Tips to save on your next smartphone purchase abroad
Before booking your next trip to buy an unlocked (SIM-free) smartphone, make sure to get a no foreign exchange fee credit card and look into your tax (e.g., VAT/GST) refund options. Furthermore, if you are traveling to the USA, Japan, or Canada, be mindful that retail prices do not include sales taxes and will be added to your bill upon checkout.
No FX fee credit cards
Purchasing a smartphone in a foreign currency typically leads to a currency conversion charge of 2-3% by your bank/credit card provider. As such, make sure to use a no foreign exchange fee credit card (if possible) to avoid this charge.
VAT (Value-added Tax)/GST (Goods and Services Tax) is particularly high in Europe, ranging between 15-25%. If you are a visitor to the EU, you are likely to be able to claim back the VAT which would be a huge saving! Similar refund options are provided in many other countries around the world. Inquire with the retail store directly on the process. Most will use the services of Global Blue or a similar tax refund company.
USA / Canada / Japan taxes
Be aware of retail prices of smartphones in the United States, Canada, and Japan. In these countries, you will be charged a sales tax in addition to the advertised price (varies by province/state/region in Canada and the USA e.g., 8.875% for New York City). This in contrast to most other countries where taxes are included in advertised retail prices.