In this article, we will be covering the topic of PO Boxes: Is it really an important part of life in the 21st century or are there any better alternatives? Here’s everything you need to know.
What Is A PO Box?
A Post Office, or PO box, is a mailbox located in one of the 31,000 Post offices across the United States. With over 21 million available, businesses and individuals are able to rent these boxes to receive their mail and packages.
How Does a PO Box Work
The process for taking advantage of a PO Box is really simple and straightforward, and learning how PO boxes work isn’t going to take you very long at all. To get things going, you’ll have to find a post office location that you want to set up your PO Box in to begin with. Most people are going to find a post office that is located near their home or business (just for the sake of convenience), though you could certainly choose a PO Box pretty much anywhere and everywhere you’d like in the United States. After choosing a postal office location, then you’ll need to go through the actual process of figuring out how PO boxes work and how to sign up for one. You’ll need to choose the size of the PO Box that you are most interested in, figure out how much that PO Box is going to cost, and then you’re going to have to provide identifying information and documents that allow you to officially sign up mail at that specific location.
Another piece of the puzzle to figuring out how PO boxes work is determining the length of the rental agreement you are going to enter into with the post office. Some people are only going to need a temporary place to get mail while they are traveling for work, away at school, etc. Short-term rental agreements – usually three months in total – are available, though you can also sign up for six month engagements, twelve month engagements, and even longer terms if you are going to be sticking around in that area (or are going to want the box for that amount of time, to).
After signing up, you’ll then need to go to the postal office location physically, use the key that has been provided to you to open up your box, and then take physical ownership of your mail. If you have too much mail for the box size – or if you have packages that have been sent to that PO Box address – you’ll usually find a secondary key inside the box to access a dedicated storage locker to receive the overflow or the bigger packages. Be sure to return the key when you are done (usually at the front desk or in a dedicated dropbox) and you are good to go. Now you know exactly how PO boxes work!
How Much Are PO Boxes?
The price will vary based on the duration of the rent agreement as well as the mailbox size. A P.O box for 6 months will cost as little as $19 and up to $75 in certain locations. For more information on pricing, please visit the official USPS website.
Why Do You Need To Get a PO Box?
There are a couple of reasons behind why people get a PO Box to begin with, but the first one is that rural mail delivery isn’t always the most consistent thing in the world – especially in areas where homes and properties are spread out across a pretty wide geographical area. There are a lot of towns and municipalities in the United States where home mail delivery just isn’t all that possible, at least not with any real efficiency. The USPS recommends that those kinds of homeowners take advantage of PO Box services to enjoy more consistent mail delivery, and almost always offer significantly discounted rates (if not totally free rates) depending on certain situations.
Other people that get a PO Box, are going to want to separate their physical address – the residential or business address – apart from their mailing address. Business owners (especially those that do not a silly need to conduct business out of a physical location) are particularly most interested in leveraging the benefits of a PO Box when it comes to privacy and a little more anonymity.
There aren’t terribly many business owners out there that want to give away their home address to customers and clients that always have become unhappy or disgruntled, for obvious reasons. This is especially true when you are running an online business and have to know face-to-face interaction with your clients. Nobody wants a stranger to arrive on their doorstep, unhappy and potentially causing an unsafe situation, just because your residential address is doing double duty as your businesses mailing address. Obviously, there are other benefits of a PO Box that you want to consider – having a secure location to receive mail at and one of them. There’s a reason why the USPS has millions of people taking advantage of PO Box services each and every year.
PO Box Sizes
Across all Post Office locations in the US, there are 5 standard PO Box sizes that you can pick from. Each box will come with a different pricing plan.
- X-Small (3″ x 5 1/2″ x 14 3/4″)
- Small (5″ x 5 1/2″ x 14 3/4″)
- Medium (11″ x 5 1/2” x 14 3/4″)
- Large (11″ x 11″ x 14 3/4″)
- X-Large (22 1/2″ x 12″ x 14 3/4″)
Wondering how they can benefit you?
Here are the Pros and Cons to getting a P.O. Box VS the alternative: a Virtual Mailbox
1. Permanent Address
Moving itself is already a hassle; you’re packing up your entire life. But now you have to change the mailing address for your bills and bank statements, not to mention the IRS and other government programs. And what happens if you’re already gone and your bank statement arrived at your old address? Then there’s a possibility of having your identity stolen and used to commit fraud and run up credit cards. With a PO Box there’s no need to update your mailing address every time you move, because it’s permanent.
