P.O. Box

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November 8, 2023

According to a 2020 report by the Pew Research Center, there were around 159.9 million “delivery points” like mailboxes and post office boxes (P.O. boxes) in the United States in 2019. The United States Postal Service (USPS) estimated that this number would increase by about 1 million annually.

Such figures suggest that the demand for P.O. boxes continues to grow. If you travel or receive mail frequently, having a P.O. box for your mailing needs can be an excellent option.

How do P.O. boxes work? What benefits can you get from these mailboxes? What sizes are available?

This article explains how P.O. boxes can help secure your mail at a post office and how much they cost to rent. This article also discusses how to apply for a P.O. box and the limitations these boxes have.

If you need to find a post office where you can apply for a P.O. Box, FindPostOffice.org’s online search tool can help you locate a postal facility near you.

What Is a P.O. Box?

A post office box (P.O. box) is a secure, numbered box at the post office where you can keep your mail until you decide to collect it.

How Do P.O. Box Addresses Work?

For the United States Postal Service (USPS) to recognize your P.O. box as a valid mailing address, follow these steps when mailing an item:

  • Start with “PO Box” in the address line.
  • Next, write the relevant box number, usually two to five digits.
  • Do not use punctuation. Write “PO Box” on the envelope instead of “P.O. Box.”

Securing Your Mail at a Post Office

A locked mailbox in the form of a P.O. box within a post office can help keep your personal or small business mail safe. You can rent a P.O. box by following these steps:

  • Apply online: Search, reserve, and pay for a box at a nearby post office.
  • Pick up the keys in person: To get your keys, fill out an application sheet and provide two forms of I.D. to the post office location where your box is.
  • Get your mail conveniently: Flexible hours let you check your P.O. box at your convenience.

Why Rent a P.O. Box

There are various reasons to get a USPS PO box. Regardless, P.O. boxes can provide security, privacy, and flexibility to your mail.

Security

P.O. boxes help keep your packages and mail safe at your local post office. Only you or the people you specify can pick up mail in the box.

Privacy

A private mailbox can help maintain peace of mind by keeping your home address and important documents confidential.

Flexibility

You can claim mail your way at your chosen time. USPS offers a range of P.O. box sizes and rental periods of 3, 6, and 12 months.

How Much Does a P.O. Box Cost?

The fees you pay to rent a P.O. box depend on several factors, such as the location and size of the lockable box. The following sections discuss these factors.

It Depends on the Location

USPS implements competitive location pricing based on a post office’s ZIP code.

For example, as of July 9, 2023, a size 1 (extra small) box in a post office whose ZIP code belongs to the C30 fee group costs $92 for three months and $160 for six months.

Meanwhile, the same box size in a post office under the C35 group has a rental cost of $48 for three months and $83 for six months.

Not all post office locations offer all box sizes. Contact your local post office to check what sizes it has for rent.

It Depends on the Size of the Box

Aside from location, the P.O. box’s size also determines the box rental fee. The following sections explain the differences between these sizes.

Larger Packages for P.O. Boxes

Most P.O. boxes have a depth of 14.75 inches (in). If you have packages that don’t fit into your P.O. box, you can do any of the following:

  • Request a slip notifying you to pick up the package from the counter during regular business hours.
  • Claim your item from a secure parcel locker at your convenience.

XS – Size 1

This extra small box (XS) measures 3in by 5.5in and starts at $4.67 monthly.

What Fits?

The size 1 box can hold three rolled magazines and 10 to 15 letters.

S – Size 2

The size 2 box is categorized as small (S) and measures 5in by 5.5in. The starting price for renting this box is $6 monthly.

What Fits?

This small P.O. box can hold 15 or more letters, five rolled magazines, or one small Priority Mail Flat Rate box.

M – Size 3

The size 3 box is a medium box (M) measuring 5.5in by 11in. You can rent this box starting at $9 a month.

What Fits?

This medium box can hold stacked magazines and large envelopes, and two small Priority Mail Flat Rate boxes.

