Wish to keep your location, residential or office address confidential for any reason? Or do you travel frequently and cannot receive mail regularly?
Thanks to United States Postal Service (USPS) and private providers, you can easily get a PO Box or Post Office Box anywhere in the country.
This facility is available to US residents as well as those who want an American address for any reason and is perfectly legit.
Interested? Here I provide a detailed guide on how to get a PO Box, how it costs and other necessary details.
Register with USPS
This is the first and basic step. You will need an account with USPS. This can be opened free of cost within a few minutes. Click on the ‘Register’ link on the top right section of the USPS website.
You will be directed to the online form that is rather simple. Select your language- English, Spanish or Chinese. Next, select an easy to remember the user name and a password.
Provide two security questions and their answers in the boxes provided below. These will be very useful should you lose account details including username and password. The final step is to select the type of account you need- Business Account or Personal Account.
Choose the Personal Account if you need the PO Box for receiving regular mail, boxes and parcels or need to order postage stamps or mail a package.
The Business Account is best suited for small, medium and large businesses that receive large volumes of mail.
The next step obviously is providing personal details including your name and present address. Remember, you need to submit acceptable identity and address proof at the time of application.
Hence, ensure you have the needed documents.
Benefits of USPS Account
Having an account with USPS has several benefits. Persons living outside the US can also open an account on USPS. International clients need to provide additional details.
If you are a foreign client opening a USPS account, providing billing information is necessary for residents of some countries. This is to comply with the Patriot Act and other laws of the US governing payments made in the US from foreign countries.
Additionally, the facility to print address labels, request a package pickup, buy stamps and other postal stationery, printing custom forms online and filing domestic claims are available once you have a USPS account.
The greatest advantage of having a USPS account is getting and managing your PO Boxes.
You can cancel, renew or upgrade subscription to a PO Box or get a new one at the same or other location. This process is online and hence, simple and fast.
Find a PO Box
PO Boxes are available across the US. Yet, there are some areas that could be underserved. Hence, it is vital you search for a PO Box at the desired location.
USPS makes this process very simple. Visit the link on the USPS website where and search for the desired location.
You can search also by providing full address, location, city or Zone Improvement Plan code- commonly called ZIP code.
A list of locations nearest to your search will appear on the website. It will also indicate whether or not a PO Box is available, sizes and other relevant details.
Often, a PO Box may not be available at your nearest location. In such situations, you can look for a PO Box of another size or one at the location of choice.
Further, you can register for the wait list. USPS will inform you as soon as a post box of your desired size at the chosen location is available.
However, registering on a wait-list is not guarantee you will get it at the specific location. As I mentioned earlier, the demand for PO Boxes at some locations is very high.
Till you get a PO Box at the desired location, select one that located a little away and reserve it immediately. Usually, you can get a PO Box at the location of choice but not necessarily of the size, you require.
I suggest you opt for a smaller or larger size box if it is not possible to get the one required.
Selecting PO Box Size
As I mentioned above, you can select a PO Box of sizes that are larger or smaller than ones you need. You can get in five different sizes.
- Size-1: This is the smallest size- 3” x 5.5”. This is a good size if you receive little mail. It can hold up to 10-15 letters or two hand-rolled magazines.
- Size-2: Is slightly larger- 5”x 5.5” and can hold 10-15 letters or five hand-rolled magazines.
- Size-3: A medium-sized, measuring 11” x 5.5” is ideal for home-based businesses, which can hold large envelopes and magazines, stacked flat.
- Size-4: Is larger, measuring – 11” x 11”. Go for this box if you are an avid online shopper or receive small packages. USPS describes this box as capable of holding two shoe boxes and 10-15 letters.
- Size-5: The largest size available from USPS. It is 22.5” x 12” and holds flat rate boxes, mail, magazines and lots of other stuff. Subscribe to this size if you receive bulk mail and packages. This is the best suited for businesses or for sharing with others.
Reserve Your PO Box
Upon finding a PO Box at your choice location, reserve it immediately. Remember, PO Boxes at most locations are quickly taken.
Using your USPS account, reserve the PO Box online. The next step is to complete and print the PO Box application form called PS Form-1093.
Submit the completed PS Form-0193 to the post office where your PO Box is located. At this stage, you have to submit two identity and address proofs to the post office.
Address proof is vital since USPS can help deliver your unclaimed mail or packages to any location, provided they have correct details.
Hence, ensure you take the latest identity and address proof where such mail and packages can be delivered if you are unable to collect them for any reason.
