How to Address an Envelope to a P.O. Box


March 14, 2024

In 2022, the United States Postal Service (USPS) served 164.9 million delivery points across the U.S., with about 1.8 million new points added to the network. Individual mailboxes and post office boxes (P.O. boxes) are among these delivery points. 

When sending mail to P.O. boxes, one of the things you must understand is how to address envelopes to these destinations.

So, how do you write the address when mailing to a P.O. box? Can you write your recipient’s P.O. box number and street address in the address line? How do these boxes work?

This article dives into these issues and explores the reasons to consider getting a P.O. box. This article also discusses how businesses can benefit from these boxes, including the challenges of managing a traditional P.O. box.

To reserve a P.O. box at a post office, visit to locate a USPS post office near you. You can also narrow your search by specifying the city, state, or ZIP code in the search box.

P.O. Box or Street Address

When you want to send mail to someone and need to specify their address, you can write the P.O. box number or street address, not both. 

The post office box is a uniquely numbered locking compartment. Meanwhile, the street address can vary based on its directional location.

Writing Both the P.O. Box and Street Address in the First Address Line

When writing the street address and P.O. box in the address line, remember that USPS can choose to deliver to the P.O. box because doing so costs less for them.

Indicate the primary address on the first line and the backup address on the following line. This way, you can ensure the courier does not get confused between the primary and alternate addresses.

Preference Between the Street Address and P.O. Box (Example)

The following example demonstrates writing the street address and P.O. box in the address line:

Mr/Ms. Jackson
345 Honeybee Ave.
PO Box 6789
New York, NY

Positioning the P.O. Box Number

To position the post office box number in the address line, begin by writing the mailing address, including the recipient’s name, at the center of the envelope.

On the next line, write the recipient’s business title, followed by the P.O. box number. You can also include other details like city, state, and ZIP code in the final line.

Steps to Ship to P.O. Boxes

Suppose you are the shipper and you want to send mail to your recipient’s P.O. box number. You must follow the correct mailing steps to ensure your mail arrives at the right address. 

The following sections discuss these steps in brief detail.

Step 1: Start at the Center of the Envelope

Write your recipient’s name and address legibly. Failing to do so can cause the courier to mishandle your package or letter, causing possible delays, or deliver it to the wrong address.

Step 2: Write the Recipient’s First and Last Name on the First Line

When writing the recipient’s name, include their first and last name. You can also add their middle name or initial to ensure the mail does not go to the wrong person.

Include your recipient’s formal title, such as doctor or professor, if they have one. This way, you can be as specific as possible and minimize or prevent any issues when shipping to a P.O. box.

Step 3: Note the Company or Organization (Optional)

If you send mail to a company or organization representative, place the company name under the recipient’s name. 

If written correctly, the first two address lines should appear like the following:

Dr. Henry Jones
Digital Productions, Inc.

Step 4: Provide the P.O. Box Number

Your recipient’s P.O. box number should begin with “PO Box” followed by a two- to five-digit number.

Do not include punctuation when you write the P.O. box number. Your address line should appear as follows:

Dr. Henry Jones
Digital Productions, Inc.
PO Box 34567

Step 5: Add the City, State, and Postal Code to the Bottom Line

Write the city, state (or province), and ZIP code on the last line of your letter or package’s address. Separate the city and state with a comma. 

Overall, your recipient’s address should appear like the following:

Dr. Henry Jones
Digital Productions, Inc.
PO Box 34567
New York, NY 10001

Sending Mail to a P.O. Box vs. Street Address

When sending mail to a P.O. box or street address, you must know the differences between these two and what format to use for addressing.

If you use a P.O. box to receive mail, you can keep your physical street address private, helping to reduce identity theft risk.

Unlike a regular mailbox at your physical address, P.O. boxes can only be opened with a code or key. This feature makes the P.O. box a more secure option for receiving mail than a standard mailbox.

What Is a P.O. Box Address?

