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Virtual Mailbox vs. USPS Informed Delivery: Everything You Need to Know

Anytime Mailbox’s virtual mailbox service and the United States Postal Service’s Informed Delivery service are often confused. Many may wonder why they should get a virtual mailbox from Anytime Mailbox if the USPS Informed Delivery service is free. 

There are reasons to argue both sides of the fence here, but what really matters are your needs and which service fits them best.

What’s the Difference Between a Virtual Mailbox and Informed Delivery?

First, the key difference is that Informed Delivery is a useful postal mail alert provided for free by the US Postal Service, while a virtual mailbox allows you to manage your postal mail from anywhere, anytime. A virtual mailbox also includes a real street address, which is useful for business privacy and security reasons.

What is USPS Informed Delivery?

USPS Informed Delivery is a service that notifies you when mail or packages arrive. It also sends photos of the address side of mail pieces. Knowing when your mail and packages are arriving can be helpful when you have a busy day and are unsure if someone can sign for it at home or the office.

However, the USPS’ Informed Delivery main limitation is that its only real purpose is to tell you that postal mail is coming your way and what it looks like from the outside.

How Informed Delivery Works

White truck parked outside an apartment complex. A floating phone that shows the USPS Informed Delivery app is shown to the left.

This USPS service sends you a photo of your mail before it arrives. You will be able to see images of the outside of your incoming mail, whether on your computer or mobile device. The images are in grayscale and show the address side.

When you sign up for Informed Delivery, you will receive notifications when your paper mail or packages will be delivered. On your mobile device or computer, you can track your incoming mail and see what items are about to arrive. You can also leave instructions for the delivery personnel, such as telling them in which area of your house they can drop off your mail and packages.

How to Get Informed Delivery

Signing up for this USPS service is easy. You can activate it from your USPS.com account. Follow the steps below:

  1. Go to USPS.com and opt in to Informed Delivery. If you do not have a USPS.com account yet, sign up on the Informed Delivery page.
  2. Type in your address to check if it’s eligible for Informed Delivery. Some areas may not have this service.
  3. Provide your account information and verify your identity.

Once your application is processed, you will start receiving notifications when paper mail or a package is about to be delivered to your address.

How Much is USPS Informed Delivery?

This service is free.

All About Virtual Mailboxes

A woman smiling and holding a phone in a cafe. A phone that shows the Anytime Mailbox app and a “new mail item” pop-up is shown to the left.

A virtual mailbox, by comparison, also provides notifications when you receive paper mail or parcels. However, a virtual mailbox service also has more advanced and essential features that help you manage mail better.

An Anytime Mailbox virtual mailbox service provides an alert when your mail or packages have been delivered, not when they’re in transit. You can then make additional requests after you receive the notifications. For example, via a phone app or an online dashboard, you can request that your mail be opened and scanned. You can also request for mail forwarding, shredding, or recycling. Some virtual mailbox providers also offer check deposits.

A virtual mailbox also serves as digital and physical mail storage.

How do Virtual Mailboxes Work?

When you sign up for a virtual mailbox account, you can access your postal mail and packages remotely. The virtual mailbox provider will take a photo of the address side of your mail and send the image to your account. You can access these photos on your account via a phone app or a web browser.

If you want to know the contents of your mail, you can also have the mail scanned. This is especially important if you receive business mail, for example, and you need to act on correspondence in a timely manner.

All mail items are instantly digitized, encrypted, and backed up in the cloud, keeping your postal mail secure and accessible. You can easily assign dates, names, and categories so that you can maneuver your digital postal mail documents as easily as your email.

How to Get A Virtual Mailbox

Signing up for a virtual mailbox account is a simple process. With Anytime Mailbox, you can start by browsing our 2,000+ locations in the U.S. and worldwide. After selecting a location and virtual mailbox provider, you can proceed to the sign-up page and submit the necessary requirements, like a notarized USPS Form 1583.

Once your application is processed, you will get a notification within a few days that your virtual mailbox is ready and that you can start receiving mail in your digital mailbox immediately.

How Much is a Virtual Mailbox?

An Anytime Mailbox virtual mailbox has a nominal monthly subscription cost. On average, it will cost you about $9.99 a month.

Compare the Features and Benefits of Anytime Mailbox’s

Virtual Mailbox and USPS’ Informed Delivery

Compare the Features and Benefits of Anytime Mailbox’sVirtual Mailbox and USPS’ Informed DeliveryAnytime MailboxInformed Delivery
CostAverage $9.99 monthlyFree
Notified of mail/package in transit
Notified of mail/package arrival
Professionalizes Your Business with a Real Street Address
Secures Home Address with alternate Real Street Address
In-App Request to Forward via FedEx, UPS, DHL or USPS
In-App Request to Open & Scan of Mail Items
In-App Request to Shred Sensitive Mail Items
In-App Request to Recycle Unwanted Mail or Junk Mail
Receive FedEx, UPS, DHL or USPS at Real Street Address
Postal Mail Securely Encrypted and Stored in the Cloud
100% Contactless Mail and Package Management

How Do I Know That I Need A Virtual Mailbox?

Man holding a phone that shows a “new mail item” pop-up from Anytime Mailbox. To the left shows a laptop, tablet, and mobile phone with Anytime Mailbox websites on the screens.

You Want to Set Up a Business

A virtual mailbox is a great fit for people starting a small business. A virtual mailbox is right for you when you’re self-employed, starting a home-based business, or are a startup entrepreneur.

A virtual mailbox comes with a real street address. You can use it as your business mailing address instead of a PO Box. It will give your business a more polished and legitimate reputation, as opposed to an address that clearly states a PO Box number.

Aside from giving you a trustworthy image, a virtual mailbox also comes with a number of benefits for your business. You can use it as a digital mail storage for your important documents. It’s a good and secure option for product returns as well.

A virtual mailbox is also one of the building blocks of a virtual office. If you wish to establish one for your business, just sign up for a business phone number, and you’re all set.

You Travel Often

If you don’t have a permanent address and/or are frequently on the go, dealing with postal mail filling up your mailbox at home can be a hassle. Sure, you can ask your neighbor or family members to pick up your mail, but that can be too much trouble sometimes. They have their lives, too.

But with a virtual mailbox, your mail and packages will be delivered to a safe and secure location. You will know right away when your mail arrives, and there will be a staff to sign for your packages. You can then schedule to pick up the items when you get back or have them forwarded to another address.

You Want Security and Privacy

A virtual mailbox offers a layer of security and privacy to your home address. You shouldn’t use your personal address as a business mailing address because it puts your personal details in the hands of strangers. Anyone can show up at your doorstep and cause trouble.

Even if you don’t run a business, it’s still a good idea to inhibit strangers from accessing your home address.  Additionally, is it safer to receive mail at your virtual mailbox because only the operator or their staff will have access to it. It’s not out in the open and vulnerable to mail theft like in your mailbox in the yard.

You Don’t Want to Deal with Spam Mail

Spam mail is a pain to deal with. With a virtual mailbox, however, you’ll see the last of your spam mail. The virtual mailbox provider will simply discard, shred, or recycle them for you at your request.

A woman with a scared expression hiding behind the back of a chair. In front of her are piles of envelopes, the middle pile says SPAM

You’re a perfect candidate for a virtual mailbox if you identify with any of the points above. It’s not just for busy professionals, either! Even kids who live away from home at college or young adults embarking on their careers in a new city can use a virtual mailbox to manage the postal mail they receive in their hometown.

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