably cheap storage is with Planet Express. You get 10 days of free storage with every package that you purchase (45 days free if you’re on the Consolidated Package Plan), though even if you exceed that number, storage only costs one cent per pound per day. That means if you store a 2-lb package there for a month, your bill will only be $0.60!
#9 Helpful & Friendly Customer Service:
The customer service team at Planet Express is fantastic. I rarely have to contact support, since their online interface is extremely easy to navigate, but in the rare case that I do, they’ve always solved my problem within a matter of minutes. Other online reviews say the same thing. We’ve included contact information at the bottom of this post–I recommend calling or emailing.
#10 Secure Packing:
Planet Express only uses top-quality boxes and shipping supplies to ensure every order makes it to you without damage of any kind.
#11 Package Consolidation For Maximum Savings:
Package consolidation is one of the main ways that Planet Express is able to save customers on shipping expenses. Every item that’s shipped individually to either their California or their Oregon warehouse can be combined and sent to the customer in a single shipment instead of many shipments, which can easily reduce your shipping costs by well over 50%. Packing material and empty space is eliminated when you consolidate your packages, which makes for less space and weight in the final shipment.
As an example, suppose you send five packages to your Planet Express warehouse address over the course of a month. The individual shipping cost for the five separate items might be $10 apiece, or $50 total. When you combine them into a single box, the shipping cost could be $14, a savings of 72%. The exact numbers will depend on the weight and size of each item, but you get the idea. Here’s a video showing an example of package consolidation:
#12 “Shop For Me”:
If you can’t place a purchase directly with a U.S. retailer, perhaps because you don’t have a credit card accepted there, Planet Express’ “Shop For Me” service will do it for you. Just log into your account page, give them a link to what you want to buy and any product specifications they need to know (size, color, etc.) and they’ll buy it for you. There’s a $5 processing fee for the Shop For Me service, plus 7% of the item’s purchase price.
If you’re in this situation where you need to use Shop For Me, highly recommend signing up with the online-only bank N26 for your next purchase. N26 is completely free and gives you a MasterCard that you can use anywhere in the world. Read our in-depth N26 review for a list of the 150+ countries eligible to sign up for an N26 account.
#13 Order Fulfillment For Business Owners And Sellers:
Business owners and e-commerce sellers or dropshippers can use Planet Express as a one-stop shipping and fulfillment center. The company offers e-commerce fulfillment, subscription box fulfillment, and even Amazon fulfillment options. Their e-commerce fulfillment pricing is highly competitive, easy to understand and comes with discounts in line with what they offer on the package forwarding side.
#2 How To Use Planet Express
Using Planet Express requires three distinct steps:
- Buy your item. There are two main reasons you’d use Planet Express: either you can’t get what you want to buy shipped to your country, or the shipping charge they want you to pay is extremely expensive. So just buy the item, have it shipped to Planet Express, and then wait for it to arrive. (Note: you have the option of adding an “Expected Package” in the Planet Express system, which notifies the warehouse of your incoming package. This isn’t necessary, but it does speed up the processing time for your package.)
- Manage your item: Once your item has arrived at the Planet Express warehouse, you have several options of what to do with it. You can request additional photos of it, you can consolidate multiple packages into one, repack it into a smaller package (for cheaper shipping) or add a special request for whatever else you need done.
- Ship your item: When you’re ready, ship your item out to you using the shipping service of your choice.
#3 Planet Express’ Fee Structure
Planet Express has an easy-to-understand pricing set-up. It’s free to sign up, though you do need to add a $5 deposit to receive your shipping address, which you can then put toward your first purchase.
There are two plans: the One Package Plan and the Consolidated Package Plan. The One Package Plan works best for shoppers who typically buy just a single item at a time, while the Consolidated Plan is for more frequent shoppers.
One Package Plan
- No account fee
- $2 for shipping/handling of each package
- Shipping discounts on all carriers
- 10 days of free storage
- 1 cent per pound per day of additional storage
- Package trashing/deletion is free
- Manual photo requests are $2 for 3 general photos and $5 for 10 detailed photos (these costs are 50% off if you order photos before your package arrives)
- Special requests are $5 flat fee per item
- “Shop For Me” service fees are $5 flat for each item plus 7% of the purchase price of the item
Consolidated Package Plan
- All of the benefits of the One Package Plan
- Account fee of $10/month or $50/year
- Consolidation fee of $5 flat plus $2 per package in each consolidated order
- 45 days of free storage
#4 My personal experience with Planet Express
I used Planet Express for the first time to buy a pair of Nike shoes on Zappos.com. Zappos doesn’t ship internationally, so I needed to either buy the shoes somewhere else (where they were more than double the price) or use a package forwarding service. I did my research and came across Planet Express.
