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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Taobao Direct Step by Step Guide (淘宝直送)

During the recent wildly successful Singles Day 11.11 sales, which recorded a whooping $14 Billion worth of sales for Alibaba, i made some purchases using the Taobao Direct (淘宝直送). The purchases were made with the intention to share some of my personal experience with you guys, especially those looking to choose between the various shipping options.


Taobao Direct Shipping


So here's the guide to share some of my experience with this relatively new method of purchasing from Taobao. For the purpose of the review, i would assume that you are already familiar with Taobao shopping


For my other guides on freight forwarding and 4PX, you can refer to the Taobao Related Links on the menu.


Lets start with the shopping cart check out process... 

*(refer to this link if you need help on the Taobao account creation).



1) Choose Direct Shipping (淘宝直送)


You will be prompted to select a method of shipping. "淘宝直送" is a seamless service provided by the freight company ZTO (CN), in partnership with DPEx (SG) for delivery of packages to Singapore. Read more about it here.



Taobao Direct Shipping costs








2) Pay for your purchases INCLUSIVE of freight


So here's the great thing about using Taobao Direct. Your shipping costs are fully calculated during check-out. For my purchases, i was charged a total of 39RMB. 


Complete the payment process via Alipay (eNETs or Credit Card).



Taobao Direct Shipping costs are calculated


3) Check the consolidation process (Optional)


Once you have completed the payment process, you can either track the flow of your purchases or move on to step 4 - "Receive your package". 


To track the consolidation process at the ZTO warehouse, select 淘宝集运-> 国际物流订单. You will be brought to the screen below, which shows the status (订单状态) of your purchases.




Check the status of goods


Clicking on the individual items will show the flow of goods. Typically Ordered->Domestic Shipping -> Arrived at Warehouse -> Overseas Shipping -> Delivered.





Taobao Direct Monitoring the flow


The last of my purchases reached the ZTO warehouse on the 19-Nov. It took a total of 9 days for the packages to be consolidated and sent out from the warehouse on the 28-Nov. When the packages are sent from the ZTO warehouse, the status will be updated to "已出库"


Shipping from the ZTO warehouse



4) Receive your package


Wait for your package to be delivered to your doorstep. There is NO additional consolidation/payment step that is typically required for the 3rd party or Taobao appointed forwarders (e.g 4PX, 65daigou, peeka, etc).

Summary


PROS
I was quite impressed by the fact that Direct Shipping is able to provide the cost of freight at check-out. This definitely helped me make my decisions and prevent shipping bill shocks.

CONS


ZTO strives to consolidate and send packages between 3-5 working days, for all SG orders. However, i was left disappointed by the amount of time it took for them to do it. My last of my orders reached the warehouse on the 19-NOV, but the whole package was only sent out on 28-NOV. It took a grand total of 7 working days!

Perhaps it was the busy 11.11 sales period which caused the logistic backlogs. Nevertheless, unless there is another promotion on the shipping price for 淘宝直送, i would very much prefer to stick faster and perhaps more reliable freight forwarders like 4PX or 65Daigou.


Updates (4 Dec):

Packages arrived to my doorstep. The air freight from China to Singapore took 6 days (or 4 working days). My items were packed in a gunny sack and secured together using clear tape. The 2nd package arrived 2 days later, on the 6th Dec, containing one of the purchase that was omitted in the gunny sack that arrived on the 4th DEC.


Related: Taobao Direct Shipping, Pros and Cons

Monday, November 02, 2015

Taobao Direct Shipping

Online shopping on Taobao has become more common place among the young and tech savvy. With the amazing amount of deals available, it is no surprised that Taobao has become one of the largest eCommerce site in the world.

When shopping online, it is important to find a right seller, but equally important to know the options you have for shipping. A right mix between value, timeliness and reliability would enhance your shopping experience. So without further ado, let us discuss the methods of shipping available on Taobao:

Option 1: Direct Shipping

Option 2: Taobao Consolidate and Ship (Eg. 4PX Forwarding)

Option 3: Independent Freight Forwarders (Eg. Peeka, 65Daigou)

This article will focus on the relatively new "Taobao Direct Shipping" method. 

