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 any of consequence 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 personally 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 PO 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 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”
Personally, 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 unlocky.
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 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 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!