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What is the purpose of a P.O. Box and Why Do You Need One?

Digital communication may be more common these days, but there’s no doubt that postal mail is still necessary for modern life. Postal mail from financial institutions, the authorities, and some businesses remains prevalent. This is why a post office box or P.O. Box can be useful.

In this blog, let’s explore what a P.O. Box is, why it’s still relevant, and whether you need one. We’ll also cover the pros and cons of the P.O. Box and what modern alternatives are available today.

What is a Post Office Box or P.O. Box?

A Post Office box or a P.O. Box is a locked mailbox located inside a post office facility.

  • Individuals and businesses rent a P.O. Box to receive mail and packages in a secure place. Mail and packages are delivered to this locked post office box until you collect them.
  • Post office boxes are installed in the wall of a post office, either outside or in a lobby.

What is the Purpose of a P.O. Box? 

  • A P.O. Box allows you to receive mail in a location that is not your home address. It is an alternative address if you want to keep your home address private. 
  • A P.O. box serves as a depository of mail or packages. If you don’t want mail to pile up by your front door or you are not home often to empty your mailbox in the yard, a P.O. Box will be useful for you. 
  • P.O. Boxes come in different sizes so they’re also useful for receiving parcels or packages. 

How Does a P.O. Box Work? 

  • When you sign up for a P.O. Box, the post office will assign you a unique number and box at a specific post office location. 
  • When you receive mail in your P.O. Box address, the post office staff deposit your mail in the box
  • Using your key, you can retrieve the mail in the lobby or outside of the building. Some P.O. Boxes have combination dial lock types instead of a key.

Why Do People Still Use P.O. Boxes?

P.O. Boxes are still popular among consumers for many reasons. If you’re wondering if you really need one, check out the following list of pros and cons of using P.O. Boxes.

Benefits of a P.O. Box

You Get Mailing Address Security & Privacy

  • P.O. Boxes are in a secure facility. Your mail and packages will be delivered to the post office in a locked box. You’ll be assured that your mail and packages will be kept in a secure location.
  • A P.O. Box mailing address also hides your personal or home address. It can protect you from mail theft and porch pirates.

P.O. Boxes Can be Affordable

  • Some small P.O. Boxes cost as low as $18 for a 3-month period. If you explore your options and available P.O. boxes thoroughly, you may find one that’s easy on the wallet.

You Get Your Mail Faster

  • Because USPS manages P.O. Boxes, you will immediately get your mail or packages in your box once they reach the post office.

No Waiting at Home for Deliveries

  • It’s completely up to you when to drive to the post office to pick up your mail or packages from your box. You also don’t have to waste time waiting to have packages delivered to your home. They’ll be sent to your P.O. Box and be kept there until you pick them up.

Disadvantages of Using a P.O. Box

P.O. Boxes Can Fill Up Fast

  • A P.O. Box size limits the items that it can hold. If you receive a lot of mail and packages per week, you’ll be forced to get an XL box, which might not be economical for you.
  • Additionally, you’lll be forced to drive to the post office to clear your box every time it gets full. This can be inconvenient, especially if you’re traveling or don’t have time to make the trip.

P.O. Boxes Are Not Accessible All the Time

  • Some post offices have lobbies that are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but not all. You’ll know if your local post office is open 24/7 while searching for locations when you apply for a P.O. Box online.

A P.O. Box Mailing Address Isn’t Fit for Business Use

  • Don’t get a P.O. Box if you want to use it for your business. A business address that starts with a P.O. Box number doesn’t look professional. It could signal to customers or potential investors that you have a questionable operation.

You Can’t Have All Mail or Packages Delivered to a P.O. Box

  • Private couriers like UPS or FedEx are generally not allowed to make deliveries to a P.O. Box. Only USPS can deliver mail and packages to your P.O. Box.
  • Some online merchants may refuse delivery if they see your address includes a P.O. Box number.
  • Some post offices have a separate service called Premium Box Office Service Street Addressing. This type of service permits delivery from UPS, FedEx, DHL, Amazon, and the like. However, not all post offices offer this service.

Alternatives to a P.O. Box

Considering the above disadvantages of using a P.O. Box, here’s some alternatives to explore before you commit to go the P.O. Box route:

Private Mailboxes

  • Independent pack-and-ship businesses or mail centers manage and handle private mailboxes.
  • They offer physical mailboxes you can rent and where your mail and packages will be delivered.
  • Unlike P.O. Boxes, a private mailbox comes with a real street address, which looks more professional than a P.O. Box number. This makes it a possible alternative if you plan on using the address for business.
  • Not all independent mail centers, however, offer this service. A USPS P.O. Box may be more common in your area than private mailboxes.

UPS Dedicated Mailbox

  • This is a type of private mailbox that UPS operates. You can rent a UPS Mailbox inside a UPS store and have your mail and packages delivered there.
  • Unlike a P.O. Box, you’ll get a real street address with your UPS mailbox. Other private couriers can do mail delivery to your UPS mailbox, too.

Virtual Mailbox

  • A virtual mailbox is a private mailbox with an online or virtual component. It comes with online access that allows you to manage mail wherever and whenever.
  • A virtual mailbox has a physical address in a pack-and-ship or business center.
  • There are also coworking spaces and virtual office centers that offer virtual mailbox services.
  • With a virtual mailbox, your mail and packages are delivered to a safe and staffed location.
  • Via a phone or web app, you will get a notification every time a mail item or package arrives for you.
  • You can then make a request to open & scan, forward mail, shred or recycle, or schedule for pickup, all from an app on your mobile device.

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