A P.O. box is a lockable mailbox serving as an individual or company’s official or permanent delivery address. You can usually find this box in a USPS post office, with many locations offering 24/7 access.

Valid P.O. Box Address Format

For the United States Postal Service (USPS) to recognize the P.O. box address as valid, you must follow the correct P.O. box address format as described below:

  • Start the address with the words “PO Box.”
  • Follow these words with the relevant box number, usually consisting of two to five digits.
  • Do not use punctuation, so write “PO Box” instead of “P.O. Box.”

The Working of P.O. Boxes and Its Requirements

When dealing with mail deliveries to P.O. boxes, you must understand how a P.O. box works, including the rules and regulations that apply to P.O. box addresses. 

The following sections discuss some P.O. box basics, such as how these boxes work and what abbreviations to remember.

How Do PO Boxes Work?

A P.O. box is a storage space, usually in a post office’s lobby, that you can use to store your postal mail separate from your personal or business addresses. You can secure access to these boxes using a key or combination lock.

You can rent a P.O. box in a post office of your choice. However, some individuals and businesses select a box nearest to their location.

How to Write a P.O. Box Address

Although writing a P.O. box address should be simple, some individuals may still need to learn how to write it correctly. 

The next sections provide a basic guide to addressing mail to a P.O. box address.

Step 1: Write the Recipient’s Address in the Middle

As mentioned earlier, the correct position to write the delivery address is the middle of the envelope. 

Ensure this address contains your recipient’s full name, organization name (if applicable), and P.O. box number.

Writing Down the P.O. Box Designations – The Don’ts

If you notice that the P.O. box number contains a designation, such as “CALLER” or “BIN,” omit such details on the envelope.

For example, instead of “BIN M,” write “PO Box M” when addressing your mail.

Step 2: Provide the Return Address

Write your mail’s return address on the upper left-hand corner of the envelope or package.

If you write as a business or corporation, always include your return address on your mail pieces. Doing so helps the addressee identify the sender. 

The return address also lets the courier send the mail back if the delivery is unsuccessful.

Step 3: Affix a Valid Stamp

Add a stamp or prepaid shipping label at the envelope’s upper-right corner. Stamps represent payment for the delivery cost. 

Ensure the postal stamp does not overlap the address or other information necessary for delivery.

Step 4: Double-Check the Address

Double-checking the address you have written may seem like common sense. Unfortunately, many companies, including those using address verification services, skip this step, ignoring the possibility of an undeliverable address. 

Remember that human error is still possible, even with automated tools. Double-checking is one way to help minimize or prevent such errors.

Abbreviations and Periods

As mentioned earlier, you must omit periods when writing the P.O. box address. When it comes to writing abbreviations, USPS suggests using standard ones only.

Why Identify Whether or Not an Address Is a P.O. Box

When other courier services like Federal Express (FedEx) and United Parcel Service (UPS) ship your package, they will likely not deliver to P.O. boxes as these locations can cause issues for deliveries and shipping guarantees.

In such cases, consider using the street address when addressing mail to your recipient, especially when using couriers other than USPS.

Dealing With P.O. Box Designations

Some P.O. box addresses appear with various designations like “BIN,” “CALLER,” “LOCKBOX,” “FIRM CALLER,” or “DRAWER.”

As mentioned earlier, omit these designations and change them to “PO Box.” For instance, write “PO Box L” instead of “DRAWER L.”

Writing a Valid and Invalid Address in Different Address Lines

USPS must verify that an address is valid before sending mail, or the mailing can get rejected. This process occurs for the P.O. box and street address.

Suppose you are a direct marketer sending business mail or promotional material to the P.O. box and street address. USPS must verify both addresses before it can deliver the items.

How to Improve Legibility and Efficiency of Your Postal Mails

Ensure that USPS or your recipient can read the address in your mail. One thing that can help improve legibility is using a printer to make address labels. Doing so can significantly enhance your package’s readability and boost efficiency.

You can print these labels through the Click-N-Ship feature if you have a USPS account. You can also use this feature to buy stamps.