Taobao Direct Shipping is a fully integrated freight forwarding service provided by ZTO in partnership with DP EX (For Singapore). It works similar in method to the other 2 options, except that the cost of freight is calculated and charged during check-out.

Why Direct Shipping ?.

Immediate Cost Estimates


The main advantage of Direct Shipping is the immediate cost calculation at check-out. This will help in making your purchase decisions and prevent bill shocks - Imagine buying an item online and having to pay for shipping that costs many times more than the item!

No additional consolidation and check-out


Once you have paid for the order, you will not be required to log-in to consolidate and pay for shipping again (unlike Option 2 and Option 3). Taobao will consolidate, pack and send the order as per the check-out cart.


Delivery Guarantee


According to the official Taobao site, it usually takes 5-7 working days to ship from China to Singapore. A nice touch provided by Taobao is a delivery service guarantee*:

  • 50% (Capped at 50RMB) for deliveries that are later than the guaranteed delivery time. 
  • Full refund of item and freight (Capped at 2000RMB) for failure to deliver in 15 days
* Warehouse-to-end delivery time: 10 working days during Nov 11 - Nov 25.

Summary


We have tried Direct Shipping once. It took in total of 7 days from check-out to delivery. Not exactly the fastest, but definitely more convenient and NO shocks from shipping costs.

If you haven't already tried the Direct Shipping option, now is the perfect time ! With the upcoming 11.11 (11-November) singles day promotion, you will be able to enjoy a discount on your shipping costs (First 25000)! Happy Shopping!

Taobao Direct Shipping

Credit: Official Taobao direct shipping guide


Sunday, September 06, 2015

OCBC Frank Card - Has it lost its edge ?

The OCBC Frank Card was one of my favourite Credit Cards! It allowed me to stretch my dollar from all my online spending. Giving me up to 6% on my online spending and an unlimited cash back of 0.5% on all other spend. It even made it to the list of the best cash back credit cards !

Until this happened. 


Frank SMS
A Frank SMS



Tsk, Tsk. So sneaky. 

Similar to the changes made to the UOB One Card, OCBC has revised some of the cash back rate, sadly it made the card less competitive. 

Let us break down the changes from 1st October.


Frank Cashback Changes



Changes to the cash rebates


1) The main point to note is the removal of the "No Cap on 0.5% rebates". 

This essentially means that once you've hit the S$60 spending rebate from any of the criteria, you will no longer be eligible for more rebates! 

2) Weekend/Weekday Dining, Entertainment rebates, increased to 5% and 3% respectively.

With all due respect, there is already a card for that. Its call the OCBC365. Incorporating this aspect into a pure spending/cashback card simply diminishes the function of the Frank Card. 

3) Minimum spend to earn rebates, reduced to S$400. 

Well its great that they reduce the minimum spend amount. But if you are a financially savvy customer, you would have an OCBC360 account and one of the terms for the OCBC360 additional interest criteria is to spend S$500 on your OCBC credit cards. Reducing the min. spend to earn rebates does not really do much in this case.

4) Minimum spend to exclude Online and Nets Flashpay ATUs spending

This is perhaps the nail-in-the-coffin for this card! If it was already hard to achieve the min. spend amount, especially if the bulk of your spending are from online shopping, then it would be impossible to qualify for the rebates at all!

With this 'hidden' criteria, you would need to spend S$400 from "KTVs, Cinemas, Bars and some cafes" and "everything else" each month, to qualify for rebates.



A Frank Summary


I guess all good things must come to an end. The revision of the terms really makes this card lose out to its cashback peers, like the UOB One Card and the SCB Manhattan card. The only saving grace for the Frank Card is that many holders are also OCBC360 account holders. In any case, i would expect quite an exodus of users from the Frank Card - i myself would be looking at other OCBC rebate Cards (OCBC Cashflo).

Stay tuned for a shoot-out of the latest cash back cards available!



Tuesday, August 18, 2015

UOB One Card, Changes You Need To Know

So here's the deal, UOB One Card will be revising their rebate structure from the 1st October 2015. Before we get into the details, lets take a look at what the UOB One Card rebates used to be, before the impending changes.

UOB One Card Rebates (old)

The UOB One card would give you tiered rebates based on the minimum spending over 3 months. The rebates are listed as S$30, S$80 and S$150, earned quarterly. What this means is that to hit each of the rebate tiers, one must spend at least S$300, S$800 and S$1,500 consistently over 3 months. 

