Christmas can be costly for those who have to post presents for family and friends. Most will rely on Royal Mail to deliver gifts. But as the deadlines loom for the last postal dates for overseas destinations, queuing at a Post Office is not the only option.
The last postal date for Royal Mail’s international economy service has already passed. But there is still time to make use of Royal Mail’s Parcelforce division service – with December 17 the cut-off date for all parcels going abroad.
As a rule of thumb, for parcels sent within the UK or overseas, it makes sense to check out any Royal Mail deal first – and then use the quote to see if it can be bettered on a courier comparison site.
Money off: Depending on the size and weight of your item, you could cut a third or more off your postage
Websites such as My Parcel Delivery, Parcel Monkey, ParcelHero, Parcel2Go and ParcelCompare all scour the market to find the best value deal.
They will provide quotes from a range of courier services such as Hermes, DHL, UPS, TNT, DPD, Parcelforce, DX, CitySprint and Collect+.
Once you have picked a courier firm or broker, check out cashback websites such as TopCashback and Quidco. These often offer deals that can cut delivery costs further if you click through from their website to the chosen courier.
For example, TopCashback currently offers discounts ranging from 3.15 per cent with ParcelHero, 5.25 per cent with ipostparcels, through to 10.5 per cent with Parcelforce, My Parcel Delivery and ParcelBroker.
Andrew Hagger, a financial expert at website Moneycomms, says: ‘Most people plump for Royal Mail without realising there are cheaper alternatives. Depending on the size and weight of your item, you could easily cut a third or more off your postage costs.’
Christmas presents: Royal Mail is among the most competitive for smaller parcels, but it is expensive for the delivery of heavier items
Many couriers make life easier by letting people drop off goods at local shops – for example Asda, CostCutter, Nisa and Spar – as well as some independent stores. Hagger adds: ‘With Hermes and ipostparcels, costs are even more competitive if you are able to drop off a parcel at a depot – rather than having it collected from your home.’
With Royal Mail, sending a parcel within the UK weighing up to 1kg (measuring 45cm x 35cm x 16cm) costs from £2.95 second class and £3.45 first class. For a parcel weighing up to 2kg (same measurements), the price is £2.95 second class and £5.50 first class. All prices include up to £20 cover for loss or damage.
But while Royal Mail is among the most competitive for smaller parcels, it is expensive for the delivery of heavier items. For a 20kg parcel measuring 61cm x 46cm x 46cm prices start from £28.55 second class and £33.40 first class.
Via comparison website Parcel2Go, the 20kg parcel could be posted for as little as £5.85 using InPost 24, £5.85 with UPS Access Point, and £6.79 with DX24.
All these prices are for next- day delivery and include £20 protection.
There is also the option to send the same 20kg parcel to a UK address with ParcelForce. Royal Mail uses ParcelForce Worldwide to post many items to customers both in the UK and overseas.
A 20kg parcel delivered to a UK address would cost £28.80 via ‘ParcelForce Worldwide express 48’. This guarantees delivery in two working days and includes up to £100 for loss or damage. But this is still more expensive than Parcel2Go.
Civil servant Neil Saunders has saved a fortune by using a courier rather than Royal Mail.
Neil, 47, from Burgess Hill in West Sussex, has sent packages via ipostparcels – part of DHL – for the last few Christmases to his young nephews in New Zealand. This Christmas, Neil is planning to send two parcels.
He says: ‘Royal Mail quoted me between £120 and £180 to send the two items. By contrast, ipostparcels quoted between £80 and £100 – a potential saving of £100.
‘With ipostparcels, you have to create the label and postal dockets yourself using the website but it hardly takes any time.
‘There is also the handy option to get packages picked up from your home.’