L – Size 4

The size 4 box is a large box (L) whose dimensions are 11in by 11in and costs at least $13.33 monthly.

What Fits?

This box can fit small and medium Priority Mail Flat Rate boxes and still has enough space for 10 to 15 letters.

XL – Size 5

This extra large (XL) box is the largest P.O. box USPS offers and measures 12in by 22.5in. Renting this box has a starting fee of $23.67 per month.

What Fits?

The size 5 box is large enough for multiple packages based on dimensions.

It Depends on How Long You’re Planning on Renting It

Aside from the PO box size and location, your preferred rental period can also affect the price.

For example, the price can be as low as $18 to rent a size 1 box for three months or as high as $639 for a size 5 box for six months.

You’ll Also Have Some Additional Fees

As of July 9, 2023, other P.O. box rental fees and services are as follows:

  • Deposit per issued key: $5
  • Key replacement or duplication (after the first two keys): $12 each
  • Late payment fee or lock replacement: $25

“How Can I Get a P.O. Box?”

If you need to rent a postal box for your mail delivery needs, you must decide on a few things, such as the box size and location. The following sections briefly explain these factors.

Choose a Location

As discussed earlier, location is one of the considerations when getting a P.O. box.

You can choose a P.O. box in a post office near your home or workplace if it’s convenient. However, you can also get a postal box in other locations, even if your home or business address is in a different state.

Choose a Size

After selecting a location, choose what P.O. box size will work for you. Consider the type of mail you expect to receive and how much mail you anticipate to get.

Finalize Your Selection and Redirect Your Mail

After selecting a box size and location, you must choose a rental period of 3, 6, or 12 months and complete the PS Form 1583. This form authorizes USPS to receive mail in your name.

You must provide two forms of I.D., one of which must have photo identification. Once you get your P.O. box keys, you can share this new address and start redirecting your mail.

Go Online

If you choose to apply for a PO box online, follow these steps:

  • Step 1: Look for the nearest post office using the search bar under the “Find a P.O. Box Near You” section on the USPS website’s P.O. box page.
  • Step 2: Choose a location and select your preferred P.O. box size and payment period.
  • Step 3: Fill out the application form, accept the terms and conditions, and input your billing and payment details. Review your application, and submit the form to reserve your P.O. box.
  • Step 4: Print the completed form and bring it to the post office where your box is located. Provide two acceptable I.D.s within 30 days of submitting your application. You can get your P.O. box keys after the retail associate confirms your identity.

Go in Person

If you prefer submitting a P.O. box application in person, follow these steps:

  • Step 1: If you have a printer, download P.S. Form 1093 (application for post office box service). Fill out the form, and print it. Then, bring this completed form to the post office.
  • Step 2: Bring your payment and two acceptable I.D.s to the post office and tell the staff you want to apply for a P.O. box.

“How Do I Pay for a P.O. Box?”

You have four options for paying your P.O. box rental fee:

  • Online payment via a debit or credit card
  • Payment at a self-service kiosk (SSK)
  • Payment via mail using check or money order
  • Payment in person

How Much Is a P.O. Box per Month?

The monthly rental fee usually depends on the box size. For example, prices start at $4.67 a month for renting a size 1 (XS) box. 

You can refer to the P.O. box costs section above for the monthly prices of the other box sizes.

“How Can I Identify Whether or Not an Address Is a P.O. Box?”

Knowing what kind of address you mail to can influence the amount you pay for postage and shipping. The following sections discuss P.O. box addresses and how to write one.

What Is a P.O. Box Address?

A P.O. box address usually serves as the full address line or after the street address. Depending on where you mail, this address can appear without letters, such as “#476,” or shortened, such as “POB 476.”

Shipping to P.O. Boxes: What You Need to Know

Some merchants or eCommerce vendors may choose not to ship to P.O. boxes. Should you use other courier services like Federal Express (FedEx) or United Parcel Services (UPS), they may not deliver to these boxes either.