In my opinion, this card is decent for those who consistently charge a fixed amount to their card each month. The penalty for failing to hit the minimum spend on any of the 3 months would cause you to fall to a lower rebate tier or in the worse case, not earn any rebate at all.

So if you had trouble trying to hit any of the 3 tiers, then the bad news is that from 1st October, it is going to be even harder!

However, if you are able to meet the requirement consistently, you will be rewarded with a nice 3.33% cash back. At 3.33%, this is one of the best cash back cards available on the market at the moment. 

Let's take a look at the revised rebate structure for the UOB One Card:

The Changes


UOB One Card Rebates (Old Vs New)

From the 1st October, the minimum tiers are increased to S$500, S$1000 and S$2000 respectively. The payout amount is tweaked slightly at S$50, S$100 and S$300 - effectively rewarding those who spend upwards of S$2000 for each month.

UOB One Card Rebates New 5%

Also, one additional point to note, the 2% overseas cash rebate promotion will no longer apply from October. 

Summary


With the new requirements, those who have no trouble spending S$2000 per month on their One Card will be rewarded with a generous 5% rebate. However if you are like me, finding it hard to hit the S$500 monthly spending tier, it would be an even more uphill task trying to monitor your monthly spending to ensure you qualify for the rebate.

Although the One Card gives one of the highest cash backs in the market, there are still many options available from other banks that have easier requirements and give relatively decent rebates. 

Some food for thought: From a consumer standpoint, making it harder to achieve the rebate amounts simply discourages use of the credit card. 


You can read more about the UOB One Card changes here.


Sunday, July 12, 2015

eBates Singapore - Getting Paid for Your US Shopping

eBates has come to Singapore! 

I have been a long time user of eBates.com for all my U.S Shopping. This website has given me a total of USD$65 in cashback from my online shopping and i have recommended the U.S site of eBates in one of my previous post.

As you can imagine, i am more than happy to recommend eBates.sg ! It seems that both eBates websites are mutually exclusive to each other. This basically means that you can only use one or the other. 

Between the two, i would suggest to use the newer eBates.sg. One of the added advantage of the Singapore eBates site is the availability of the Cheque payment option. Selecting this option means that you will get paid via a cheque, delivered to your own address. Also, it is catered more for the local shoppers!

eBates Singapore works the same as most other eCommerce Enablers - example: Shopback. You get a small % of the commission from referral given on your spending, in the form of a cashback. This cashback is absolutely free, without caveats, as long as you purchase via a referral link from the eBates website (Do read my other post on how this works).

Example of the cashback i have accumulated from shopping via eBates in July:

My Cashback thus far
My Cashback thus far!
Selecting the Cheque (Cashback method)

eBates.sg Cheque

Selecting the Paypal or Credit Card (Cashback method)

eBates.sg Credit Card

eBates.sg Cash back method

eBates will pay out your posted cashbacks on the following schedules.

eBates Payment

There is a reasonably large variety of U.S merchants that participate with eBates and most of them will accept Singapore / International credit cards. Even if they do not ship directly to Singapore, you could still buy and send them via a freight forwarder like ComGateWay or Borderlinx.

eBates.sg Merchants
Awesome Cash Back!

If you are an avid online shopper and love buying stuff from U.S sites like Ralph Lauren, GILT or even Agoda. eBates will give you the best cashback possible on your spending.  I would highly recommend to make your money's worth at absolutely no cost!


Friday, June 12, 2015

OCBC360 - Earn 2.25% Interest on Your Savings

I had previously discussed the changes to the OCBC360 account and did a mini summary on the differences between the new and old criteria. I also mentioned that it would not be difficult to achieve a 2.25% interest rate that you will earn on your first S$60,000 in the 360 account.

Well, here's how my 360 account fared on the first month of the new criteria. 

OCBC360 Interest Postings

As you can see, the interest credit amounts are broken down into the various components of each posting - so that it is clear and transparent.

360 Save Bonus
360 Save Bonus















360 CC Spend Bonus
360 CC Spend Bonus

360 Payment Bonus
360 Payment Bonus

360 Salary Bonus 
360 Salary Bonus
















If you haven't already opened an OCBC360 account, i would recommend that you do. In my opinion, it is the best savings account in the market right now for your first S$60,000. 

