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I want to buy a Mac but found that the credit card is not available in Chinese Apple Stores, where I'm in right now. So I consider asking my mother buying and shipping it to China (another reason is that Macs in China are crazily expensive).

However, what I read online makes me confused. In some places I read that it would be subject to hefty customs duties, if shipped, and yet in other places I read that if my mother unpacks it and ships only the Mac and the charger without anything like the box and manual, and also adds a "PERSONAL ITEMS" note on the pack, it won't be charged.

Actually I want the pack to contain a few more, including a hair dryer and earbuds.

Do I have to pay customs duty, and if so, how is it calculated?

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Yes.

Anything that is brought in from overseas is liable for import duties. Sometimes there are (official or unofficial) minimum values under which the duties will be waived, but a new Mac is certainly above those minimum values (which are commonly around $20 or $30).

However, if you bring an item into the country yourself in your own luggage and do not declare it, you may not be asked to pay duty. Technically you are supposed to declare anything over a certain value.

The general rule is that if you use a courier service to ship something, you will almost certainly pay duty on it, but your items will also be insured properly. Using a service like USPS or EMS will give you much less in the way of insurance, but items are not always 'caught' by customs.

The easiest way to get a new Mac would be to buy one where you live. You might need to build-to-order if you don't want the local keyboard, but you will get the computer you want, legally, with all the necessary taxes and duties already paid. If you ship one in from overseas, you will need to pay (very high) shipping costs, and import duties. There is no way of avoiding that unless you fly out and buy it yourself, then carry it with you in your luggage and hope not to get caught at customs.

An alternative (depending where you are) is to buy in Hong Kong, but again I am not sure which default keyboards laptops come with in HK. That's a much shorter flight, and the Apple Store prices are quite reasonable there.

EDIT: If writing "PERSONAL ITEMS" on a package magically meant it could waft through customs without attracting duty, everyone (no, really - everyone) would always do it.

  • Thanks but as I said, the foreign credit card cannot be accepted in Chinese Apple Store. I'm fine with using the Chinese keyboard (actually I want it, and my current Mac is also Chinese keyboard). Going to another country is not an option here since my visa would get expired once I leave mainland China. – Blaszard Aug 17 '18 at 10:05
  • Are foreign credit cards not accepted in the physical stores? I imagine they are not accepted in the online store, but it might be worth enquiring about physical stores – Scott Earle Aug 17 '18 at 11:50
  • I asked but they answered only the cards that are issued in China are acceptable. Anyway, even if they accept it, the available CTO model is quite limited. I want only CPU and memory to be upgraded, but such model does not exist in physical stores, and in order to get the CPU and memory upgraded, I have to buy a model that has 1TB disk, which is unnecessary for me and too expensive. – Blaszard Aug 17 '18 at 12:07
  • Given that they only accept Chinese cards it’s moot, but you can order BTO in an Apple Store. You just have to pay a deposit, then go back a few weeks later and pick it up and pay the remainder – Scott Earle Aug 17 '18 at 12:11
  • yes, you can't use foreign credit cards hardly anywhere in China, at all. They keep very tight control on financial stuff. You might look in Shanghai or Beijing apple stores, but if you're a foreigner who can go in and out of HK just as well that sounds like a win. – Mike M Jun 9 at 23:42

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