How to Get a P.O. Box for Free

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June 26, 2023

In 2020, the number of individual mailboxes, Post Office (P.O.) Boxes, and other delivery points in the United States numbered 159.9 million. Reports suggest that this number typically grows by one million or more yearly.

With these figures, there’s a good chance that many customers will want their own P.O. Box to help address their mailing needs.

How can you obtain a P.O. Box? Can you get one for free? What requirements must you submit to the United States Postal Service (USPS) to get a P.O. Box?

This article discusses P.O. Boxes in the United States and how you can get one for free. This article also explains how P.O. Boxes work and the benefits and disadvantages of having a P.O. Box.

If you’re interested in getting a P.O. Box for your mailing needs, FindPostOffice.org can help you locate the nearest post office in Arizona, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Carolina, and other states.

What Are the Requirements to Obtain a Free USPS PO Box?

The U.S. Postal Service provides a no-fee Post Office (P.O.) Box service to customers not receiving carrier deliveries of any form.

If you want to apply for the no-fee P.O. Box service, fill out an application and provide the required identification to a Postal Service employee.

You can qualify for a free P.O. Box service if your physical or business address meets the following criteria:

  • The address is within a post-office-administered geographic delivery boundary
  • The location is a potential letter carrier delivery service point
  • USPS does not provide letter carrier delivery to the physical address or business location
  • The customer does not use an out-of-bounds delivery receptacle to receive letter carrier delivery

If you meet these requirements, you don’t need to reserve a P.O. Box through an online application. Instead, you can contact your local post office facility.

Fill In Your Personal Information

To apply for a USPS P.O. Box, you must complete the required information on the application for Post Office Box service form (PS Form 1093). If you apply online at the USPS website, you can generate this form during the application process.

You Must Meet These Requirements

During application, you must present two forms of identification: an acceptable primary and secondary identification (I.D.).

Acceptable primary I.D.s include:

  • U.S. government I.D.
  • Passport
  • Matricula consular (Mexico)
  • NEXUS (Canada)
  • U.S. corporate I.D. (limited cases)
  • U.S. university I.D. (limited cases)

Meanwhile, acceptable secondary forms of I.D.s include:

  • Vehicle or voter registration card
  • A mortgage, lease, or deed of trust
  • Home or vehicle insurance policy
  • Arrival and departure record (Form I-94)

Can a Homeless Person Be Eligible for a Free USPS PO Box?

The Postal Service offers free P.O. boxes for homeless people but is only available at select post office locations nationwide.

Homeless people can apply for a P.O. Box service at their local post office. The postmaster can approve the application under the following conditions:

  • The postmaster or window clerk knows the applicant.
  • The applicant provides a verifiable contact point, such as a shelter, employment place, charitable institution, or social services office.
  • An unknown applicant submits a proper I.D.

Your Free USPS PO Box Application Was Rejected for What Reason?

Some reasons why your P.O. Box application gets rejected include the following:

  • You didn’t fill out the form completely or correctly: Ensure the form is accurate and complete to avoid delays in getting your free P.O. box.
  • The postmaster cannot verify your identity: Present a valid form of identification and a contact point who can vouch for your character.
  • The post office has no P.O. boxes: Consider visiting another post office or applying at another time.

What If a Homeless Person Doesn’t Meet the Requirements for a Free P.O. Box?

General Delivery is free for homeless individuals to use as a temporary measure until a P.O. box becomes available or if they don’t meet the free P.O. Box requirements.

If you need a temporary mailing address while waiting for a USPS P.O. box to become available, consider getting General Delivery.

What Is a P.O. Box?

The USPS P.O. Box service is a premium service you can use for a fee if you require more than a general delivery or free home delivery.

P.O. Box service is provided in 3-month (with an automatic recurring payment by credit card), 6-month (semi-annual), or 12-month (annual) increments.

How Does A P.O. Box Work?

You can find P.O. boxes in the lobby area of the post office.

You can access your P.O. box by lock and key. In older post offices, you use combination locks.

Extra Services When Renting P.O. Boxes

Aside from security and privacy, other reasons you may want to get a P.O. Box are as follows:

  • Provides 24/7 access at most post offices.
  • Provides street addressing, which allows package delivery from other carriers like UPS (United Parcel Service), DHL, FedEx (Federal Express), and Amazon.
  • Keeps your signature on file so that you can avoid waiting in line to sign for a package.
  • Allows small businesses to get a professional-looking address and keeps personal and business lives separate.
  • Comes with free Informed Delivery for previewing incoming letter-sized mail, tracking packages, and managing deliveries for eligible business and personal accounts.

“How Do I Apply for a P.O. Box?”

You may apply for a P.O. Box in person at a post office or online at USPS.com. The application process for P.O. Box service isn’t fully approved until your identity and current physical address (personal or business) are verified.

Step 1: Pick a PO Box Location and Size

The first step is deciding your mailbox size based on your expected monthly mail deliveries and where you want to place your P.O. box.

