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Virtual Mailbox vs P.O. Box: How To Know Which One You Need

January 30, 2023 | 6 min read
There are many reasons why you need a mailbox separate from your home address. Maybe you’re traveling and don’t want to miss important mail, or you have a home-based business and need a physical address for your customers.
Whatever the reason, you’ll need to choose the right solution.
One option is a P.O. Box. Popular for over a century, they provide a secure and convenient way to get your mail without worrying about being home to receive it.
And also, thanks to the endemic rise of digital technology, there’s a new option available that offers even more security and convenience—a virtual mailbox.
Both a virtual mailbox and a P.O. Box provide specific personal and business benefits, so it’s important to understand the difference.
Read on to learn about a few of the differences and what makes each option more suitable for certain scenarios.
You’ll learn:
  • What distinguishes a P.O. Box from a virtual mailbox
  • The pros and cons of P.O. Boxes and virtual mailboxes
  • How you can get started with your own virtual address
Let’s dive in!
What’s the Difference Between a P.O. Box and a Virtual Mailbox?
Seems obvious, right? One is a physical mailbox. The other is virtual. Don’t be fooled though. The differences between virtual mailboxes and P.O. boxes are significant.
Before choosing which way to go, here’s a quick topline about each.
P.O. Box
  • A P.O. Box is used to receive mail securely at a post office or other location instead of receiving that mail at your home address. You have to visit your P.O. box to pick up your mail physically.
  • Most P.O. Boxes offer rental periods from three months to a year, with discounts available if you make longer commitments.
  • Costs of a P.O. Box vary according to the size of the box, location, and other factors. The cost of larger P.O. Boxes that can handle more mail and larger packages can be high, so make sure to do a lot of research, shop around, and compare prices.
Virtual Mailbox
  • For a relatively nominal monthly fee, a virtual mailbox is a secure online mailbox service that allows you to access your mail and packages from any device, including smartphones, tablets, and computers.
  • Virtual mailboxes also allow you to organize your mail, with features like automatic sorting and filing. No more sifting through piles of junk mail.
  • You can request to have your documents scanned, emailed, faxed, or even have each mail forwarded to another address. You can also opt for secure shredding to ensure your information is protected.
Pros of a P.O. Box
No Tech Skills Required
  • P.O. boxes are a great option for those who don’t have internet access or prefer the traditional way of checking their mail. Nothing wrong with old school. Hey, flip phones are back, so go nuts.
  • P.O. boxes provide security, as the post office is responsible for the safety of the mail in its facility. It’s unlikely someone will break into the post office to steal your stuff.
Pros of a Virtual Mailbox Service
Remote Access
  • With a virtual mailbox, you can access your mail anytime, anywhere, in real-time. You’ll never have to worry about missing an important piece of mail, being unable to access your mail due to a post office closure, or being unable to make it in person for pickup.
Mail Scanning
  • You’ll get digital scans of the mail you receive, so no need to go to the post office. Your mail will be scanned and then emailed or faxed to you. This is especially useful for those who don’t have the time or inclination to fight traffic to visit a post office. And if you work remotely or travel frequently, this flexibility is huge.
Tools for Business Owners
  • You can organize your mail and set up automatic sorting and filing, keeping you from wasting time sorting through junk or worrying about missing an important package.
  • Virtual mailboxes also come with additional services like forwarding, package consolidation, shredding and recycling, and more.
How Do You Know Which Is Best for You?
If you’re deciding between a virtual mailbox and a P.O. Box, here are a few points to consider:
How Often Do You Need Access to Mail Items?
  • A virtual mailbox might be the best option if you need to access mail items regularly. It’s more convenient to be able to access and manage mail from any device, anytime.
  • A P.O. box could be an option if you don’t need regular access to your mail. With a P.O. Box, you’ll need to travel to the physical location to access your mail. If you’ve got the time, though, it can be a fun ritual to make the trip. There may be tasty froyo nearby.
Are You a Remote Business?
  • A virtual mailbox to go with your virtual number is a no-brainer if you have a virtual office. And if you have a remote business, the tools offered by virtual mailboxes can be beneficial. From legal documents to customer inquiries, a virtual mailbox can help you keep track of everything safely and quickly.
  • If you receive many small, high-value mail items, such as check payments, a P.O. Box might be a good option since the post office will physically guard your loot. But keep in mind that virtual mailboxes are safe, too, with services like secure document scanning and shredding. Be sure to research these options before making your decision.
Are You a Digital Nomad?
  • Understandably, the digital nomad lifestyle has become wildly popular. But stay alert. Remote work requires an exceptional level of proactivity, organization, and flexibility. If you’re going to wander while you work, you’ll need a seamless way to manage your mail while you’re on the road.
  • For nomadic types, virtual mailboxes offer mail forwarding, package storage, and document scanning that can make life easier while you’re mobile. If you run a remote business, this is a must-have.
How Much Mail Do You Receive?
  • P.O. Boxes tend to fill up quickly, making it challenging to stay on top of your mail. If you receive a large volume, then the flexibility of a virtual mailbox might be the better option.
  • If you do opt for a P.O. Box, be aware that some locations may charge for excess mail. Virtual mailbox services generally have much higher limits on mail volume than a P.O. Box.
Both virtual mailboxes and P.O. boxes are good options depending on your individual needs and preferences.
Ultimately, you’ll decide which one is best for your situation.
If You Are You Considering A Virtual Mailbox
If you’re thinking of going with the convenience and value of a virtual mailbox, how can you get started?
Getting a virtual mailbox is surprisingly easy and fast. And with plans starting at $5.99 per month, it’s worth considering.
All you need to do is take a couple of minutes to browse locations and then sign up for a virtual mailbox account. Once your account is set up, you’ll be able to start receiving postal mail. Done. Sorted.
You can choose which mail items you would like forwarded to your physical address, and you can scan and view documents online. When you receive a package, you’ll be notified by email or text message.
You can also opt for package forwarding services to have your packages sent to wherever you are in the world. A virtual mailbox is an ideal way to manage your business mail and save time so you can focus on other aspects of your business.
At Anytime Mailbox, we offer virtual address services for both businesses and individuals, and we help you stay connected with your customers and partners, wherever they are.
View over 1,850 U.S. and international virtual mailbox locations to get an idea of what’s possible.
See you on the road…