How to Determine if an Address Is a P.O. Box

Some third-party providers offer address verification services to inform whether your address records are P.O. boxes. This way, you can confirm whether an address is a P.O. box before sending your mail.

How to Write a P.O. Box Address

When addressing a letter to a P.O. box, you must put the PO box number where you usually place the street address. 

Write the recipient’s name in the first line, followed by the company name, if applicable. Next, write the P.O. box number below, followed by the city, state, and ZIP code.

Is a P.O. Box Its Own Address?

While you can use a P.O. box as your mailing address, you cannot use it as your street address.

The reason is that a P.O. box does not meet a physical address’ requirements. A street address specifies where you reside, but a P.O. box address does not state that place.

How to Get a P.O. Box Without a Street Address

When applying for a P.O. Box service, USPS will only approve your application if you provide identification and a permanent physical address.

Thus, you can only get a P.O. box if the U.S. Postal Service can verify that you have a street address.

Do You Need a Street Address for a P.O. Box?

Yes, you must have a real street address to have a P.O. box. As mentioned earlier, USPS requires you to have a current permanent physical address before approving your P.O. Box application.

How to Open a P.O. Box

After completing your P.O. Box application, paying the rental fee, and getting your I.D.s verified at the post office where your box is, you’ll receive two keys for your box. If you need more than two keys, you can add more for an additional fee.

“Can I Get a P.O. Box Refund?”

If you decide to close your box, you can receive a partial refund based on how long you’ve had the box.

If you apply for a six-month term and close your box within the first three months, you get a 50% refund.

Suppose you choose the 12-month term. You receive 75% if you close within three months, 50% from four to six months, and 25% from seven to nine months.

P.O. Box Alternatives

With a virtual P.O. box or virtual mailbox service, the provider can give you a virtual mailing address, which is an actual, physical address not constrained to where you live or work.

Is a P.O. Box Right for Me?

If you believe a P.O. box can provide sufficient privacy, security, and storage for your mailpieces and is worth the money, consider renting one. Otherwise, you may want to look for other ways to receive mail.

Why Do People Sign Up for P.O. Boxes?

You may want to apply for a P.O. box to maintain your privacy since this box provides a mailing address that is separate from your residential address.

In other words, P.O. boxes offer a way to receive mail without telling senders where you live.

Another reason to consider getting a PO box service is security. A P.O. box has locks or requires a code to access, adding a layer of protection to your mail.

Advantages of Renting a P.O. Box

Aside from privacy and security, other benefits of renting a P.O. box include:

  • Fast delivery: The box is at the post office, allowing you to receive mail more quickly.
  • Permanency: A P.O. box can help ensure you can still receive mail, especially when you move or travel frequently, and lower the risk of identity theft.

Additional Benefits of Renting a P.O. Box

Having a USPS P.O. Box also provides the following advantages:

  • 24/7 access at most post offices
  • Street addressing for receiving packages from carriers such as Amazon, DHL (Dalsey, Hillblom, and Lynn), FedEx, and UPS that require a street address
  • Having a signature on file so that you don’t need to wait in line to sign a package
  • Receiving a professional-looking address, whether you have a small business or side hustle

The Limitations of a P.O. Box

Requiring a physical address when applying for a P.O. box is one limitation discussed earlier in this article. Another constraint of a P.O. box is its size, especially if you frequently receive large mail volumes.

Reasons You Shouldn’t Get a P.O. Box

Despite the benefits P.O. boxes offer, these mailboxes also have features that may be unfavorable to other customers. The following sections discuss these reasons not to get a P.O. box.

P.O. Boxes Are Inconvenient

Although P.O. boxes allow you to receive mail early, you must travel to the post office where the box is located to claim your mail. If you dislike traveling, P.O. boxes can become a hassle.

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

As mentioned before, the box sizes can limit the amount and type of items you receive. For example, a size 5 box measuring 12in by 22.5in cannot store items larger than those dimensions.