Acceptable Identification Documents
Under the latest rules, USPS accepts only these following documents along with the application
Photo & Identity
- Valid US Driving License issued by any state.
- State Non-Driver Card.
- Armed Forces Identity Car.
- ID Card Issued by Federal or State Government or Local Bodies.
- University ID Card.
- Employee Card Issued by USPS Recognized Companies.
- The US or Foreign Passport.
- Alien Registration Card
- Certificate of Naturalization.
Non Photo Identity (Address Proof)
- Current Lease Agreement
- Mortgage Papers
- Deed of Trust
- Voter ID Card
- Vehicle Registration Documents.
Getting Your PO Box
You will get a PO Box immediately upon submitting the completed form and two acceptable identity and address proofs to the post office.
These identity proofs will be verified by USPS. I repeat you have to submit two acceptable identities and address that can be verified to prevent any disappointments.
Upon verification of credentials, the post office will issue two sets of keys or cards or combination numbers to access the post box.
This means you are all set to use the PO Box. You can begin using the new mailing address: it consists of the PO Box number followed by the name of the post office where it is located.
Regardless of whether you are an international client or American resident, a visit to the post office is necessary to get keys and the PO Box number.
Generally, keys will not be handed over to any representative unless you prove circumstances that do not permit a personal visit to the post office.
Hence, if you are looking for a PO Box located in another city or state, stay prepared to visit the post office. You can get additional keys by paying more.
Getting Free PO Box
Now, this sounds scintillating or maybe impossible. But USPS does give free PO Boxes to US residents.
You can it get free if USPS does not have regular mail delivery to your physical residential or office address.
To get the box free, you have to contact the nearest post office and find if your area qualifies. However, you need to provide proper identity and address proof to qualify for a free PO Box from USPS.
It also allotted for a period of six months. You need to file a request for an extension of the free facility at least 30 days before expiry.
Multiple PO Boxes
USPS allows you to have more than one PO Box either at a single location or various cities in the US. You can get PO Box in various towns and cities subject to availability.
Further, you need to visit the post office to claim the keys and PO Box number.
Any acceptable proof of identity and address is sufficient to get PO Boxes in different locations. However, documents you submit will be verified by USPS.
For example, ID proof from Colorado will be valid for getting a PO Box in Maryland, provided your documents are verified by USPS.
Further, the USPS website enables you to handle various PO Boxes under a single account. This means you can easily renew the subscription, upgrade or downgrade sizes online, using your USPS account.
Getting Shared PO Box
Some individuals also share their PO Box address for a fee. They will charge you a small sum that can be as low as $5 for six months for a shared PO Box.
Additionally, it is also possible to make some money or defray your expenses by sharing your box.
However, shared PO Boxes come with one inherent list. Should the owner cancel the subscription, you lose the address. Also, your important mail can be lost, if the PO Box subscriber fails to forward it.
While USPS allows PO Box to be shared, it explicitly states that forwarding mail is the sole responsibility of its registered subscriber.
Payment for Your PO Box
There are four options available for the payment. Here, I recommend you wait till you get a PO Box from USPS before paying.
This is to avoid any payment related hassles that may arise if your application is rejected by USPS on grounds of invalid identity or address proof.
Once you get a PO Box, you can pay cash or by credit/ debit card at the post office, before getting its keys.
Four options available to pay or renew your subscription for a PO Box include:
- Online using net banking, credit or debit card.
- At post offices by cash, check, credit or debit card.
- Through USPS Self Service Kiosks. You can locate an SSK through USPS mobile app or an online search.
- By Mail: You can send a money order or mail a check drawn in favor of USPS to pay for your PO Box or renew its subscription. The check or money order should be mailed to the post office where you hold a PO Box. Remember to mention your PO Box number on the face of the check to ensure timely credit.
You can renew your subscription 30 days before expiry. USPS also has an online facility to manage your PO Box. This means you can request a smaller or larger PO Box before renewal. Allotment, however, depends upon availability.
Important Notes about PO Boxes
- Since 2013, PO Boxes come under Competitive and Market Dominant Products category of USPS. Simply put, PO Boxes at locations where demand is high will cost more.
- The cost of a PO Box in a low demand zone can be as low as $19 for one size while in Competitive market, you may have to pay as high as $75.
- You can get a PO Box only for six months. Should you wish to retain the PO Box beyond that period, it is essential to renew to subscription in advance. Failure to do so can result in your PO Box address being allotted to someone else.