Your home is for your private life; the fewer strangers knowing where you live, the better. Having a PO Box allows you to give out a mailing address that doesn’t subject you to danger. For example, if you’re a business owner or providing services for someone and they’re far from satisfied, you don’t want that disgruntled customer knowing where you live.
A PO Box is very useful for small business, but it’s not just for protection against angry customers. If you can’t afford an office space, P.O. Box helps you appear more professional in comparison to your home address. It also makes sorting mail easier when the mail for home and business aren’t lumped together
4. Delivery Time
Since PO boxes are located in the post office, it’s delivered much faster than it would be to a residential mailbox. A PO Box removes the wait time that a postman delivering mail to you. Your mail is ready for pickup as early as 11 am.
A PO Box is a lot more secure than a mailbox on the street or in front of an apartment building. It’s under surveillance and locked inside a building. This leaves you less vulnerable to mail thieves who may use your mail to steal your identity. It’s also not exposed to the elements. When Grandma sends you candy, it’s not as fun to eat it when it’s melted from the summer heat or water logged from the rain. Mail delivered to a P.O. Box is only exposed to the light breeze wafting from the air conditioner.
A PO Box isn’t all rainbows and air conditioning though. To make an educated decision you need to understand the disadvantages that PO Boxes have as well.
1. You Have to Pick it Up
Having a PO Box means that rather than a short walk to your mailbox, you have to drive all the way to the post office. For some that’s 10 minute drive, for others it’s longer, and it’s especially not fun after a long day of work. However, if you live in a rural area that mail is hard to deliver to, this won’t have a big effect.
2. No 24/7 Access
Many Post offices don’t offer the 24/7 that a residential mailbox does. The times available may not always be the time available for you, especially during the holidays
3. Not Professional
If you’re a small business owner, a PO Box can make you appear less professional. I know what you’re thinking. “You said the exact opposite earlier!” While a PO Box appears more professional than a home address, it’s still indicative that you don’t have an office space. If you want peak professionalism you’ll have to fork over more money for street address.
4. It Overflows
PO Boxes come in different sizes that correlate with their price. You may immediately want to go for the smallest size to save money, but if you do, you’ll need to make that drive to the post office more frequently. If you’re box constantly overflows you’ll be charged with caller service fees that can amount to 500$ over 6 months.
5. No Mail From Other Carriers
It’s federal law that only a postal employee or box user can put anything into their box. As a result, major shipping companies, FedEX and UPS only deliver mail to actual street address. With a PO Box you can end up only being able to receive USPS mail.
6. No Additional Services
The USPS has tried to improve recently. You can now have informed delivery for residential PO Boxes, but it’s still lacking in comparison to the other option you have: a virtual mailbox.
PO Box Alternatives
Though there are a multitude of benefits of a PO Box (many of which we have highlighted above) there are also a couple of drawbacks – including the ones that we made mention of earlier. Thankfully though, you are not limited to only having to choose between a physical address that you used to double as your mailing address and a PO Box available directly from the United States Postal Service. You can also choose to take advantage of a whole host of PO Box alternatives, many of which combine the best things about a traditional PO Box (and operate similarly to a PO Box) with the best of the digital communication tools and technologies so many of us are used to using on a day-to-day basis. The trick is in identifying the best virtual mailbox services to match your specific needs and your specific budget.
There are a lot of top-quality options out there for you to pick and choose from, but there are a handful of options that stand head and shoulders apart from the rest of the pack – like US Global Mail, for example. You’ll want to choose PO Box alternatives that have great reputations in the industry, PO Box alternatives that offer a suite of services and solutions you’ll actually be able to take great advantage of, and PO Box alternatives that fit your budget perfectly. A little bit of research and due diligence will help you uncover the ideal options for you if you’re looking to move away from a PO Box without having to use a physical mailing address only. Let’s dig a little deeper into the alternative approaches below.
The Alternative: Virtual Mailbox
A virtual mailbox is almost like a PO Box, only better. You get a permanent address, privacy, security, and professionalism. What sets it apart is that it has none of the cons of a PO Box. Once you receive mail at this address, its exterior is uploaded online and you can decide whether to have it opened and scanned, shredded, or forwarded to a different address.
No more driving the post office! See how they compare at a glance:
How to rent a virtual mailbox
Interested in getting more value for your money? Learn more here or follow these 3 easy steps to start renting your own:
How to rent a PO Box
Still interested in signing up for a PO Box? That’s okay, sometimes change can be scary. We’re still here to help though. Give us a buzz if we can help answer any questions for you.