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

Virtual addresses, or virtual P.O. boxes, let you have your mail delivered off-site like regular P.O. boxes do. But instead of making you check your box daily, an automated system takes an image of your mailpiece and delivers that image to your digital mailbox.

When you want to check the mail in your virtual P.O. box, you can go online or use an app, choose the letters you want to open, forward, or discard, and read your mail on your computer, phone, or tablet.

FAQs

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

Consider renting a P.O. box if you have any of the following circumstances:

  • You receive plenty of mail and don’t mind visiting the post office daily to check and retrieve your mail.
  • You don’t need to use your physical address for general business purposes.
  1. Can I use a P.O. box for personal use?

P.O. boxes can help keep personal mail and small business mail safe. So, yes, you can use these boxes for personal correspondence.

  1. Is a P.O. box free?

USPS offers a no-fee P.O. Box service but only to customers who do not receive carrier deliveries of any form. If you’re one of these customers, you can apply for this service by filling out an application and providing identification to USPS.

  1. Do I need to have a physical address to get a P.O. box?

USPS requires you to provide identification and a permanent physical address as part of its verification process when approving your P.O. Box application.

  1. What if the P.O. box I want is not available?

Suppose your preferred box is unavailable. You can choose a different box size, find a box at a different facility, or request the post office to add you to a waitlist.

  1. Can I get a P.O. box in a different city or state?

You can rent a P.O. box in a different state or city. But if you need to pick up your keys or combination lock, you must visit the post office that houses your box.

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

To manage your account online, sign in and go to the “Manage P.O. Box” page on the USPS website. On this page, you can do the following:

  • Open a new P.O. box.
  • Add an existing P.O. box to your account.
  • Add or manage your credit card for payment.
  • Modify your user profile.
  • View your online payment history.
  1. Can I renew my P.O. box online or do it in person?

You can renew your P.O. box rental in the following ways:

  • Pay online through a credit card or debit card.
  • Pay at a self-service kiosk.
  • Renew by mail using a check or money order.
  • Visit the post office and pay by cash, credit card, or check.
  1. When do I need to pay my P.O. Box account renewal fee?

USPS requires you to pay your P.O. Box account by the 10th of the month when payment is due. If you don’t pay, the Postal Service will close your P.O. box on the 11th of that month.

  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 application, paying the appropriate fees, and having your I.D.s verified, you’ll receive two keys for your P.O. box.

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

Most post office locations offer 24/7 access to your P.O. box. However, hours can vary by location, so check the facility’s business hours where your P.O. box is located.

  1. I am a small business owner. Is there any additional service I can get with my P.O. Box?

If you own a small business, the Caller Service is an added P.O. Box service that lets you pick up mail at the post office call window or loading dock during the time specified by your local post office.

  1. Can I change my personal account to a business account or vice-versa?

You can change your personal account to a business account by going to your USPS account profile and clicking Edit. Afterward, click Change to Business Account in the upper right-hand corner to switch your personal account to a business account.

However, you can’t convert to a personal account if you own a business account already.

  1. What is street addressing, and how can I get it for my P.O. box?

Street addressing allows you to use your post office location’s street address and combine it with your P.O. box number as your mailing address.

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

You can close your P.O. Box by signing in to your account, going to the “Manage P.O. Box” page, and clicking the “Close/Request Refund” link beside the box.

You can also request USPS to close your P.O. Box by informing the post office’s retail associate of your box’s location.

  1. Can I receive items that need a signature on my P.O. box?

USPS can leave a delivery notice in your P.O. box for mailpieces requiring a signature. You can then go to the counter to sign for and pick up your item.

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. PO Boxes
    https://www.usps.com/manage/po-boxes.htm
  3. Price List
    https://pe.usps.com/text/dmm300/Notice123.htm
  4. PO Box™ – The Basics
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/PO-Box-The-Basics#howdoiapply
  5. No-Fee Post Office Boxes
    https://www.uspsoig.gov/reports/audit-reports/no-fee-post-office-boxes
  6. What are Caller and Reserve Box Services?
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/What-are-Caller-and-Reserve-Box-Services