- USPS also provides services like mail forwarding for an extra fee. This means you can have mail forwarded to an alternative address if you are unable to collect it for any reason. You can also designate a legit mail forwarding organization or representative to collect and forward mail.
- It is possible to receive mail and packages that have to be signed by you at a PO Box address. In such cases, USPS will leave a note in your PO Box informing about the mail that needs your signature. However, you can waive this requirement by submitting a form at the post office. In such cases, the mail will have to be collected from a counter at the post office.
- Large size package that does not fit into your PO Box will be kept separately. A note informing of such objects will be placed in your PO Box. These items too are to be collected from the post office counter.
- For small businesses, USPS offers the special Caller Service. This means you can receive large volumes of mail in a small PO Box. The mail will be kept aside and will be handed over when you or a designated representative visits the post office.
These services should be sufficient for any individual or business. However, if you have some very specific needs, look for a private service provider, authorized by USPS.
PO Box from Private Organizations
Individuals and businesses that need a PO Box at a distant location or a mailing address in the US can get one from legit, private organizations recognized by USPS.
They charge much more than USPS. These are mail handling and mail forwarding companies that offer services to American and foreign clients.
The USPS franchises a lot of its mail functions to private service providers. Main receiving, consolidation and forwarding is one such function.
Hence, there are several major players in this market from whom you can easily get a PO Box. However, charges will be slightly higher than USPS and will depend upon the extra services you need.
Private PO Box System
The system is rather simple. These organizations have PO Boxes at various locations across the US. Hence, they can offer you an American address at a location of your choice.
Upon signing up with these companies, you will be provided with a postal address in the US. In fact, you get a PO Box address in the US without having to actually visit the country or complete formalities with USPS.
These mail handling and mail forwarding companies will receive letters, documents and packages sent to your American address at a PO Box address. You have to authorize them to receive packages and mail that require your signature.
Upon receiving such mail at the American PO Box, these companies will consolidate the mail and packages and forward them at your address in a foreign country or within the US.
Why Use Private PO Box?
Using a PO Box provided by private companies has several inherent benefits.
- Taxation levels in the US vary in every state. As American businessmen or startup entrepreneur, you can register a business in a state where taxes are lower, while you conduct it from another location. US laws permit registration of a business with a PO Box address.
- PO Boxes and mail forwarding services from private companies provide a high level of privacy. This means you can keep your exact location a secret and yet receive mail regularly from the second address.
- Businesses abroad that want to sell stuff in the US can use PO Box and mail forwarding services of private companies to receive, store merchandize and forward it to American clients.
- Charges for PO Box addresses offered by private organizations are fairly competitive. Depending upon the location, you can get a PO Box and real American address for as low as $19 per month. Some charge as low as $9.99 but these PO Boxes are located in not-so-popular locations.
- Other services such as mail consolidation, storage and forwarding cost more.
- Private PO Box providers offer customized solutions to individuals and businesses. In stark contrast, USPS only offers a limited range of services such as PO Box, Caller Service and mail forwarding. USPS does not offer services tailor-made for individuals and businesses.
- Private organizations work with individuals and companies on a franchise basis in a multitude of locations. Hence, you can get a PO Box in the USA at almost every place.
- Such franchising also helps private PO Box providers deliver your mail to any location in the US or abroad.
- It is possible to get Virtual PO Box from private companies. This means you can forward your mail and packages to an alternate location such as PO Box address instead of your office or residence, using your smartphone.
While opting for a PO Box from a private organization, it is vital to find whether they are franchised or recognized by USPS.
PO Box and Identity Theft
Once you get a PO Box, beware of scams. There are numerous instances where scammers and fraudsters have managed to access important mail including bank statements of PO Box subscribers.
Loopholes in USPS system for PO Box subscribers allegedly led to these frauds.
When you register and get a PO Box, make sure you respond to all email sent by USPS. Generally, fraudsters operate by diverting your mail to another PO Box.
USPS alerts you when address change requests are received and seek confirmation. Failure to do so can make you a victim of identity theft and financial fraud.
If you are a person that travels frequently or cannot receive mail at your residence or office for any reason, I strongly recommend you get a PO Box from USPS or private mail services provider.
They provide an ideal solution for those wanting to keep address or their location secret as well as people and businesses that need an address in a large city.
Banks, courts, employers and various other institutions also accept PO Box address while opening an account or applying for credit card.
In such cases, you can opt for receiving statements and other communication including court notices at a PO Box while the residential or office address will be maintained confidential in their records only for legal purposes.
Hence, it is ideal to get a PO Box and ensure that all mail is delivered to that address.