When I started my business years ago, I thought the responsible business-y thing to do was to get a Post Office box.
I honestly don't know. Like business cards, it's just one of those things (at least I use the PO Box!).
Since then, I've found that a Post Office Box is a great way to hide your address and give yourself an extra layer of security.
For example, most mailboxes are insecure. I know mine is. If someone wanted to steal my mail, they just open it, take all those juicy credit card pre-approvals, and calmly walk away. There's no security at my mailbox. There are just other mailboxes sheepishly standing around doing nothing all day. Oh, the thief can steal from those boxes too.
There isn't anything valuable to steal from our mailbox because packages are delivered to our house, which is set so far back in the woods that kids don't even bother coming for free candy on Halloween. Plus at least there we have cameras, just in case you get any ideas.
I am not concerned about thieves stealing from our mailbox but if you are, a PO Box can offer an extra layer of security and a very small cost.
Why do I need a PO Box?
If you are concerned about mail security, a PO Box is a great way to build some extra security in your life. It's a little like a credit freeze, it provides 100% security for a little bit of inconvenience. With a credit freeze, you have to unfreeze your report before you get a credit card. This ensures you never have to worry about your report being used without your knowledge.
A P.O. Box is a little layer of security to ensure you never have to worry about someone stealing your mail. It adds a little inconvenience because you have to visit the Post Office to get that mail, but if you choose wisely then it's not too much of a hassle.
How much does a PO Box Cost?
It depends on three factors:
- The size
- The rental duration (3, 6, and 12 months)
- Your location
There are also occasional promotions.
For example, my local post office will give you an extra month when you rent a box for 12 months instead of 6. The free month is reflected in the renewal date instead of a discount on the price (i.e. you pay for 12 months, you get the box for 13 months).
5 Cleverly Named Box Sizes
There are five box sizes available:
- X-Small (Size 1): 3″ x 5½” x 14¾”
- Small (Size 2): 5½” x 5½” x 14¾”
- Medium (Size 3): 5½” x 11″ x 14¾”
- Large (Size 4): 11″ x 11″ x 14¾”
- X-Large (Size 5): 22½” x 12″ x 14¾”
I use Size 1 because I only ever receive letters. Sometimes, I get a package and I just bring the little orange slip over to the counter to pick up the package.
Premium PO Box Service
When the Post Office says Premium, they don't mean you have to pay extra, but they offer these Premium services:
- Your PO Box comes with a real street address so you can receive packages from any shipper.
- Signature on File service means you don't have to go to the retail counter to pick up certain signature and insured items. (Priority Mail Express®, Signature Confirmation™, and Insured Mail greater than $500)
- “Baker's Dozen” promotion provides one month of free service when you pay for 12 months.
- No key deposit required for the first two keys for a new PO Box.
- Expanded PO Box lobby access hours in select locations.
- Earlier mail pickup times in select locations.
How to get a real street address for a PO Box: Simple! The real street address is a nice feature for those companies that refuse to mail to a PO Box. Just use the street address of the post office with #XXX for your address.
Example: If you have box #123 and your Post Office is located at 1 Main Street, Anytown, NY then your real street address is 1 Main Street #123, Anytown, NY.
How to Rent a PO Box
Do not just show up at the Post Office. You will have a bad time. Well, not bad, just super long if you're unlucky.
Go online and handle all your PO Box needs through the website. There is a tool you can use to find your local post office so you can find the available box sizes, the cost, and other premium services they offer.
For example, my post office is a tiny little building with only three box sizes available (1-3). A nearby larger post office has all five.
There's a little sign above the bank of PO Boxes listing availability as well as price.
Here are the prices at my PO in Maryland:
|Box Size||3 Months||6 Months||12 Months|
|X-Small (Size 1)||$39||$67||$134|
|Small (Size 2)||$58||$100||$200|
|Medium (Size 3)||$102||$178||$356|
|Large (Size 4)||$163||$283||$566|
|X-Large (Size 5)||$256||$446||$892|
I'm not sure how the post office sets prices because it's not based on the cost of living. The Old Chelsea Post Office (Zip Code 10001) in Manhattan, arguably a far more expensive than area, charges just $108 a year for the Size 1-XS box. The Peck Slip Post Office in New York (Zip Code 10038) charges just $90 for 12 months. Both are cheaper than my box in Maryland!
I just started looking at some more, it turns out the prices at a post office 2.78 miles away is HALF of what I'm paying!
|Box Size||3 Months||6 Months||12 Months|
|X-Small (Size 1)||$22||$38||$76|
|Small (Size 2)||$32||$56||$112|
|Medium (Size 3)||$57||$99||$198|
UPS Store Boxes
The post office isn't the only place that lets you rent a box to accept mail. UPS Stores have boxes, offer 24-hour access at some locations, as well as package acceptance, mail holding and forwarding, and many other features. One extra perk, not available with post offices, is called “MailCheck.” You can call to see if you have mail, saving you a trip. UPS Stores are individually run so prices will vary, you'll need to call to find out more.
If you want a post office box, check all the ones that are convenient for your schedule and driving situation. It seems the prices vary widely.
I chose the one closest to my house, paying nearly twice as much as I needed to, but it seems pricing makes as much sense as anything else with the post office!
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When I had a business, I got a mailbox at the UPS store. It is more expensive than the post office but I like their street address feature and the service more than the post office. I had never heard of being able to use the post office’s address as a business address. That is a new one to me.
Overall, it is good to have options, especially when one’s primary source for getting mail is a mailbox that anyone can access and remove the mail from.
Jim @ Route To Retire says
I got a PO box last year as my blog started to grow. With the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003, MailChimp requires your address to be on your emails going out. I didn’t feel comfortable with having my home address on there, so I got a PO box. Mine ran $90 for the year for the smallest they had. Similar to you, there were cheaper options elsewhere, but this one was is on my way to and from work.
Now I get to visit the post office once a month to throw out all my credit card offers. 🙂
Jim Wang says
I can’t wait until Informed Digest comes to all PO Boxes!
BOA Preferred reward account holders get free small safe deposit boxes.
Great overview – there are numerous advantages to a P.O. Box.
One that is a somewhat recent development for them is “Post Office Box Street Addresses” (PBSA) – instead of using “P.O. box 123”, you can often now list the street address of the Post Office + the box number (“500 Main Street #123”) – you need to search on usps dot com to see if it’s offered at your specific one. It is a nice touch when you want a slightly more business-like address.
PATRICIA A Nicks says
i think that i would like to rent a p,o, box for each month,and then used it until i get a place to live at.
Question about the Baker’s Dozen free month promo…
Does that mean I’d get one free month every year?
Jim Wang says
I don’t know if it applies to renewals and it may also be specific to each individual post office location and how in demand the boxes are.
Jennifer Santiagos says
Thanks for the info about post offices offering a physical address for a PO Box! I just checked online and my local post office offers that. And the yearly price is $80 versus $228 for a business mailbox at the UPS Store. Plus the post office is less than one block away 🙂
Steven Moses says
The Postal Annex in San Diego charges $377 a year for their smallest size mailbox. The UPS store is not much different. Also as most of these stores are in a strip mall the address will already contain a suite number after which you would need to have your box number.