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Aug 17, 2017, 10:59 PM
looking up, down under
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the impecunious modeller's guide to buying stuff on-line

everyone has their own ideas; do what you like, but here's what works for me

while i appreciate that local vendors may well offer advantages in terms of quality control and after sales service, you need to realise that they are selling the same stock as everyone else (unless you get burnt by cheap pirated knock-offs), but adequate research on the forums and using your google-fu will help you find significant bargains

please note that whilst i sometimes link "affiliate items" that garner me some small rewards for referral, that doesn't alter the price versus buying from a direct link, and i am very open about the process - in fact, i am often too lazy to modify the link to my benefit

in any case, my reviews and comments on stuff are without fear or favour - i have nothing to lose by telling it like it is, because if i think something is a steaming crock i won't be directing you to buy it anyway, and if it's good, i'm pleased to be able to enlighten you

when you buy local, the added cost is like buying extended warranty - you pay for it, you might benefit from it, but in effect you are buying something you hope to not need - it's a bit like disability insurance... which i admit i'm glad i have, because all the spare time i have to write on this forum is being sponsored by mine ... but my life is more valuable than toys, so i take a calculated risk on toys that i don't with my health
yes, that's what we play with, and i am happy to call it for what it is

in my long experience of now several hundred on-line purchases, the general finding is that stuff (electronics especially) either arrive intact, work, and keep working, or they are d.o.a., so your best interest is served by dealing with vendors that will replace the dead stuff - and hence my protocol below

won't necessarily work for small and "lucky dip" items, but is perfect for anything relatively valuable; doesn't mean i don't use the same shopping technique for everything, just that i acknowledge and warn you that it can be a protracted effort to have some vendors come good for defective cheap stuff

i have found banggood (where i shop quite regularly) to be excellent in replacing defective items, and hobbyking a little less so; aliexpress haven't yet sold me anything dud, but i am rarely their customer compared to the other two mentions

general rules are choose an item (or discover it on the forums), and then do your research

as already noted in various threads here, the "star count" on reviews is often at odds with scathing comment from the same reviewer - yes, there may be some manipulation of the process, but thankfully neither hobbyking or banggood seem to censor all dissent
as i wrote in a thread here : "if people are so disinclined to read the commentary, they deserve what they get - only hopeless romantics and astrologers think happiness can be found by reading the stars "
yes, it takes time to read the reviews, and time is money, but then not everyone is time poor / money rich - so it's a good return for effort for the impecunious or ocd types - yes, i'm talking to you, joe average modeller... i can relate
so all that said, buying on line is in effect a crap shoot, but there is plenty to do that will load the dice distinctly in your favour

my hot tips for online shopping :
  • beware customs and excise, if you live somewhere that bites you - australian legislation is lax, so that anything under $1000 landed is duty free, which means the local 10%gst (vat, whatever you might know it as) is non-existent on imports - that will likely change eventually, but make hay while the sun shines
  • get an international debit or credit card - mine is a 28degrees (mastercard) - you can use it to shop in american $ so that paypal can't extort you with their "favourable" (for them) monetary exchange rates; 28 degrees uses the daily market rates with no costs for international exchange... win !
    also, it costs nothing to get one, but nor are there rewards, or indeed any costs if you pay it off completely each month, so it's a useful "extra card" to keep in your quiver
  • get paypal : their crap exchange rates aren't in play if you use the option above, and they cover your bum for loss or failure, plus pay return postage on big ticket items, so buying a lemon (not the receiver brand) from an international with free shipping means you don't have to pony up for return post, which is what the chinese will generally want you to do - that becomes paypal's problem - and it works fine on the only occasion i had to use it

if you are risk averse, shop at the local hobby store
if you want or need it quickly, see above
if you are part of a local community with good resources, support that option... it's wise to keep a good thing going
if you feel patriotic and obliged to support your country's vendors - go right ahead, but at least realise that they are almost invariably on-selling you chinese manufactured goods, especially where electonics are the item

for those of us who don't have the wealth of opportunity that the contributors in the usa (and to a lesser extent, europe) take for granted, or don't have any qualms about waiting for a slow boat from china, there's much fun to be had