For those who have difficulties meeting the criterias above, you can look at some of the savings account offerings from Standard Chartered and UOB. These banks do give a relatively decent interest rate of about 0.9-1.5%* on your savings without any caveats.

*(Depending on your deposit amount)

FAQ on the 360 Account:

When will my special interest be credited to my account ?

OCBC credits the special interest amounts on the 7th working day.


Will i still get my special interest if the money is transferred out of the account before the 7th ?

Yes, the interest accrued is based on the previous month's daily balances.


Does payments of 2 different credit cards to the same bank count?

Yes, each credit card payment will count as a unique payment and will contribute to fulfilling the "Payment Bonus" requirements.


Does the "Save Bonus" apply to my total balance or only on the increment?

The 1% Save Bonus will only be applied on the incremental balance, which is the difference between the current month average daily balance and previous month. (up to $1,000,000.)


Why don't i qualify for the "Salary Bonus" ?

Only salary credits with the transaction reference "GIRO-SALARY" and amounts more than S$2000 will qualify.


Sunday, May 31, 2015

Shopback, Cashback For Your Online Shopping

Shopback.sg is an eCommerce enabler, similar to eBates. The primary objective of an eCommerce enabler is to direct traffic to online merchants and retailers. By doing so, they will earn a commission for a sale or conversion. A portion of this commission is then shared with the consumer as a form of cash back.

For the online shopper like myself, who frequently buys from online merchants like Luxola, Zalora and ASOS, it is silly not to make use of this cash back opportunity. So let me share with you how it works.


1. Create an account with Shopback


Follow the link to Shopback.sg, create your Shopback account.


Shopback Register



2. Update your address and account details


Updating your personal details gives you USD$5 cash back.


Update Address

Select your payment method (Bank account or Paypal).

Shopback account details


3. Search for an online retailer


Use the search bar to find the retailer or sort by the categories. Example: "Fashion".

Category Fashion

For our guide, we selected "Luxola", a great portal for beauty products.


4. Click on the Promotion, Coupon or Discount code


Shopback provides a variety of promotional codes or discounts that can be used with the retailer. 

To ensure that you can receive any cash back, it is important to follow some of the rules that allow them to track your 'conversion'. They are listed as follows:

- Always ensure that cookies on your web browser is enabled 
- Use the same browser window that was launched by Shopback to complete the purchase
- Try not to use other eCommerce Enablers for the same merchant (as this may result in disputes)



Promo Codes

Promos and Discount

Things to note

Shopback Things to note



From our luxola shopping, we will be eligible for a 6.0% cash back !

5. Make your purchase


Select your purchase, add to cart and check-out from your favourite online merchant.


Buy from this window



6. Collect and redeem your cash back


Shopback will credit the cash back within the specified period. Once your cash back has been credited, you will be able to view the balance from your account.

You will be able to redeem your cash back once it reaches more than SG$10.01. However, some merchants may take up to 60 days to confirm the commission, so this will vary depending on the speed of confirmation.

Unlike eBates, whereby cashback is paid out every quarter, Shopback will credit all eligible cash back to your specified bank account within 7 working days of redemption!


cash back redeem

Summary


As an avid online shopper, it makes absolute sense to make our money go the extra mile. eCommerce enablers like eBates and Shopback are great mechanisms that allows shoppers like you and I to earn that additional discount (via cashback). Do give it a try the next time you shop online and i am sure you would be pleasantly surprised!

Read more from the FAQ here. Happy Shopping! 


Monday, May 25, 2015

Taobao - The Ultimate Account Setup Guide

In case you haven't realised, Internet Shopping is the new black. Online eCommerce providers like Amazon, Taobao, Lazada and Luxola are giving the regular brick-and-mortar businesses a run for their money. These online retailers link-up small businesses with consumers. Thus, it is no surprise that you can find anything and everything online these days.

In our guide, we will focus mainly on creating an account on Taobao. We will take you through the account creation process and the important things to take note, before making your first Taobao purchase.

Create an Account


Browse to Taobao (We recommend using Chrome for its inbuilt google translate functionality) and select the "Register for free" (免费注册) link. 