Meanwhile, you can use online address verification tools to easily automate addressing tasks and sending postal mail to your recipient.

When Sending to a Street Address

Suppose you want to send an item to a specific street address even if your recipient has a P.O. box number. Write the street address first and the P.O. box number next.

For example, write the recipient’s name in the first line, street address in the second, and P.O. box number in the third line.

The P.O. box number, in this case, functions as an alternative address if the courier cannot deliver your mail to the street address or the recipient is not home.

When You Aren’t Sure

When your recipient provides a street address and P.O. box number for mailing, but you are unsure where the mail goes, assume it goes to the P.O. box. Therefore, write the P.O. box number in the second line and the street address in the third.

Delivery of Mail by USPS to a P.O. Box Address Instead of a Physical Address

If you want the U.S. Postal Service to deliver mail to a P.O. box instead of a physical address, write the P.O. box number first. This way, USPS will prioritize delivery to the P.O. box over the street address.

Delivering Postal Mail Through USPS to a Physical Address Over a P.O. Box Address

Alternatively, you can inform USPS to deliver your mail to the recipient’s physical address instead of the P.O. box. As mentioned before, you can do so by writing the street address before the P.O. box number.

Sending Mail to a P.O. Box via UPS and FedEx

UPS and FedEx do not deliver mail to a P.O. box. However, you can change the address format to a P.O. box street address (PBSA).

The PBSA allows shipping companies to deliver mail to a P.O. box by combining the P.O. box number and the post office’s street address.

How to Get UPS and FedEx to Deliver to a P.O. Box

When shipping through FedEx, the only way to mail to a domestic P.O. box is by using FedEx Ground Economy (formerly FedEx SmartPost). This service covers all U.S. residences and delivers in two to seven days.

UPS does not deliver to a P.O. box. You must include the recipient’s telephone number on the label if you use a P.O. box address instead of a street address.

Although you can still use the P.O. box as your package’s address, your shipment may experience delays and not be covered by any UPS service guarantees.

Why Do You Need a P.O. Box Address?

A P.O. box address can provide several benefits you may not receive if you use a street address. 

The following sections tackle these benefits and may help you decide whether to get a P.O. box.

You Want to Maintain Your Privacy

A P.O. box lets you use its address for receiving mail instead of your physical address, which you can keep private to help reduce identity theft risk.

You Send Direct Mail Campaigns

If you run an eCommerce business, you can send marketing materials to clients through their P.O. box addresses, even if these customers do not provide their street addresses.

You Want a Secure Mail Option

Unlike regular mailboxes, P.O. boxes can only be opened using a key or code. Such features help make your P.O. box more secure.

You Do Not Have Access to Your Mail

If you do not have regular access to your physical mailbox, consider using a P.O. box for receiving mail. This solution can help if you travel often or stay abroad for months and need a secure way to receive mail.

Using a P.O. Box for Your Business: What You Need to Know

Aside from your P.O. box’s location, other considerations when getting a P.O. box for your business include evaluating where to rent the box, what box size you need for business, and which rental agreement best suits you.

Furthermore, consider asking the following questions before renting a P.O. box:

  • What mail types will my business receive?
  • What budget should I set aside for a new mailbox?
  • Will it be easier to pick up physical mail?
  • Is the mailbox available for 24/7 pickup service?
  • What other services will the mailbox provider offer that can benefit my business?

P.O. Box for Business and Corporate Use

Many US-based businesses and corporations, such as startups, financial organizations, and online companies, often use P.O. boxes for various reasons. The sections below discuss these businesses and how they benefit from using P.O. boxes.


If you run a startup, getting a P.O. box can help keep your home address private. Doing so can help your business, especially when it has limited office space, or you prefer not to work in a closed environment.

Using a P.O. box address can also give your business, especially if it’s still in its infancy, an image of professionalism to outsiders.

Financial Organizations

Financial organizations like banks, insurers, and debt collectors can use P.O. boxes for critical communications. These organizations may prefer this method since the box is inside a physical post office, making P.O. boxes more secure than average street mailboxes.

