PO Box vs. Virtual Mailbox

March 30, 2022

Mail delivery can easily become burdensome for small business owners and frequent travelers. While maintaining a physical address is necessary for most, there are alternatives. Some startups and digital nomads choose to route their mail away from their home or office with an authorized third party who accepts mail on their behalf. 

While most people use Post Office boxes (PO boxes) for this purpose, virtual mailboxes are a new digital alternative available thanks to the advent of the internet. While both of these services allow an individual or business to receive uninterrupted mail delivery, they are not identical in the services or flexibility they offer. If you’re trying to decide between a PO box or a virtual mailbox, SnapMailbox can help! We’ll break down the key differences to help you decide which option is right for you.

What Is a PO Box?

A PO box is a service offered by the United States Postal Service (USPS) that allows users to receive mail for their home or business. You can typically find these boxes in the lobby of your local post office. They are secured using a key or combination lock and are monitored by USPS staff. Depending on the location, mail pickup times may be limited to business hours. The cost to use a PO box varies by location and size. PO box sizes include:

  • Extra Small (3" x 5.5")
  • Small (5" x 5.5")
  • Medium (5.5" x 11")
  • Large (11" x 11")
  • Extra Large (12" x 22.5")

What Is a Virtual Mailbox?

Virtual mailboxes are provided by commercial mail receiving agencies (CMRA). A CMRA will work with you to select a physical address of your choosing. Once you set up a virtual mailbox, it can start receiving mail on your behalf. When mail is delivered, authorized personnel will scan the outside for users to review. Users can then choose to shred, open and scan the contents, forward, or store the mail.

PO Box & Virtual Mailbox Similarities

PO Boxes and virtual mailboxes have a lot in common. However, these similarities can make it difficult to choose between the two. Here are some popular features that both options share:

Access To a New Address of You Choosing

If you want to set up a new address separate from your current home or business, both solutions offer this. With a PO box, your address is limited to a local USPS facility where you can pick up your mail. A virtual mailbox provides access to addresses across the U.S., whether you live there or not.

Enhanced Privacy

Many people seek a separate address for increased privacy and prestige. If you are concerned about providing your home or office address to contractors, customers, or other associates, either solution could help.

Increased Security

A PO box and virtual mailbox are monitored by staff or authorized personnel. This allows for the secure receiving and storage of mail and other packages. Note that the size of your PO box may limit certain packages, and not all couriers will deliver to a PO box. With either option, you won't have to worry about porch pirates or identity thieves stealing your mail.

More Reliable Deliveries 

Delivery delays are common, especially when a piece of mail requires a signature. PO boxes and virtual mailboxes allow for signature confirmation upon receipt, allowing you to travel at your discretion while still receiving mail.

Monthly Fees

Each option has unique fees and subscription packages. PO box fees depend on location and box size, ranging from $5 a month to $100 or more. Virtual mailbox pricing will depend on the amount of mail you receive, storage options, and forwarding services. Pricing for a virtual mailbox can range from $7 a month for a small personal account to $200 a month for a large business account. Most business accounts will cost around $100 a month.

PO Boxes & Virtual Mailboxes Differences

While PO boxes and virtual mailboxes share many features, there are key differences. Below, we listed some popular mail features and noted which are available for each option. 

Feature

PO Box

 Virtual Mailbox

Permitted for business registration

 No

 Yes

Adds credibility to a business

 No

 Yes

Accepted by all couriers for a receiving

address

 No

 Yes

Allows you to manage your mail online

 No

 Yes

Forward mail and packages to anywhere

in the world

 No

 Yes

Recycles or shreds unwanted mail

 No

 Yes

Long-term physical mail storage

 No

 Yes

Manages multiple users and addresses

 No

 Yes

When a PO Box Makes Sense

PO boxes are a good option for individuals with basic mail needs, such as protecting privacy and keeping mail secure. However, if you are unable to visit your PO box location often or plan on frequently receiving packages from different couriers, this option might be insufficient for your needs.

When a Virtual Mailbox Makes Sense

A virtual mailbox is a great option for any business, primarily when registering or operating as an LLC. If you’re looking for mail forwarding options and flexibility with types and sizes of packages, it’s hard to beat the advantages of a virtual mailbox. 

Focus On What Matters Most to You 

When deciding which option is right for you, focus on your needs, budget, and how you intend to use your mail service. Virtual mailboxes may be best for businesses with more complex needs and multiple users, while a PO box will work for individuals needing an alternative address with local pickup. To help you decide, make a list of your needs and find a suitable provider at a price point within your budget.

SnapMailbox Lets You Try Before You Buy

SnapMailbox offers several plans for individuals or business owners looking to switch to a virtual mailbox. We even offer a 30-day no-risk trial, so you can test out our service before you make the change. Visit our FAQ page today to learn more.