How to Get a PO Box
Most people do not give a second thought about their mail delivery. It is brought to the front door by the postman and slipped into the mailbox. Apartment dwellers can collect their mail from the drop box that is usually located just off the lobby. However, if you’re looking for a more secure option for your mail, or want additional privacy, a PO Box is worth looking into. It can offer a convenient solution for freelancers, rural-dwellers, and frequent travelers. You might be wondering how to get a PO Box – is it even worth the trouble? Let’s dig a bit deeper and look at how to ongo about getting one, as well as the pros and cons.
What IS a PO Box?
A PO Box or Postal Box, is a locked mailbox that can be accessed by key or code, depending on its location. The box is usually located in the post office lobby. Mail addressed to the Box owner is deposited there to be picked up by the owner whenever convenient. PO Boxes are traditionally used to receive mail when you live in areas where mail is not delivered directly to your home. However, you can have mail delivered to your home and still have a PO Box in your name down at the Post Office. There are a number of very good reasons that will be discussed below.
Is a PO Box Free?
The Postal Service offers no-fee post office (PO) box service to customers who do not receive any form of carrier delivery. Customers can apply for the no-fee PO box service by completing an application. They also need to provide proper identification to a Postal Service employee. “Retail personnel determine customer eligibility and enter data into the Web Box Activity Tracking System (WebBATS). This is a web-based application that allows retail personnel to manage PO box inventory.
Boxes are allocated and assigned first to those without delivery service. However, any remaining inventory (extra boxes) can be rented to just about anyone else who wants one.
How Much is a PO Box?
There are a number of factors that go into pricing these mailboxes, such as the location, box size and rental period.
Much like real estate, it’s all about location. Where you are plays a large part in determining the cost. Different post offices have different price codes depending on how competitive the area is. A PO Box in Los Angeles will likely cost more than the same sized box in Butte, Montana. Clearly, this will have an impact on how much you will have to spend. If you live in a large metropolitan area, the cost can be quite high. If you live in a smaller city or rural area, the cost can be extremely reasonable. In any event, this is a factor to keep in mind when applying.
Depending on the post office, you can usually find PO Boxes in five sizes, ranging from Extra Small to Extra Large. Most PO Boxes are 14.75” deep. Below you’ll find dimensions, their prices estimates, and capacity estimates:
- Extra Small: (3” x 5.5”) These little mailboxes can hold 10-15 letters or two rolled-up magazines. They cost $12- $75.
- Small: (5” x 5.5”) Small PO Boxes hold up to 15 letters and 5 rolled magazines. You’ll pay $16-$150 for a small PO Box.
- Medium: (5.5” x 11”) These mailboxes are perfect for large envelopes and magazines to be stacked flat. Expect to pay $25-$250 for a medium PO Box.
- Large: (11” x 11”) Twice as tall, the large PO Box is so roomy that you can fit two shoe boxes inside and still have space for 10-15 letters. The extra space will set you back $60-$400.
- Extra Large: (12” x 22.5”) The largest PO Box available holds multiple Flat Rate Boxes and parcels. Expect to pay anywhere from $106-$625 for these big PO Boxes.
Guidelines For Picking a PO Box Size
- Small size postal box – is sufficient for personal or business mail that you pick up once a week.
- Medium size postal box – If you subscribe to more than one periodical, like a magazine or newspapers, a medium size PO Box is likely a better choice.
- Large size postal box – If you pick up mail once a month, or travel for weeks on end, a medium or large box is a good choice.
You can always start with a small postal box and then upgrade to a larger one. However, USPS does not like your mailbox to overflow. If your mailbox overflows frequently, they will ask you to move to a larger box. This can be very inconvenient because you will have to notify your contacts and change your address box number.
Depending on the post office, you can choose to rent your mailbox for three, six, or 12 month periods. In general, you get the best deal paying for 6-12 months at a time. You will have to pay for your entire rental upfront. Therefore, decide how much you’re willing to spend. If you rent a box for a year, you can usually renew the lease each year without a problem.
In addition to the rental fees, you’ll also have to pay a deposit for the box keys. The deposit is pretty nominal. Usually, a $3 deposit for the first two keys and $6 for any additional keys. Lose your keys or forget your code? That can get expensive, like $20 or more.
What are the Advantages of a PO Box?