Online Businesses

If you run an eCommerce business, you may not necessarily have a physical business address since you usually use the internet for most operations, including marketing.

However, you will likely need a physical address to send postal mail to customers or receive correspondence from clients.

Business Owners Who Travel Frequently

Suppose your business requires you to travel frequently. In this case, you may find it challenging to get mail on time.

Having your mail sent to a P.O. box can help you receive mail and packages whenever needed, even when you are frequently on the road.

Making the Most of Your P.O. Box

Some people may prefer the security and privacy benefits that a P.O. box offers. Others may choose a P.O. box because they live in a rural community, making physical mail delivery to their address difficult. 

If you are one of these people, a P.O. box can come in handy for your needs.

The P.O. Box Signup Process

The signup process for getting a P.O. box can be relatively straightforward whether or not you do so online or in person at your local post office. 

The following sections discuss the ways to rent a USPS P.O. box.


Perform the following steps to open a P.O. Box account online on the USPS website:

  • Step 1: Locate post offices near you using the search bar on the P.O. boxes page.
  • Step 2: Select a post office location and choose your preferred PO box size and payment period.
  • Step 3: Fill out the online application form, accept the terms and conditions, input your payment and billing information, and submit your application to reserve a P.O. box.
  • Step 4: Print the completed form and bring it to the post office where you reserved your P.O. box. Also, provide two forms of acceptable U.S. identification (I.D.) within 30 days of submitting your P.O. Box application.


If you want to apply for a P.O. Box account in person, go to a post office and follow these steps:

  • Step 1: If you have a printer, download P.S. Form 1093 (an application form for the P.O. Box service), fill it out, and print it. Afterward, bring the completed form to the post office.
  • Step 2: Bring your payment and two acceptable U.S. I.D.s to the post office and inform the postal worker that you want to apply for a P.O. Box service.

Choosing the Size of a P.O. Box

USPS offers five P.O. box sizes, depending on your needs. The types, measurements, and starting prices as of 2023 are as follows:

TypeSizeDimensionStarting price per month
Size 1Extra small (XS)3in inches (in) by 5.5in$4.67
Size 2Small (S)5in by 5.5in$6
Size 3Medium (M)5.5in by 11in$9
Size 4Large (L)11in by 11in$13.33
Size 5Extra large (XL)12in by 22.5in$23.67

Selection of a P.O. Box Rental Price

USPS implements two fee structures for renting a P.O. box: “competitive” and “market-dominant.” Based on these structures, P.O. boxes in urban areas and larger cities are often more expensive than in rural areas.

For example, as of July 2023, competitive fees for a six-month rental can start from $69. Meanwhile, market-dominant prices for the same period can go as low as $28.

Managing Your P.O. Box Mailing Address

After getting a new P.O. box, you can focus on the P.O. box address format you want to share with people from whom you expect to receive mail. The following section explains how to manage your P.O. box address.

The Correct Way to Use Your P.O. Box Address

Managing your P.O. box address format is relatively straightforward since you only need to replace your physical or street address with your new P.O. box number in the address line.

The Trouble With Traditional P.O. Box Addresses

Despite the benefits of traditional P.O. boxes, there are also a few shortcomings.

One disadvantage is that a traditional P.O. box at your local post office may not be secure or private for someone determined enough to locate your physical address from the P.O. box address. 

If you suspect any attempt from a third party to violate your privacy and breach security, inform the courier or the police immediately.

Another challenge is that having a P.O. box means you must regularly travel to a post office and pick up your mail there. For someone with a busy schedule, frequent trips to the post office can be an inconvenience.

The Restrictions on Shipping to P.O. Boxes

USPS is the only carrier that can deliver to P.O. boxes. When sending an item through another courier, you may need to use the recipient’s street address instead.

The P.O. box’s dimensions can also limit what packages you can receive. 