I ordered my shoes from Zappos to my Planet Express address, and less than 24 hours later, I got an email from Planet Express saying they’d arrived. This incredible speed is partly due to Zappos’ extremely fast shipping, and partly due to Planet Express’ extremely fast processing. Other package forwarding services I’ve used in the past can take up to 2-3 days to process my incoming packages, but not Planet Express. They were ready to ship it out as soon as I gave them the go-ahead. However, I was also planning to order a hat from another retailer, so I just had Planet Express hold onto my Nikes for now.
A few days later, I ordered my hat, and two days after that, it also arrived at the Planet Express warehouse. Now I was ready to ship my items out. I had them consolidate the packages, a service that costs $10 per month (or $50/year), and got a quote to have them shipped to me. To ship both the shoes and the hat to me in Istanbul, Turkey cost $12, including insurance on both items. They arrived exactly 21 days (15 business days) later.
#5 The Planet Express Postage Calculator
The Planet Express Postage Calculator makes it easy to know shipping costs before ordering a product. Simply enter the destination country, weight, size and value of the item to learn how much shipping that item will cost you.
Planet Express usually offers at least five shipping options for every package, no matter where in the world you are. The costs of these options vary on the amount of time they take to get to you and the size/weight of your package. FedEx and DHL tend to be more expensive, while local shipping options and Planet Mail, Planet Express’ own shipping option, tend to be cheaper. Here are just a few of the options given by the postage calculator for an item to be shipped to Canada.
And here’s what it would cost to send the exact same package to Germany:
#6 How does Planet Express deal with customs & restricted items?
What makes Planet Express so great is how incredibly simple they make cross-border transactions, and the way they deal with customs forms is no different. As you can see in the photo below, it takes about 30 seconds to fill out a customs form with them and then you’re done. All you need to enter is a description of the product (eg. “Shoes”), its value, and whether it contains any batteries or not. Here’s what the customs form looks like:
Keep in mind that in order to open an account with Planet Express, you must agree with USPS 1583, which is a very standard form required by the U.S. Postal Service for someone else to accept mail on your behalf.
Just like any other carrier, Planet Express will not ship the following items:
- Corrosive, explosive, flammable, compressed/pressurized items, chemical solutions of any form, hazardous materials
- Flammable liquids or paint
- Prescription drugs, illegal substances or any form of drugs (alcohol is OK to ship)
- Perishable food items
- Human or animal remains, live or dead animals or plants
- Identification, money, precious metals
- Electronic equipment or equipment requiring an ECCN (Export Control Classification Number)
- Firearms or firearms parts, rifle scopes, red dot sights, ammo or any items under restriction by ITAR, the Department of Commerce, US Customs Border Protection or the US Department of Treasury
- Lithium-ion batteries are allowed, though only PI966 (lithium-ion batteries packed with equipment) or PI967 (lithium-ion batteries contained inside equipment)
- Standalone lithium-ion batteries like power banks and back-up batteries (PI965) are not allowed
#7 How to sign up for Planet Express
With its impressive track record and thousands of positive reviews from regular users, Planet Express has quickly made a name for itself as the cheapest, most reliable package forwarding service in the United States. I particularly like their seamless web experience and low, transparent pricing. As far as my extensive research and testing is concerned, there’s no better package forwarded in the U.S.
#8 Planet Express FAQs
How can I pay for Planet Express?
Planet Express accepts credit cards, debit cards, Amazon Pay, PayPal international wire transfers, Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash via BitPay.
What carriers does Planet Express use?
Planet Express works with different carriers depending on where in the world your shipment is going. For example, customers in Germany can receive mail via German Post, while customers in Hong Kong will receive it directly from Hongkong Post. You can use their Postage Calculator to see which carrier they’ll ship your package with and how many days it will take.
What countries will Planet Express ship to?
Planet Express ships to every country in the world, except the few that are currently under international embargoes: North Korea, Iran, Cuba, Myanmar, Syria, Sudan and Crimea.
How does Planet Express compare with other cross-border package forwarding services?
The main differences between Planet Express and other package forwarding services is in both price and processing time. Planet Express uses package consolidation and has one of the most efficient business models in the industry, which is why they’re able to beat competitors’ prices by up to 45 percent with USPS shipments and even more (up to 80 percent) when using other carriers. Planet Express is also able to process order requests within hours, compared to the couple of days it generally takes other forwarders.