How Much Does a Post Office Box Cost?

When I started my business years ago, I thought the responsible business-y thing to do was to get a post office box.

Why?

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’d 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 at 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:

  1. The size
  2. The rental duration (3, 6, and 12 months)
  3. 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 yellow 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 Size3 Months6 Months12 Months
X-Small (Size 1)$51$88$176
Small (Size 2)$65$113$226
Medium (Size 3)$101$177$354
Large (Size 4)$159$276$552
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!

Alternatives to PO Boxes

Having your own PO box that you need to regularly check isn’t ideal for everyone. Maybe you frequently travel or maybe you require a mailbox in a location other than the city where you live or where your office is located.

Thankfully, the post office isn’t the only place that lets you rent a box to accept mail. There are ways to have someone collect your mail on your behalf, without having to hire the neighbor to check your mailbox daily.

UPS Store Boxes

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.

Virtual Mailboxes

A virtual mailbox isn’t actually 100% virtual. It’s still a fully functioning physical mailbox, but someone else manages it for you. It’s virtual in the sense that the company processes and scans your mail, then sends you a digitized copy — either via email or through their own app.

You can then review each piece of mail and instruct the company to destroy or forward the mail to an address of your choosing. Depending on the company, they may even be able to deposit checks or sign for mail on your behalf.

Some virtual mailbox companies also offer physical shipping for packages that you need in person (typically for an extra fee).

Lots of virtual mailbox companies have popped up in recent years as the working world has become increasingly remote — which means there are plenty of providers to choose from, such as iPostal1, Post Scan Mail, and Anytime Mailbox. Some shared office spaces, like WeWork, even offer virtual mailbox services.

Here’s our full iPostal1 review.

Summary

A PO box or virtual mailbox can give you or your business a layer of privacy and protection for your mail. Since neither relies on your physical address, you can arrange to have mail delivered to wherever is most convenient for you. And with a post office or processing center as a buffer, you have more security over who can access your deliveries.

If you want a traditional 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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About Jim Wang

Jim Wang is a forty-something father of four who is a frequent contributor to Forbes and Vanguard's Blog. He has also been fortunate to have appeared in the New York Times, Baltimore Sun, Entrepreneur, and Marketplace Money.

Jim has a B.S. in Computer Science and Economics from Carnegie Mellon University, an M.S. in Information Technology - Software Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, as well as a Masters in Business Administration from Johns Hopkins University. His approach to personal finance is that of an engineer, breaking down complex subjects into bite-sized easily understood concepts that you can use in your daily life.

One of his favorite tools (here's my treasure chest of tools, everything I use) is Empower Personal Dashboard, which enables him to manage his finances in just 15-minutes each month. They also offer financial planning, such as a Retirement Planning Tool that can tell you if you're on track to retire when you want. It's free.

>> Read more articles by Jim

Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, not those of any bank or financial institution. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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6 years ago

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.

6 years ago

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. πŸ™‚

— Jim

Serdar
6 years ago

BOA Preferred reward account holders get free small safe deposit boxes.

6 years ago

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
5 years ago

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.

RAY
5 years ago

Question about the Baker’s Dozen free month promo…

Does that mean I’d get one free month every year?

Thanks,
Ray

Jennifer Santiagos
4 years ago

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 πŸ™‚

Steven Moses
3 years ago

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.

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