HomeTravelWhat does 'duty-free' mean? - The Points Guy

What does ‘duty-free’ mean? – The Points Guy

Published on

In case you’re like me, you continuously browse the gadgets strategically positioned close to the checkout lane at grocery shops as you wait in line, asking your self if you could add only one extra merchandise to your cart.

This concept of shopping for issues you do not essentially want additionally runs via my thoughts continuously at airports due to duty-free retailers. They entice me with the attract of saving cash by procuring sans an import tax on goods transported internationally.

I most lately shopped for duty-free gadgets at Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) after spending every week looking for easy shortbread cookies and plain chocolate for Mother’s Day to no avail.

Not solely did I discover some on the duty-free store in CDG’s Terminal 2, however I additionally realized if I used to be getting one thing for her, I ought to in all probability get one thing for my dad, too. Consequently, I purchased two packing containers of cookies and a chocolate bar.

Whether or not your subsequent worldwide journey occurs to coincide with searching for a liked one otherwise you simply desire a preflight snack, here is all the pieces you could find out about duty-free procuring.

What’s duty-free procuring?


In case you’ve ever flown internationally, you’ve got doubtless at the very least observed (if not shopped for) duty-free gadgets on the airport whereas in your technique to one other nation.

Actually, some bigger airports, together with Heathrow Airport (LHR) and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), have almost 20 duty-free shops to select from.

What precisely does “duty-free” imply, although? All of it comes right down to taxes.

Obligation-free shops enable outgoing vacationers to buy with out being taxed regionally, so you should buy choose gadgets with out paying an obligation as long as you transport them throughout worldwide borders, per U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Join our each day e-newsletter

Obligation-free shops are sometimes positioned in worldwide terminals, although common terminals with worldwide flights can also provide duty-free choices.

Vacationers can purchase a variety of luxurious gadgets at these shops, together with meals, alcohol, tobacco, equipment, fragrances and wonder merchandise. A few of the commonest duty-free retailer manufacturers are Dufry, DFS Group, Worldwide Shoppes, Obligation Free Americas and World Obligation Free.

Together with duty-free shops, you can too store duty-free at some airport retail shops. For instance, the high-end British style model Burberry says that “Gadgets might be bought tax free in chosen airport shops,” together with at LHR.


Vacationers may buy duty-free gadgets on-line from duty-free shops and particular person retail outposts. As soon as they resolve which gadgets to buy, they will select a reserved time to choose up their order.

How does duty-free procuring work?

To purchase duty-free gadgets, find the duty-free shops at your airport. Most airports listing their numerous retailers on-line. Nonetheless, you can too seek for duty-free retailers particularly, as illustrated beneath with Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD).

Obligation-free retailers at O’Hare Worldwide Airport (ORD) in Chicago. FLYCHICAGO.GOV

Earlier than heading to the duty-free retailer, you should definitely seize your boarding pass since you will doubtless be requested to indicate this as proof that you’re departing the nation on an upcoming flight.

In case you purchase liquids on the duty-free retailer, comparable to liquor, perfume or lotions, know that duty-free gadgets are exempt from carry-on liquid limits set by airport companies, so you may pack bigger liquids in your carry-on bag when coming again to the U.S. That is the case even when you have a connecting flight.

To keep away from any points with bringing your gadgets via safety, hold every buy within the tamper-proof plastic bag it is wrapped in by the duty-free retailer worker till you permit the airport. Maintain on to your receipt since chances are you’ll be requested to indicate it as proof of your buy.

Sure international locations place buy caps on choose gadgets, comparable to tobacco and alcohol. In addition they restrict the amount of cash you may spend on worldwide purchases with out being charged an obligation tax.

Presently, People can spend as much as $800 inside 31 days with out being taxed for his or her purchases, in line with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. To confirm duty-free allowances to your explicit nation, go to the Duty Free Americas website.

Learn extra: Where are the cheapest duty-free stores? We checked 50 airports to find out

Can duty-free procuring save me cash?

Though you may probably lower your expenses by shopping for duty-free gadgets, how a lot chances are you’ll save is dependent upon the particular merchandise and your location.

