For many reasons, traditional mailboxes aren't right for everyone. Fortunately, many alternatives could fit your lifestyle or your business needs. One of the most common alternatives to a regular mailbox is a post office box (P.O. Box).
P.O. boxes are quite popular because they help address some of the limitations of a physical mailbox, like security and privacy. We'll explain how P.O. boxes work, why people decide to rent them, and shed some light on how to get a P.O. Box without a physical address.
What is a P.O. Box?
U.S. Postal Service P.O. boxes are lockboxes housed at local post offices. P.O. boxes are probably the most common alternative to traditional mailboxes, and individuals or businesses can use them. P.O. boxes typically come in a range of sizes and are available at post offices. Access to P.O. boxes in some post office locations is available 24/7 for convenience.
Why do people sign up for P.O. boxes?
P.O. boxes are generally considered to be a more secure option than traditional mailboxes. A common reason people sign up for mailboxes is to maintain their privacy because P.O. boxes are tied to mailing addresses, as opposed to physical or residential addresses. P.O. boxes offer people a way to receive postal mail without having to tell senders where they live. Additionally, unlike most mailboxes, P.O. boxes are locked or require a code to access. This adds another layer of security than most mailboxes.
People sign up for P.O. boxes because they may not regularly have access to their physical mailbox. For example, people who travel for work or for extended periods of time are not necessarily able to keep up with their physical mailbox without the help of a friend or neighbor. This can pose other security risks, of course.
The limitations of a P.O. Box
While a P.O. Box certainly has many benefits, there are some things you'll want to consider before renting one. Most notably, if you are a frequent traveler or lead a nomadic life, keep in mind that you will still not be able to keep a close eye on what you receive.
Of course, you can pair a personal P.O. Box with USPS Informed Delivery and stay abreast of what you receive. Informed Delivery is a free service offered by USPS that sends users pictures of the outside of incoming postal mail pieces. Informed Delivery keeps you posted about what pieces of postal mail you're receiving. However, even if you know you are receiving something important or time-sensitive, you won't be able to see your postal mail contents with Informed Delivery, much less act on it.
If you frequently receive packages, a P.O. Box is probably not the best option for you. Major carriers like UPS and FedEx will not deliver packages to P.O. boxes provided by USPS. Even if senders are not using these carriers, you may still run into issues because of the P.O. Box size. In that case, the post office will typically hold onto the package for you at the desk, but this can still be a nuisance if you plan to regularly receive packages.
How to get a P.O. Box without a street address?
One of the biggest limitations of a USPS P.O. Box is that you must provide a permanent, physical address to be eligible for one. This poses an issue for nomadic people who don't maintain a traditional, permanent residence.
Do you need a street address for a P.O. Box?
That being said, there are still options. If you don't mind not being able to open or act on your postal mail remotely, you can research private P.O. Box services offered by companies instead of the USPS. Depending on your service provider, you may not need to have a permanent address to sign up. Of course, you'll also want to look into any restrictions about packages for your service provider.
P.O. Box alternatives
However, there is one alternative to a traditional P.O. Box that doesn't have the same restrictions and gives you more power to act on your postal mail. A virtual mailbox or virtual P.O. Box, like the ones we offer at Earth Class Mail, offers you much of the same security that a P.O. Box does. With a virtual mailbox, you will receive a virtual address. This address is a real, physical address offered by the service provider and is not tied to where you live or work.
Earth Class Mail, a LegalZoom company, accepts postal mail on behalf of its customers, scans the content, and uploads copies as PDFs available within their account, just like email. Earth Class Mail does not have carrier restrictions for packages, and we can receive and forward packages or physical copies of your postal mail as needed. A virtual mailbox or P.O. Box will give you all the security benefits of a traditional P.O. Box while also offering added capabilities and convenience.
Is a P.O. Box right for me?
P.O. boxes are a very common alternative to traditional mailboxes, and for good reason. They offer enhanced security for your postal mail and, depending on your location and needs, can be very convenient in terms of proximity.
Overall, a traditional P.O. Box can certainly help address any security concerns you have about your current mailbox. However, they are not the best choice for everyone. If you plan to receive packages frequently or don't want to wait until you are able to visit your mailbox to act on your postal mail, you definitely should know how to get a P.O. Box, and you should consider a virtual mailbox provider like Earth Class Mail.
A virtual mailbox will offer the same security benefits as a P.O. Box, but without some of the limitations. Learn more here.
How to write a P.O. box address?
When you are addressing a letter to a P.O. Box, you simply put the P.O. Box number where you typically put the street address. To properly address a letter, first write the recipient's name in the first line, then a company name if applicable. P.O. Box number you need to write below that, followed by the city, state, and, finally, ZIP code. To ensure non-problematic delivery, make sure the format of the address meets the USPS guidelines.
How to open a P.O. box?
To open an online P.O. Box, visit the Earth Class Mail website and pick a virtual P.O. Box plan that suits you the most. After choosing the plan and setting up an account, we will be able to convert your physical mail into digital mail and store it in your safe online account. Once postal mail is in your account, you're in control.