PO Boxes offer a wide variety of benefits that will appeal to many people. Here are just a few to consider:
A PO Box is great for people who move constantly. If you’ve ever relocated, you know the pain you go through changing your mailing address. This goes for bills, bank statements, and magazine subscriptions, updating personal information with the IRS and the government, and sending email or emailing friends your new address. It’s very easy to miss updating an important service. It’s even possible to end up with identity theft because someone happened to get their hands on your personal mail. A PO Box reduces this problem by cutting down the frequency required to change your mailing address every time you move.
Your home and personal address remain private. Another primary reason why people rent a PO Box is to protect their privacy. There may be times when you don’t want certain people to know where you live. By getting a postal box, you get another mailing address that you can use for selected contacts and transactions. A great example for using a PO Box is for receiving rent on real estate properties from your tenants. There are good reasons for not wanting your tenants to know where you live. This is especially true if an eviction is required.
A PO Box is physically located inside a post office and is securely monitored. Tampering with the mail is a federal offence. Additionally, your mail is locked and accessible only with a key or lock combination. Selected Post Offices have extended business hours. Some offer 24/7 lobby access so you can pick up your mail at any time. Mail stored in your postal box is also more secure compared to mail inside your mailbox at home. Like it or not, mail is often left in an unlocked mailbox that’s easy for strangers to rummage through.
PO Boxes are physically located at a Post Office. Mail typically gets delivered faster to a postal box than to a residential or business address. There is no waiting for the postman to drop mail off at your home or office. You daily mail is usually delivered to your box before noon. This is convenient if you need to get particular mail that requires same-day mail-out.
Fees for PO Boxes are normally inexpensive. Depending on the box location and size, a 6-month term starts for as low as $10 per month. However, you need to make sure that you get the proper box size that fits your incoming mail volume.
What are the Disadvantages of a PO Box?
PO Boxes can make a lot of sense for personal reasons. However, there can be disadvantages for a business.
- Image – PO Boxes do not provide a professional business image.
- Physical Address may be Required – A physical street address is required for your registered agent for an LLC or corporation and PO boxes are not accepted.
- Not Suitable for other Carriers – A PO Box can only receive mail delivered through USPS and not other carriers such as FedEx or UPS.
- Size Matters – You will have to stay on top of your mail to make sure that your PO Box does not overfill. Also, you have to be careful with packages. If a package does not fit in your PO Box it will be set aside by USPS.
- Forwarding Charges Apply – Mail forwarding and package forwarding from a PO Box is not cheap. USPS charges extra fees to perform these services.
- You Have to Physically go There – Time and effort is involved to travel to and from the Post Office to pick up mail.
How to Get a PO Box
Signing up is easy and straightforward. You can apply in person at your local post office or online. There can only be one primary PO Box key holder, but you can give access to others if necessary.
How to get a PO Box Online
On the USPS PO Box page, enter your address or zip code to search for a Post Office near you. Next, select the most convenient post office from the map. You might be interested in choosing a location near your place of work or business. Once you choose your location, there should be a list of the sizes they have available along with access hours. Select the size of PO Box you’re looking for and you’ll be prompted to either reserve the box or join the waitlist. If the box you want is available, you can also select your lease period – 3-month, 6-month, or 12-month.
The final step is to fill out Postal Service Form 1093. This really just amounts to your contact and billing information. Once you submit your completed form, You’ll have 30 days to confirm your identity and pick up your keys. To complete the process, print your form and drop by the Post Office you have selected with proper identification. You will have to show two forms of acceptable U.S. identification.
How to Get a PO Box In-Person
In person is not much different than reserving a box online. You still need to fill out Postal Service Form 1093. The Post Office more than likely has this form available. You can either pick it up there, or print it out beforehand. Just submit the completed form with two acceptable forms of identification. One of the two IDs must have a government issued photo – like a driver’s license or a Passport.
The post office that you hand your application into doesn’t even need to be the one holding your PO Box. You can hand in your application at any post office with window service. However, you still need to pick up your keys from the Post Office where your Box is located.
How to Get a Premium PO Box
The US Postal Service offers free premium services at some of their locations. All you need to do is ask – and they’re definitely worth asking about. These services range from holding large packages to offering expanded lobby hours and more. This comes as a surprise to many, but premium PO Box services aren’t something you need to pay more for. These are extra services that the post office offers when you lease a PO Box. However, the services may differ depending on the location. Also, if you don’t ask, you won’t know what’s available
- A real street address included
- Signature kept on file so you don’t always have to sign for packages
- One month of free service when you pay for a 12-month rental period
- No key deposit for the first two keys
- Access to the PO Box lobby for extended hours
- Earlier pickup times
Street Address for your PO Box
It is ;possible to use the street address where your PO Box is located for your mailing address. For example, if your post office is on 1500 Main Street and your PO Box is number 101, you could list your address as 1500 Main Street #101. It is a more professional looking address and it works just the same. It is also possible, then, to receive mail and packages from most carriers including FedEx and UPS. There are some rules and limitations to this. Be sure to thoroughly read through the customer agreement when filling in your information.