A 2019 TPG cost comparison of things from duty-free shops at greater than 50 airports throughout six continents concluded that the costs of things at duty-free retailers different by location and typically even between totally different duty-free retailers on the similar airport.

General, it is most cost-effective to purchase alcohol within the Caribbean, cosmetics and fragrances in Europe, and tobacco in Asia, in line with the examine.

To get the perfect value doable, do your homework earlier than your journey. Analysis the costs of comparable or an identical gadgets at airports with a number of duty-free retailers forward of time. Additionally, bear in mind to check these costs to non-duty-free retailers.

Remember to think about the power of the U.S. greenback in opposition to the native foreign money the place the store is positioned. You are able to do this through the use of a foreign money converter comparable to XE.

In case you’re touring to Europe, do not forget that the duty-free retailers are freed from a value-added tax, so it can save you as much as 27%, relying on the nation you are visiting.

“The important thing to a profitable duty-free buy is math. There are some good offers on the market, however all too usually, I’ve discovered that I can get higher costs at residence,” stated TPG govt editor Scott Mayerowitz. “Know your costs and trade charges. Do not be afraid to take out your telephone and examine costs with on-line retailers.”

Can you purchase duty-free gadgets exterior of airports?

Along with airports, some cruise ships, like Royal Caribbean’s new Wonder of the Seas and Norwegian Cruise Line’s new Norwegian Prima have duty-free retailers on board.

“All greater ships have shops on board, often just a few, that promote all the pieces from cruise line brand put on to souvenirs,” stated Gene Sloan, TPG’s principal cruise author.

“Even when not particularly labeled duty-free, they’re, in principle, all duty-free within the sense that there isn’t any native tax so long as the ship is at sea in worldwide waters. For that reason, cruise ships is not going to open their onboard shops till they’re out in worldwide waters — so they do not have to gather a tax.”

Can you employ miles to buy duty-free?


Despite the fact that you may use some airline miles at duty-free stores, you will wish to calculate how a lot worth you may get from utilizing miles on flights in comparison with duty-free gadgets.

For instance, you could possibly spend 4,500 Emirates Skywards miles for a $20 credit score at a duty-free retailer at Dubai International Airport (DXB), which will get you simply 0.4 cents per mile, means beneath TPG’s current valuation of Emirates miles at 1.2 cents apiece.

Earlier than redeeming your miles this fashion, examine that earnings fee to the worth of an Emirates flight utilizing Skywards miles versus money.

For instance, you could possibly e-book a round-trip flight from John F. Kennedy Worldwide Airport (JFK) to Milan Malpensa Airport (MXP) for 45,000 miles plus $141 in taxes or $804 in money this April. By utilizing miles, you’d get a redemption fee of roughly 1.47 cents per mile, a a lot increased fee than the duty-free redemption choice.

As an alternative of utilizing your miles for duty-free purchases, you could possibly use them to e-book an Emirates flight, which is prone to yield extra worth than utilizing your miles to buy duty-free.

Utilizing your miles to e-book flights as an alternative of utilizing them to buy duty-free is probably going a greater deal throughout airline currencies.

Backside line

Chances are you’ll ask your self whether or not you must store duty-free earlier than boarding your subsequent worldwide flight residence. In case you’ve performed the suitable comparisons and calculations, it must be clear whether or not it is smart to purchase duty-free primarily based on projected financial savings.

It might not all the time make monetary sense to purchase duty-free gadgets. Nonetheless, when it does, use a credit card with zero foreign transaction fees when making your buy. Additionally, bear in mind how tough it’s to seek out the merchandise you are hoping to purchase.

“I take pleasure in bringing residence liquor, however I do know the costs at my native retailer and if one thing is an effective deal or not,” Scott shared. “Normally, I solely purchase native spirits that I am unable to discover at residence. And even then, I have to issue within the problem of lugging residence a bottle or two and risking that it’d break alongside the journey.”

If the worth you will acquire from shopping for that merchandise outweighs the inconvenience of bringing it residence, it might be well worth the funding — even when it requires spending some more money.

Supply: thepointsguy.com

Latest articles

More like this