If you’re sending items internationally, you’re entering an even more complex shipping world than the domestic one you may already know. According to FedEx, 30% of all U.S. export shipments are from small businesses, which also make up the fastest growing segment of U.S. exporters. Whether your company is a small, medium or large business, not understanding the various shipping options can be costly.
There are a lot of factors to consider when determining the best carrier for international parcel service, UPS vs. FedEx. In this post, we dig into those factors to give you a better idea of which service might be better for your business, or at least which ones you’ll want to focus on as you investigate the pricing and delivery options most important to you.
A warning: the services these carriers offer can sound the same, with terms like Worldwide Express, Worldwide Express Plus, Express Critical International, International Priority, International Economy, International Priority Freight, International Economy Freight, etc. The good news is there are many options. But the bad news is that comparing the services takes a lot of time and effort.
Rates to Ship Internationally
It’s impossible to provide a thorough description of every rate and package type for every service offered by UPS vs. FedEx. Know that the general rack rates of UPS vs. FedEx are pretty similar. Rates can change depending on the discounts your company negotiates, making an apples-to-apples comparison impossible. Your international parcel service rates may be different than a neighboring company shipping the same size or weight package.
UPS offers a handy at-a-glance chart with shipping services with icons showing special delivery options like Saturday service, returns/exchange service, and electronic export information. You can sort by earliest arrival or service name. FedEx also offers a listing of its service types, paired with basic shipping needs, like early delivery to key global markets, delivery in 1-3 days worldwide, or economical delivery to Canada. This makes it easier to narrow down services.
When in doubt, you can plug your package information into each company’s rate finder, to determine the cost and delivery options for individual packages. This is helpful when your shipping needs don’t fit your typical shipping patterns, or if you infrequently ship outside the U.S. Remember that the shipping rates quoted or listed may not be final, as the carriers retain the right to determine the weight and size on their own, there may be additional delivery charges, currency conversion fees, and the inevitable fuel charge, the price changing by the week.
The FedEx rate calculator will also give transit times for the chosen service or services, and you can choose a quick or detailed quote. You can also call FedEx International customer service at 1-800-GoFedEx for rate help as well. Of course there’s a similar UPS rate calculator, offering shipping rates and international delivery times for that carrier.
FedEx and UPS sometimes use different dimensional (DIM) weight factors. For international shipping services, both use the greater of the DIM weight compared to the actual weight, for billing. The actual package weight is rounded up to the next whole pound. The DIM weight is the length in inches, multiplied by the height in inches, multiplied by the width in inches, divided a denominator. UPS applies 139 as a denominator for daily rates or 166 for retail shipping rates. FedEx only divides by 139 for international parcel shipping rates.
The quoted shipping rate may not include additional fees, just as domestic shipping also has additional service fees. Some are the same types of fees, such as fees for signature upon delivery, proof of delivery, dangerous goods, Saturday delivery, Saturday pick-up, additional handling, address correction, fuel surcharges, out-of-delivery area, invalid account number, and residential delivery. But there may be unique fees for international services, such as electronic export filing, ancillary clearance service, and duties and taxes. Not all fees will be charged on all shipment types – as always it pays to check the FedEx Service Guide or the UPS surcharge list.
Number of Delivery Countries
Both FedEx and UPS ship to more than 220 countries and territories. A FedEx international service map highlights which international services are available in which locations. UPS notes that they ship to every address in North America and Europe. Not all shipping services are available for all international locations, so that may be an issue when choosing a carrier for a specific package. The rate calculators will not allow you to select a location where the company doesn’t offer that service type.
When looking at UPS vs. FedEx tracking, know that both carriers offer multiple tracking methods. UPS tracking lets you track by reference number, on a mobile app, chatbot on smart speakers, Facebook Messenger and Skype. You can log into your UPS account to track up to 75 of the most recent shipments, and you can store 50 tracking numbers in a recent history table. In addition, UPS offers Quantum View Manage, a software program for small to mid-size businesses with light to heavy international (or domestic) shipping needs. It provides a consolidated view into shipping status and reporting tools, with information potentially viewable by customers as well.
FedEx tracking also offers a myriad of options. That includes tracking up to 30 shipments from pick-up to drop-off, using tracking numbers, account numbers, order numbers, or door tag numbers. FedEx’s version of the small/mid-size business software is called FedEx Insight, allowing tracking across multiple accounts and locations. The FedEx Desktop program lets you receive shipping notifications and to send/receive email tracking results. FedEx offers a mobile app as well. Lastly, FedEx has a global tracking page for searching individual tracking numbers.
Sending a package across the country is concerning enough, but it can be worthwhile to insure packages delivered globally. FedEx’s limit of liability is $100 for international packages without additional coverage. For FedEx insurance, expect to pay $1 per $100 of declared value, or $9.07 per pound, whichever is greater.
UPS covers most international parcel shipping with a declared value of $100 or less, at no cost. Companies can declare a value up to $50,000 per package, and insurance generally costs $1.05 per $100 over the base amount.
Both companies offer money-back guarantees for most services. FedEx offers a money-back guarantee if they miss their published or quoted delivery time, though customs delays negate that. If they are passing off the goods to another carrier (cartage), FedEx only guarantees international delivery times for the FedEx service portion. This would relate to freight service. UPS also offers money-back guarantees for Worldwide Express Shipping. Both carriers reserve the right to suspend guaranteed delivery dates during peak seasons.
Membership and Discounts
Both FedEx and UPS offer discount programs. FedEx offers a number of ways to take advantage, including using AmEx as your billing credit card, or via other affiliate programs. The FedEx Business Perks membership program offers up to 28% discounts on a variety of international FedEx Express services, as well as up to 15% discounts on FedEx Ground and FedEx Home Delivery services. Your business will have to show qualifications for whatever program it wants to join, which could be as simple as providing proof of listing in a local directory.
UPS offers small business shipping discounts as well, basically by signing up online. Your business can save 40% on international air shipments through your UPS account. Their small business program offers additional savings benefits, including discounts on packing, printing, shredding, mail/package receiving and notary service.
Which offers better customer service options, UPS vs. FedEx? We’d probably go with FedEx, at least for online help. FedEx offers a long list of links for specific information, that an international shipper might need to consult. That ranges from learning more about shipping international freight, to tracking the status of an international package, to instructions for creating international shipping documentation and labels. They offer a similar list of FedEx phone numbers for international shipping. UPS has contact information and some support on its international customer service page as well.
How Shipware Can Help Negotiate Shipping Rates
Does this guide leave you more informed, more confused, or both? Shipware can help. With shipping, rates change depending on the contract. The experts at Shipware have deep experience in-house on the carrier side, and know what terms can be negotiated and by how much. We’re likely to get you lower contracted rates than you can get on your own, whether negotiating shipping incentives, surcharges, or changing the denominator for DIM weights.
Even without negotiating rates, though, Shipware can save you money by ensuring that your company is capturing the savings from any unmet carrier service guarantees, or via improper billing. Our services pay for themselves out of that savings, leaving companies with no out-of-pocket expenses for the services and no additional work once the system is set up. We offer new customers the opportunity for a free audit to see how much we can save your company in shipping payments recovery. If we don’t save you money, we will give you $10,000. There’s nothing to lose and everything to gain.
Sign up for a free audit here.