How to Choose Your PO Box Location

Selecting your P.O. box location is one of your primary considerations when renting a P.O. box. For convenience, consider picking a location close to your home or work.

PO Box Size

Most post offices have five P.O. box sizes, depending on availability. Choose your box size based on the type of mail (letter-sized mail or package) and how many packages and mail you receive.

General Guidelines for Picking a PO Box Size

The size of the box and types of mail you can receive for each category are as follows:

  • Size 1 – XS (3” x 5.5”): Holds 10 to 15 letters and three rolled magazines.
  • Size 2 – S (5” x 5.5”): Allows 15 or more letters, one small Priority Mail Flat Rate box, or five rolled magazines.
  • Size 3 – M (5.5” x 11”): Holds magazines, large envelopes to be stacked, and two small Priority Mail Flat Rate boxes.
  • Size 4 – L (11” x 11”): Allows medium and small Priority Mail Flat Rate boxes and 10 to 15 letters.
  • Size 5 – XL (12” x 22.5”): Large enough for multiple packages.

Step 2: Get a P.O. Box

After deciding on a location and size, you’re ready to get a P.O. Box. You can go online to reserve one or visit the post office and apply in person.

How to Get a PO Box Online

To get a USPS P.O. Box online, visit USPS.com and go to the P.O. Boxes online page and follow these steps:

  • Reserve a new P.O. box by entering an address or ZIP Code and choosing an available P.O. box location in the list or map. 
  • Choose an available P.O. box size and indicate your preferred payment period.
  • Fill out the P.O. Box online application form (P.S. Form 1093) and agree to the terms and conditions.
  • Select the payment method and input your credit card information.
  • Read and accept the refund policy.
  • Review and submit the application.
  • View the confirmation page with a summary of your order details and detailed instructions on activating your P.O. Box.

How to Get a P.O. Box in Person

To apply for a P.O. Box in person, visit a local post office and complete the P.S. Form 1093, Application for Post Office Box Service. Bring a copy of the completed form and two acceptable U.S. identification forms.

Step 3: Redirect Your Mail

Your next step is redirecting your mail and packages to your new P.O. box. You can complete a change of address (COA) form online or pick one up at the post office.

P.O. Box Address Format

Your USPS P.O. Box address appears in the following format:

Your name

P.O. Box

City, state, and ZIP Code

The Benefits of Having a P.O. Box

P.O. Boxes provide three significant benefits: security, safety, and flexibility.

Security

P.O. boxes help ensure that your mail and packages are safe at the post office and only you or other people you specify can pick up your items.

Privacy

A P.O. box can help keep your home address and important documents confidential for peace of mind.

Flexibility

P.O. boxes allow you to receive mail on your preferred schedule, with various sizes and rental periods, such as 3, 6, or 12 months.

Negatives of Having a P.O. Box

Despite the benefits P.O. boxes offer, these boxes have a few disadvantages, discussed in the following sections.

P.O. Boxes Are Inconvenient

P.O. boxes are associated with a specific post office location. If you live or work far from that location, you must travel during most days to check your mail in that box.

Moving your home or business address can create further inconvenience because you must fill out another set of forms, pay new fees, and wait for another confirmation in the mail.

Also, you’re locked into a specific P.O. box rental period, meaning you may pay extra if you cancel early.

P.O. Boxes Have Limited Mail and Package Receiving Capability

Private shipping companies usually don’t deliver to a USPS P.O. Box. So if you or your senders prefer any of these companies, you likely can’t use a P.O. Box to receive mail or packages from these shippers.

Also, some of your mail may not fit inside if you order an extremely small P.O. box. In this case, you can receive a note in your box to retrieve your mail at the service counter or get a key to a larger storage box.

The Future of the P.O. Box Is Already Here

Virtual addresses, sometimes called virtual P.O. boxes, allow you to receive mail like a physical P.O. box but without stepping into a post office.

One feature of virtual addresses is that instead of checking your box daily, an automated system scans your packages or mail and digitally delivers the image to your digital mailbox.

How Much Does Renting a P.O. Box Cost?

As of June 2023, the USPS P.O. Box costs to rent per month are as follows:

  • Size 1 (XS): Starts at $4.50
  • Size 2 (S): Starts at $5.83
  • Size 3 (M): Starts at $8.67
  • Size 4 (L): Starts at $12.83
  • Size 5 (XL): Starts at $22.50

No-Fee Post Office Boxes

Customers can apply for the no-fee P.O. Box service by filling out an application form and providing identification to USPS.

Upon receiving your application, the Postal Service personnel will determine your eligibility and input your data into the company’s web box activity tracking system (WebBATS). This online application lets retail staff manage P.O. box inventory.

FAQS

  1. When should I rent a P.O. Box?

You can consider renting a USPS P.O. Box when you:

  • Frequently receive plenty of mail and a few packages and don’t mind going to the post office daily to retrieve mail
  • Don’t want to use your address for general business purposes
  • Have no interest in the features of a virtual P.O. box
  1. How do I renew a P.O. Box?