Keep a signature on file
If you receive specific types of mail such as insured items that need your signature, you usually have to go to the counter and sign for them. With USPS PO Box Premium Services, however, you keep a signature on file. This can help you avoid all of the hassle, and the lines.
Extended Lease Promotions
Many Post Offices offer a free additional month when you sign up for a twelve month lease. This works out to thirteen months for the price of twelve. That’s an 8% discount. So, reserve your PO Box for 12 months and they’ll throw in the 13th month for free – what a deal.
Waved key deposit
There is usually a deposit required for the first two keys to your PO Box. To avoid this, set up your PO Box at a post office that offers premium services, and they wave this fee. However, additional keys and lost keys will still cost you extra.
Do you have to work late and can’t make it to the post office during regular business hours? Not to worry. With premium services, select locations offer extended hours to access the post office lobby and grab your mail. Some Offices have access 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This can be a very nice feature if you work late or are not available during regular business hours.
How to Redirect Your Mail
Once you have your PO Box, the next step is to redirect your mail and packages to this new PO Box. You can either fill out a Change of Address Form online or pick one up at any post office. Fill it out and submit it. Your mail will then be forwarded to your new address for up to 1 year for First Class Mail.
Disadvantages of Getting a PO Box
Even with all of its advantages, getting a PO Box does have some drawbacks.
Not all mail is accepted
If your local post office doesn’t offer premium services, you won’t be able to receive packages or mail from any carriers other than the USPS. It’s the only company permitted to put mail into your PO Box. So, those FedEx packages or Amazom Prime deliveries will have to be delivered to your home address.
You have to pay to get a PO Box
Unless delivery service is not available where you live, you will have to pay for your PO Box. Depending on your location, rental period, and the size of your Box, you might want to reconsider the privacy and security of a separate delivery location from your home.
Not every Post Office has an inventory of unused boxes available. If there’s isn’t a location near you with available inventory, you might be put on a waiting list. Or, you could choose another Post Office nearby, but travel a bit farther to pick up your mail.
PO Box Refund Policy
What happens if you reserve a box at your ideal location, only to find out you are being relocated? Are you out of luck, or can you get your money back? The good news is, you may be eligible for a refund. The USPS has two policies. One policy active PO Boxes and another for inactive PO Boxes. If you picked up your keys, your PO Box is active. If you reserved your box but have not yet picked up the keys, your box is inactive.
Request a Refund
If you want a refund for your PO Box fees, you can make the request either online or in-person at the post office where your PO Box is located. Both options are fairly straight forward.
- Online – To make your request online, simply log into your USPS account and visit the “Manage Your Account” page. From there, you can close and request a refund.
- Face-to-Face – When making your request in-person, all you have to do is visit the post office containing your PO Box and request a refund at a service window. If you have them, remember to bring your PO Box key(s) with you!
Inactive PO Box Refund
It is fairly simple getting a refund for a PO Box when you didn’t pick up the keys. After 30 days of inactivity, you should see a full refund from the post office. If you cancel within the 30 days, you still get a full refund but you’ll have to make your request first.
Active PO Box Refund
Getting a refund for an active PO Box is slightly more complicated:
- Three Month Rentals – If you paid for a three-month rental, you aren’t eligible for a refund but you can still close your PO Box online.
- Six Month Rentals – You can receive a 50% refund if you close your PO Box within the first three months. After the beginning of the fourth month, you won’t be able to get a refund.
- 12 Month Rentals – You can get a 75% refund when you close your PO Box in the first three months. A 50% refund is possible if you cancel in the first six months. A 25% refund is available if you cancel in the first nine months of opening it. After the start of the tenth month, you’ll no longer be eligible for any refund.
A P.O. box is a convenient way to control when, where and how you receive mail. It’s particularly useful if you want to keep your address private. It’s also helpful if you want to keep subscriptions or business mail separate from your personal mail. The price of a box rental varies by location, but starts from as little as $9 for a small box for three months. That’s pretty reasonable, but it can get up to $625 for an extra-large box for six months.
Do your research – PO Boxes vary in price depending on size, duration, and location. As long as you do your research and take these three things into account, there should be no surprises. Remember to ask about their premium services! You never know for certain until you ask.