Taobao - Create Account

- Translate the page to English for ease of use.

Create Account in English

- Put in your mobile phone number (this is important)
- Input the captcha to prove you are not a robot
- Check the "Create your Alipay account..."

Input the details
- You will receive an sms or email confirmation (depending on whether you used the "Register with your E-mail address" option).
- Follow the link or input the passcode into the page to complete the registration

Link to Complete Registration


Update Your Delivery Address


If you have followed the above steps diligently, congratulations, you are just halfway there to an endless shopping paradise. Complete the following important steps to ensure your purchases get delivered to the right address.

This video will show you how to setup your delivery address:


Note: Remember to ensure the mobile number is correct. This mobile number will also be used for your parcel notifications and POPStation collection PINs. (See our 4PX, POPStation guide)

Start Shopping !!!


Now that we have completed our Account setup, update our delivery address, we can proceed to enjoy our shopping. As you may already know, Taobao is basically a consumer-to-consumer e-commerce platform. They do not physically deal with the goods or purchases. However, as with most shopping platforms, Taobao does provides some form of buyer/seller protection via its Alipay Escrow services.

Only when your purchases are received, in good order, will the payment be released to the seller. Hence, even though there is a risk of receiving a lemon or a purchase that does not match its descriptions, you could possibly get a refund. In fact, some sellers on Taobao actually do provide 7-day returns (no questions asked).

Do check out our Taobao buyer's guide on how to shop effectively. This will greatly reduce the chance of buying a poor or defective product. In the event that you actually do (hopefully not), remember to raise a complaint so that the funds will not be released to the seller and you can proceed with the refund/returns procedure.

Happy Taobao-ing!



Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Singapore Savings Bond - A Risk Free Investment Option

The Singapore Savings Bond (SSB) is a specialized investment product, which will likely be launched in the 2nd half of 2015. It forms part of the plan by the government to make low-cost (and low risk) government Bonds available to retail investors like you and I.

The concept of the Singapore Savings Bond interest rates will be linked to the long-term Singapore Government Securities (SGS) rates. But unlike SGS bonds, which pay the same interest rates every year, the Savings Bond will start with smaller interest rates that will keep rising. The longer you hold the bond, the higher your return.

One of the most interesting feature of this investment product is that a bondholder can get his money back in any month, with no penalty imposed. Unlike a regular bond or a fixed deposit, this gives an added dimension of liquidity for the bond holder. 

Another key design of the bond is its non-tradable aspect. This feature protects the individuals from potential capital losses in the secondary markets, making it a fairly safe and low risk investment.

Let's take a look at some of the important facts of the Singapore Savings Bond with this infographic.

SSB - All You Need To Know


Other Features:

Who can buy
- Individuals only (Like You and I).

Term
- 10 years.

Method Of Payment
- Cash, the Government will consider allowing SRS or CPF to purchase in the future.

Interest
- Paid every 6 months (Twice a year).
- At issuance, rates are fixed based on the prevailing SGS yields and locked in for each issue.

Issuance
Monthly. Allocated via balloting of units if oversubscribed.

Redemption
Monthly, with no penalty. 
Principal and any outstanding accrued interest will be paid on redemption. 
You will always get your principal amount back in full.

When will the Savings Bond be available
- It will likely be launched in the second half of 2015.

Summary


I would recommend this product for the less savvy investors who would like to achieve any of the following investment objectives:

1. Protect themselves against inflation (Although not particularly great).

2. Balance their investment portfolio.

3. Long-term savings option at a low risk (Saving for a 'rainy day').

After all, there aren't many (or any) investment products that provide principal protection. Backed by solid governance, financial stability and a diversified economy, our sovereign debt is only one of the 9 countries in the world with a AAA rating from all rating agencies.



Monday, May 11, 2015

Taobao - A Comprehensive Buying Guide

In 2014, Taobao became one of the worlds biggest e-Commerce website. Boasting an average of 100 million pageviews and more than 60 million dollars worth of transactions per day. Being the most popular platform for small businesses in china to sell their wares, it is no wonder you can practically find anything and everything from Taobao or Tmall.

Buying from Taobao can either be really easy or extremely frustrating. Knowing how to pick the right seller is the key to having a frustration free shopping experience. This guide will teach you various ways to pick the best seller of your items.