If your package does not fit, USPS will hold your package for 10 days. If the parcel remains unclaimed, the courier will return it to the sender.

Challenges of Shipping to P.O. Boxes

Aside from the restrictions, other challenges when sending mail to P.O boxes are as follows:

  • Limited courier choice: Aside from USPS, the only other way to mail to P.O. boxes is through FedEx SmartPost (now FedEx Ground Economy).
  • International shipping is a hassle: FedEx Express can ship to P.O. boxes in select international destinations and Puerto Rico. However, you must provide a valid phone or fax number.
  • Tricky tracking: Once your shipment arrives at the P.O. box, the tracking information may not update until the recipient comes to pick up the item. 

This issue can be frustrating, especially if you need to check whether your customer received their items.

Alternatives to P.O. Boxes

Other alternatives to renting a P.O. box include getting similar services in commercial spaces offered by companies like UPS. This company provides these alternative spaces in The UPS Store instead of government buildings.

The UPS Store offers shipping, packing, printing, and mailboxing services for personal and business purposes.

Other companies offer virtual mailboxes if using your P.O. Box or home address is not viable. A virtual mailbox is a private box address at a secure location where you can receive and securely store your postal mail.


  1. Can I get a P.O. box without a physical address?

You cannot get a P.O. box if you have no physical address. To get one, you must provide a physical address and two accepted forms of I.D.

  1. How do I get a physical address from a P.O. box?

You can request the P.O. box’s address from the box’s owner using the appropriate USPS form. You can also look up the P.O. box’s location online.

  1. Can a P.O. box be a legal address?

P.O. boxes only come with a box number and cannot be used as a legal address. In other words, you cannot use a P.O. box number for the address on your driver’s license, credit card billing, or other personal identification information.

  1. How do I use a P.O. box as a physical address?

Although you can use a P.O. box number as your mailing address, you cannot use that number as your physical address.

  1. Does USPS offer physical addresses?

The Postal Service does not provide physical addresses. However, it has a street address service that lets you use the post office’s street address instead of the P.O. box number.

  1. Does the P.O. box or physical address come first?

When mailing a letter or package to a P.O. box, you can write the recipient’s P.O. box number first, followed by the physical address.

  1. What are examples of P.O. box addresses?

Below are P.O. box address examples:

Dr. Henry Jones
Digital Productions, Inc.
PO Box 34567
New York, NY 10001

Jane Doe
PO Box 12345
Los Angeles, CA 90001

  1. Do I put a name when sending to a P.O. box?

As discussed in the article, the typical address format when mailing to a P.O. box is to write your recipient’s name in the first line, followed by the P.O. box number.

  1. How do I rent a P.O. box?

You can rent a USPS P.O. box through the following steps:

  • Apply online: Search and choose a P.O. box and submit the completed online application form and payment to reserve your box.
  • Apply in person: Print and fill out the P.O. Box application form. Bring the filled-out form, your payment, and two acceptable I.D.s to the post office.
  1. How can I find out how much a P.O. box will cost?

The website has a tool that can help you search for specific P.O. box sizes (from extra small to extra large) and their costs based on your ZIP code.

  1. What should I do once I have signed up for a P.O. box address?

After signing up for a P.O. box address, your next steps are as follows:

  • Pick up your P.O. box keys in person: Bring your completed application form and two acceptable I.D.s to the post office where your box is to claim your keys.
  • Get your mail conveniently: Check your P.O. box during your preferred schedule.
  1. Why should I change my street address to a P.O. box address?

If you prefer privacy and security for your physical address, consider getting a P.O. box and redirecting your mail to this new address.

  1. Why do organizations provide a street address and P.O. box address?

Some businesses provide both addresses for deliveries so that one address can function as a backup if the other address cannot receive mail for some reason.

  1. What address should I use for my business?

If you want your business to have a professional image, consider using a commercial address instead of a residential one. A commercial address can protect your privacy and personal information.


  1. Size and Scope
  2. 283 Designations
  3. PO Boxes
  4. Price List