Do you know that you could have your mailbox with you wherever you are? And we are not talking about emails. You can have permanent access to the paper correspondence you’d normally receive via your domestic mailbox or a postal box. This is what a virtual PO box provides. Sounds interesting and promising? If so, keep on reading to learn more about this option and what it offers to individuals and businesses.
What Is an Online PO Box?
With a common PO box, your mail comes to a postal office and is stored there until you come to pick it up. You don’t know anything about the letters addressed to you and have no control over your correspondence until you retrieve it. Unless you regularly drop into a postal office to check for your correspondence, great chances are you can miss some essential mail, especially if you use this mailing method for business.
Meanwhile, an online PO box upgrades the capabilities of a standard physical Post Office box with a real street address and virtual mailbox. The best thing about it is that you can track and even view your mail remotely and do it at any time using a dedicated app or simply accessing your mailbox online. There is no need to go anywhere, you can do it from wherever you are and take a look at your letters even when you are out of the country.
While digital versions of your mail pieces are stored in the cloud, paper copies are kept in a brick-and-mortar location waiting for your forwarding request. In the meantime, once a new letter is received, you’ll get an instant notification about that sent via a push message or an email. So, you can safely use an online PO box for sensitive and legal mail and rest assured you won’t miss any correspondence pieces that require your close attention.
How Does an Online PO Box Work and Why Do You Need It?
For the start, virtual PO boxes are provided by special services having physical addresses in multiple locations to receive the mail on behalf of the addressee and store it on-site if necessary or redirect it to a specified alternate address. Usually, this type of service is provided on a monthly basis and comes at a fee ranging from about $10 to $30 per month depending on the amount of mail to be processed and the type of address you require. Thus, if you expect high mail flows and need a prestigious address for business purposes, it will cost you more.
With a virtual PO box, you will not only have consistent online access to your physical correspondence but also you’ll be able to control and manage it remotely. You can ask to open your letters and make their scans for you, request to eliminate or discard the junk mail or letters you don’t need on paper or choose to forward hard copies of your mail pieces to any other address. Notably, you can add multiple optional addresses to redirect your letters to if necessary. Besides, most commercial online PO boxes refer to real addresses in pack-and-ship centers, mailbox stores, and business office buildings. As such, they can be used not only for paper mail but also for bigger packages delivered by all express shipment companies.
An Online PO box will let you stay in touch with your regular mail when you are out of your home or office. Since it’s not a traditional PO box in a common post office but a box with a real street address in a convenient location, you can use it not only for personal mail but also for business purposes. It’s eligible for business registration and listing your company in search engines and directories. As such, a virtual PO box is a great solution for busy workers, frequent travelers, freelancers, home-based businesses, and sole proprietors seeking to organize their mail flows in a more efficient and manageable manner.
Pros and Cons of an Online PO Box
Before you make a final decision on whether a virtual PO box is the right solution for you, take a look at its pros and cons and see how they stack up.
- Affordability: Online PO boxes appear to be cheaper than traditional PO boxes or rented mailboxes. Besides, they tend to offer more storage space and more added features for that price;
- Real Street Address: Unlike USPS mailboxes with no street number, online PO boxes offer real addresses you can use not only for mailing but also for business registration purposes. This type of PO box is even suitable for formal correspondence. Thus, should you decide to file a business, there will be no need to pay hefty sums for rental offices. A virtual PO box address will suffice;
- Ultimate Control: Your regular mail and deliveries will be always at hand. You can manage your letters and packages from wherever you are at any time of the day. Accessing your online mailbox, you’ll be able to scan, review, forward, or discard your mail at a tap of a button;
- Efficiency: Consistent online access to your mail will save you multiple visits to your local post office to check and empty your PO box. You’ll be informed about a new mail piece receipt immediately;
- More Delivery Opportunities: Virtual PO box services allows delivering packages from all types of carriers including the most popular shipping companies. More than that, you’ll be able to store packages and make consolidated shipments to minimize re-shipping costs. It’s a great alternative for smaller businesses to handle their product deliveries and returns;
- Enhanced Security and Privacy: With a virtual PO box, you can rest assured all your deliveries will be handled diligently and stored safely. There will be no risks of packages being stolen from your porch or any letter getting lost. Meanwhile, using an online PO box for business, you’ll let your company look credible and trustworthy for customers without making your home address visible to the public. It will easily serve as a reliable and eligible business address.
- Added Fees: While virtual PO box monthly rates are on the lower side, there might pop up some added fees that will bump up the final price. Thus, mail forwarding fees might run into bucks if you receive quite a number of heavy and oversized packages;
- Internet Dependence: You won’t be able able to access your virtual mailbox should there be any problems with the Internet connection or its stability;
- Not the Best Option for Marketing Purposes: Though you can use an online PO box address for business, a PO box address doesn’t look professional enough, especially when it comes to bigger companies with developed networks.
How to Get an Online PO Box?
Once you’ve decided on the virtual service to work with, to get your online PO box, first, select a physical mailing address to assign your virtual PO box to. Normally, service providers come up with thousands of street addresses in various localities, so there will be something to suit you for sure. Then, you need to choose an optimal pricing plan to match your current mailing needs and pay it up.
The next step is to fill in Form 1583 required by the United States Postal Service (USPS) to verify your identity and authorize your chosen PO box provider to receive and handle your mail on your behalf. Note that you’ll have either to sign this form in your local post office or have it notarized. Otherwise, it won’t be valid and can be declined by USPS.
Finally, you should file a change of your address to USPS to start redirecting your mail to your new PO box. If you are going to use your online PO box address for all types of mail, submit a Change of Address form or choose a Temporary Change of Address application to use the virtual box for a certain period. Besides, if you register an online box for business mail only, you can simply inform a new address to all your potential senders and provide no notifications to USPS.