when comparing stuff, don't forget to consider shipping costs : banggood and the chinese vendors are generally free, hobbyking is often cheaper for small items internationally both for the item itself and for the postage under 200gms (compared to what australians have to pay locally)

make sure your default currency on the card is american, because hobbyking will convert aud$ to that and then exchange back at paypal's rate, which is a 4% impost you could be using towards more toys

and if you are impatient and demand instant gratification and want supersized service with that, consider carefully before you play the game - you will probably regret it

so, up to you if you feel like using this information - no-one's forcing you to benefit from it, and i haven't been paid for sharing - consider this a community service for those with limited resources, both financially and by their less well serviced locations

as always, your mileage may vary, use at your own risk; if pain persists, seek independent medical advice, because i'm posting this a aeromodeller, not wearing a doctor's hat

happy shopping !

edit : please note that while paypal will pay for return postage of defective goods, under rules as of feb 2018 they limit that to $45 per item up to 6 times a year, and you have to set the option to use the insurance (at no cost) to make it active... i am not certain they default to return post cover, you may have to demand that be the case

read their small print ! this may change at any time they define
use at your own risk ! batteries not included, if pain persists, see a doctor... yada yada....

edit : sadly the australian government now manages to cream 10% off most of the o.s. vendors as gst (or the chinese take it and maybe the oz government doesn't get it... )
Last edited by scruffy1; Apr 10, 2019 at 10:06 PM.
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Aug 27, 2017, 03:22 PM
Registered User
My last HK order actual cost once I got the Paypal bill was 5.7%, so your idea of an international Mastercard intrigues me. So when you pay it off, you just pay in Aus, but at the exchange rate for the day, for your balance? And how do you pay it off, just a local bank transfer?

I see they talk about a 95c online payment fee, except through their online service centre, so is that how you pay it off?

Seems very odd they offer a completely fee free mastercard for international use, when it's almost impossible to get that in Aus. I had to change banks to a fee free credit card.
Aug 27, 2017, 07:30 PM
looking up, down under
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they send a monthly account like any other credit card

the overseas transactions are billed to the account on the day of purchase at the current bank rate for foreign exchange, as $aud - which is far better than paypal, although probably not the lowest available on the planet... but i'm not that ocd to try and beat it, as it trumps paypal (and by association, hobbyking)

when you go to pay hobbyking, you need to change the primary currency to us$; it used to be at the checkout i think

i actually forget how, but it's not that complex, although they change the mechanism to do so occasionally - likely to help confuse people so they take the easier (more expensive) path - i think you now need to set the mastercard to $usd, but my brain is vague - go google !

you can pay the monthly credit amount by direct debit, either automatically (always a bit suss of this as if there's a wish to extract yourself, i always wonder whether "you can check out, but you can never leave"), or via their site - both are free, as is the statement as long as you get it electronically - they email you a reminder

as long as you zero the debt on time, no charges; i suspect their interest rates are as usurious as every other credit card compared to the real market rate of borrowing for financial institutions

but play the game properly and you'll win every time

no frequent flyer points or rewards as far as i know, but i don't bother with that stuff unless it happens automagically, in which case i set it to pay rewards as cash into the account to minimise the debt in the month it accrues

anyone who uses a credit card without zeroing the balance on payment due date needs to reconsider their spending habits, as it's a get poor quick scheme to roll debt at ~ 20%p.a.
Last edited by scruffy1; Aug 27, 2017 at 07:35 PM.
Aug 27, 2017, 09:41 PM
Registered User
OK sounds reasonable. I've never paid a fee or a cent interest on a credit card yet, so I don't plan to start now, but if I can save the 3-5% conversion fees that'd be good.
Sep 10, 2017, 03:13 PM
Registered User
So I made my first transaction yesterday with 28Degrees from Banggood.

US$ Price was $131.75
Paypal cost in AUS$ would have been $170.09
XE Currency website at the moment I purchased said AUS$ $163.52
Charge on Mastercard was $162.98

Sep 10, 2017, 05:36 PM
looking up, down under
scruffy1's Avatar
Thread OP
another $7 for toys

this is the conversion page you are seeking :

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