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How to shop on popular US websites from outside the US-The work arounds

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When we started our company back in 2008 we did not name it US Unlocked for nothing. Unlocking online shopping in the USA for the international shopper is what we are dedicated to. Through trial and error as well as listening carefully to our users’ experiences we already unlocked quite a few US websites. Thanks to “unlocking” the Barnes & Noble website people around the world are reading books on their Nook and downloading eBooks daily and seamlessly from the B&N website.

There are so many other US websites out there, that seemingly make it impossible for anyone outside America to order from. We managed to find out the ‘work around’ them and want to share that information with you.

In general there are two golden rules when it comes to smooth ordering on US websites:

1) Billing and shipping addresses should be the same.

Different addresses for billing and shipping raise a flag and especially for websites with strict fraud prevention control this is an immediate reason to not accept or cancel the order. Billing address is the address registered to your credit card, so the address where you receive your statements. Many websites use AVS, address verification software. When the billing address you submitted does not match with the credit card according to the AVS, the order is canceled by the webstore. Not every webstore uses AVS, however. Especially since AVS is only for US, UK and Canadian addresses. So these websites will accept your order as long as the billing and shipping address are the same.

2) Use a vpn connection/IP shield

Many websites monitor the IP location of their visitors and only allow the ones with US IP address to purchase. This can be easily solved by using for example the free software from Hotspot Shield. It works as a tunnel and converts your IP address into a US IP address. Using a vpn connection also provides https encryption of your time and actions on the web, protection against identity theft and “snoopers” at wifi location. For customers in countries with censorship, an IP shield provides access to otherwise blocked sites.

If you use these two golden rules, you already get a long way. Still there are some more things to know in order to successfully purchase from some very popular websites.We have already discussed the step by step order process of the Nook, the Que proReader and the Google Nexus One in previous blog posts, but here is a list of the top 5 websites most purchased from and how to successfully place your order:

1) iTunes

Apple has among the strictest rules that are geared to preventing fraud but mostly to protect their US market. Although any nationality can have an iTunes accounts, the US iTunes version is where really everyone wants to download from since it has much more to offer, especially movies. If you have tried to set up a US iTunes account you probably gave up pretty fast. It accepts US billing addresses only and only US billing addresses. Here is the solution: the US Unlocked Card. This is a virtual pre-paid Discover debit card with US billing address. The card costs $10 to create. As soon as you have loaded the card with the desired amount you can start making online payments with it. For iTunes, however, we have found out that the balance on the card has to be at least $51 for the card to be accepted during the account set up. The use of an IP shield is crucial!

2) Gap

Gap along with its other stores: Old Navy, Banana Republic, Athleta and Piperlime live by the first golden rule and will accept your order as long as the billing and shipping address are the same. You can pay with your own (foreign) credit card but will fill in the US Unlocked address, provided to you at the time of the shipment registration, as both the shipping and billing address.

3) Ralph Lauren

Ralph Lauren does accept credit cards from quite a few countries. If your country is on the list of accepted countries, you can pay for your order using your own credit card and billing address. Use the shipping address provided to your during your shipment registration. If your country is not on the list, you can opt for either the US Unlocked Card.

4) Macy’s & Bloomingdale’s

Being that these two stores are in the same corporation they handle fraud prevention the exact same way. Their rules are slightly different than others and we are just getting to the bottom of them. It looks like only US billing addresses are accepted, so here you will need the US Unlocked Card  but there is a tricky part. The billing address first used when placing an order at either Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s gets recorded and stays with you. So, if you place a new order using a different credit card it is still ok as long as the card has the same billing address. If the billing address is not the same as the one you used during your first order, the purchase is canceled. The best thing to do in this case is opening a brand new account with either Macy’s or Bloomingdale’s. Don’t forget the IP shield either.

5) Zappos

Zappos is one of the best places to order shoes from, because of the enormous variety, free shipping and great customer service. 90% of all shoes shipped through US Unlocked come from Zappos. They will accept your (international) credit card as long as you fill in the billing address like this (taken from Zappos website):

  • Enter your street address on Address Line 1.
  • Enter your City, County or Provience, and Postal Code on Address Line 2.
  • Enter your Country for the city.
  • Enter AA for the state.
  • Enter 11111 for the zip code.

You will use the US Unlocked address provided to you at the time of shipment registration as your shipping address.

As always we strive to keeping you up to date and to unlocking more US websites. If you have any experiences with certain US websites that can help unlocking them for other customers as well, do let us know!

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