Your options for renewing your P.O. Box are the same as paying for a new one. You have three payment options for continuing your P.O. Box:

  • Online with a credit or debit card
  • At a self-service kiosk
  • At the post office where your box is located
  1. How do I close a P.O. Box?

There are two ways you can request to close a P.O. Box:

  • If you manage your P.O. Box online, you can close it by visiting USPS.com’s P.O. Boxes Online page.
  • Visit the post office where your P.O. box is to close your box.
  1. Can a P.O. Box be transferred?

USPS lets you transfer your P.O. Box service for no additional fees to any box of the same size and price category in the same post office.

To transfer your P.O. Box, submit a new application to the facility providing that service or where you desire that service.

  1. What do I need to know about P.O. Box delivery?

Only USPS can deliver to a P.O. Box. Private shipping carriers like UPS, FedEx, and Amazon cannot place physical mail in a P.O. Box.

If a mailpiece addressed to your P.O. Box is too large to fit in the box or must be signed, the post office will do any of the following:

  • Place in your box a key to a larger storage locker in the same facility if the item is too large.
  • Place a notice in your box telling you that you can instruct a window clerk to collect your item so you can retrieve that item from the clerk.
  1. What if the P.O. Box I want is not available?

If your desired P.O. Box isn’t available, you have the following options:

  • Choose another box size
  • Find a box at a different location
  • Request to be added to the waitlist
  1. Can I get a P.O. Box in a different city or state?

Yes, but you must first visit the post office that houses your box and provide proper documentation to pick up your P.O. Box keys or combination lock.

  1. I recently opened a P.O. Box. How do I get my P.O. Box number and the keys for my box?

After reserving your box, completing the PO Box application form, paying the rental fee, and verifying your I.D.s at the post office, the staff will give you two keys for your box. You can request more keys for an additional fee.

  1. Can I access my P.O. Box any time of the day?

Most P.O. Box locations provide 24/7 access to your P.O. Box. Still, hours can vary by post office location. Check your local post office to determine its operating hours.

  1. How do I manage my P.O. Box account online?

You can do the following when managing your P.O. Box account online:

  • Sign in to your P.O. Box account on the USPS website
  • Open a new P.O. Box
  • Add your existing P.O. Box to your account
  • Manage or add a credit card for payment
  • Edit your user profile
  • View your online payment history
  1. What is Street Addressing? How can I get it for my P.O. Box?

Street Addressing allows you to use the post office location’s street address and your P.O. Box number as your mailing address.

This service lets you receive packages from private carriers, provided they comply with USPS mailing standards.

  1. How do I close a P.O. Box if I move?

You can close your P.O. Box online by signing in to your USPS P.O. Box account and clicking the “Close/Request Refund” link next to the box.

You can also inform the retail associate at the post office where your box is and request your P.O. Box’s closure.

After USPS closes your box, submit a COA form so the Postal Service can forward your mail to your new address for up to one year.

  1. Can I receive items in my P.O. Box that require a signature?

Yes, USPS can leave a delivery notification inside your P.O. Box for mailpieces requiring a signature. Visit the post office and go to the counter to sign for and pick up your item.

  1. What is cheaper than a P.O. Box?

Some alternative P.O. Box providers offer more diverse size options and relatively lower prices than USPS P.O. Boxes. Depending on the provider, location, and services offered, you can get an alternative P.O. Box for as low as $1.

  1. How can I get a P.O. Box without an address?

A virtual P.O. Box or mailbox provides you with a virtual address. This address is a real, physical address that the service provider offers and isn’t connected to where you work or live.

  1. Can I make my own P.O. Box?

Making your P.O. Box involves renting one from a USPS post office. To have your own P.O. Box, follow these steps:

  • Apply online: Locate, reserve, and pay for a P.O. Box at your nearest post office.
  • Pick up your keys in person: Bring your completed application and two acceptable I.D.s to the post office where your box is to claim your keys.
  • Get mail at your convenience: Flexible hours let you check your P.O. Box on your convenient schedule.

Another way to have your own P.O. Box is by purchasing or renting one from alternative providers, such as those providing virtual P.O. Box services.

  1. Is getting a P.O. Box worth it?

USPS P.O. Boxes may be worth considering if you regularly go to the post office to retrieve your mail.

However, if you change your address frequently, receive large packages that don’t fit in a P.O. Box, or have no time to visit the post office, consider picking a different option for receiving mail.

References

  1. The state of the U.S. Postal Service in 8 charts
    https://www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2020/05/14/the-state-of-the-u-s-postal-service-in-8-charts/
  2. No-Fee Post Office Boxes
    https://www.uspsoig.gov/reports/audit-reports/no-fee-post-office-boxes
  3. PO Box™ – The Basics
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/PO-Box-The-Basics
  4. Acceptable Forms of Identification
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/Acceptable-Form-of-Identification
  5. Is there Mail Service for the Homeless?
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/Is-there-mail-service-for-the-homeless
  6. What is General Delivery?
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/What-is-General-Delivery
  7. PO Boxes
    https://www.usps.com/manage/po-boxes.htm