Search for the product that interests you


In this example, I want to buy an aromatherapy diffuser. Since everything is listed in Chinese, it is recommended to look up the Chinese name for whatever you need. English search terms might work, but Chinese will get you better results.

If you are not particularly conversant in Chinese, use the google translate tool to make translations during your searches. The tool does literal translations which may or may not yield the right results. You may need to trial on error before getting the right results.


Pick a seller that has successful transactions


I normally source my products from sellers with a reasonable amount of successful transactions. Aside from the product descriptions, User reviews are the best way to determine the quality of the products sold. Bear in mind that although there maybe paid reviews, buying from a seller with a substantial amount of sales reduces that risk.

I try to pick sellers with crowns or at least those with a 4 Diamond rating. (Take a look at the glossary below). To obtain a 4 Diamond rating, the seller would have to make at least 5000 successful and positive transactions.


Shopping Guide

Read reviews from other buyers


Scroll down a bit further and you will see a number of tabs. The first tab gives you the product description, followed by the user reviews, number of users who bought this product and finally the services provided by the seller ( 专享服务). 

Although i recommend using the reviews to help with your decision, take the reviews you read with a pinch of salt, as there is no way to determine if the reviews written for the product is legitimate.

Shopping Guide, Comments

Look out for pictures and good comments


More often than not, products with good reviews have a high chance of turning out great. Look out for user comments and reviews with attached pictures (图片). Filtering the comments by checking the radio button will show you user submitted pictures of the product. This is my favourite way of determining how the final product will look like.

Shopping Guide, Comments and Pictures


Taobao Glossary


Taobao Glossary Icon Meanings

Remember, picking established sellers with a higher rating, will almost always guarantee that you will receive your product in good order! Hope you enjoyed the article and our infographic.

If you liked our infographic, check out our 4PX, Peeka and 65Daigou shootout


Wednesday, May 06, 2015

4PX vs 65Daigou vs Peeka Comparison

Having been actively purchasing from Taobao for the last two to three years, we have used and experienced a variety of freight forwarders. Enough for us to share our personal experiences with each of the more popular ones. Hopefully you will find this infographic useful! 

Taobao - Peeka, 4PX and 65Daigou

*As of APR-2016, 65Daigou is now known as ezbuy.

Our Summary (Based on our experiences)


Value - In terms of value, 65Daigou and 4PX are pretty much tied. Both generally offer slightly better shipping rates than Peeka. Perhaps due to the auto-inclusion of 7% GST by Peeka for all sea shipments. This often makes the shipment overly expensive - especially if the total value is less than $400 (Minimum sum for customs GST declaration). 

Edit: In general, for small air packages (1.5-2kg), 65Daigou would be about 19RMB cheaper. However, if you do choose home delivery, there will be an additional charge - $5 or $8 (>= 8KG)

Promotions - 65Daigou and Peeka often run promotional rates on their shipments. Sometimes giving up to 20% off shipping during certain periods of the year. We have never seen any promotions for 4PX shipping.

Speed - 4PX in general has one of the fastest door-to-door turnover. Mainly because it is integrated with Taobao, has a partnership with Singpost (POPStation) and also a sizable logistics team in China. We experienced quite a fair bit of delays (about a week) with 65Daigou Ship-For-Me service. Peeka delivers as advertised.

Packaging - We had several poor experiences with 65Daigou, with regards to packaging. Several of our purchases were poorly packed and some where crushed during shipping. Peeka on the other hand handles this superbly. Our purchases were packaged nicely in carton boxes and arrived in great condition. We had no issues with the packaging by 4PX as well. Most of the packages arrive in well wrapped packages.

Misc - 65Daigou and Peeka provides various Buy-For-You services for users who are not proficient in Chinese. The service includes an agency fee, which covers checking of purchases and the concierge services rendered.

Our Recommendation


4PX - Fast economy air shipment, for purchases which are not bulky or heavy. We use this freight forwarder for most of our regular Taobao purchases. For those at work during office hours, the POPStation delivery method is simply perfect for you! 

65Daigou - For sea economy or bulky items, purchases below $400SGD and those who are willing to wait 3-4 weeks for a shipment.

Peeka - For sea economy or fragile items and purchases above $400SGD.