How to set up a PO Box
Getting a PO Box is a great way to make sure that your mail doesn’t get stolen or misplaced, especially when you move. If you travel for an extended amount of time or you’re living somewhere temporary before you move into a new home, getting a PO Box near where you’re staying and having your mail forwarded can keep letters from accumulating at your home.
You can avoid missing important bills or other correspondence. Businesses can also use PO Boxes to keep their mail secure and prevent theft, even when managers or owners can’t check it every day.
Learning more about PO Boxes, how to set up a PO Box, the sizes available, the pros and cons, and the answers to frequently asked questions can help you protect your mail.
What is a PO Box?
PO Boxes, also called post office boxes or postal boxes, are lockable boxes with their own addresses. They’re usually at post office lobbies, but some private companies offer PO Box rentals in certain areas. With a PO Box at a post office, the address is usually just a PO Box number, city, state, and ZIP code. PO boxes provided by private companies usually have a company name and a street address before the PO Box number.
How to get a PO Box
You can reserve a PO Box online, by mail, or in person by completing PS Form 1093. You can also use a self-service kiosk (SSK). If you apply in person, you can save some time by printing the form and completing it at home before you go to the post office. Some post offices will accept applications for PO Boxes at other locations. However, it’s a good idea to call the post office you want to visit and make sure that it can accept your application.
To set up your PO Box online, you can visit the USPS website and enter your ZIP code to find out what’s available near you. Then, you can select the most convenient location, the PO Box size you want, the rental term, and the payment method you desire. You can also see the hours and directions for the post office you choose.
Online, you can pay with a credit card or a debit card. You can also set up automatic withdrawals from your bank account. Automatic payments are required for the three-month payment option. In-person, you can use cash or a check, and you can pay by mail with a check or money order.
If the size of the PO Box you want isn’t available at that location, you can choose another location or join a waiting list. If you join a waiting list, the post office will email you or call you when the PO Box size you want becomes available at the location you choose. You’ll need to reserve the box within two days. Otherwise, the post office will offer it to the next person on the waiting list.
After you enter your billing and contact information and complete your PO Box reservation, you can print your confirmation or save it on your smartphone. If you don’t have a printer, you can get a paper copy of the confirmation by saving it on a USB stick and taking it to a local office supply store. They’ll print your confirmation for a small fee. Within 30 days of signing up for your PO Box, you’ll need to take the confirmation to the post office you chose to get the keys to your new PO Box.
Forms of identification required
You’ll need two forms of identification to get the keys to your PO Box and start using it. One must be a photo ID from an employer, a passport, a government ID such as a driver’s license, or a university ID. The USPS also accepts photo IDs from the Mexican and Canadian governments.
The second ID doesn’t need to have a photo, but it must list your physical address. These IDs can include a utility bill, a deed, lease, or mortgage, home or car insurance policy, or Form I-94. People visiting the United States complete this form before entering the country, and they often get PO Boxes while they visit so they can get mail. The USPS doesn’t accept credit cards, social security cards, or birth certificates as forms of ID.
The sizes available
You can choose one of five different PO Box sizes for rental, but not all locations have every size. The smallest box can fit 10 to 15 letter-sized envelopes or two magazines. It measures 3 inches wide and 5.5 inches long. You can also choose boxes that are:
- 5 inches wide and 5.5 inches long.
- 5.5 inches wide and 11 inches long.
- 11 inches wide and 11 inches long.
- 22.5 inches wide and 12 inches long.
If you receive large packages often or you don’t get a chance to check your PO Box regularly, it’s a good idea to get one of the larger boxes. If you don’t get much mail, you can pick a smaller size.
PO Box costs vary by location, box size, and length of the rental term. You can reserve a box for three months, six months, or 12 months. For three months, the smallest box costs $34 in Charlotte, North Carolina. The largest size costs $118, but this post office doesn’t offer the extra-large size. Some post offices charge higher fees, but they may offer electronic notification when you receive mail and additional hours when you can access your PO Box.
If you live in a rural area and your home doesn’t receive deliveries from the post office, you could be entitled to a free PO Box. However, you’ll still need to pay an additional fee if you want one of the larger boxes.
You’ll also need to pay a $4 deposit to get your PO Box key, an $8 fee for a duplicate or replacement key, and a $23 fee for late payment or lock replacement. Some post offices don’t charge a key deposit for the first two keys, and others offer a PO Box for 13 months for people who pay for 12 months in advance.
The advantages of a PO Box
Renting a PO Box can benefit many different people and businesses. The pros of a PO Box can include:
Privacy and security
For some people who get their mail delivered at home, theft can be a problem, especially for individuals in high-crime neighborhoods. Even in very safe areas, a nosy neighbor could look in your mailbox or receive some of your mail by accident.
PO Boxes are locked and inside post offices, so they’re much safer from theft or snooping. By using a PO Box, you can keep people from looking at your private letters or packages. You can also prevent identity theft by protecting information that sometimes comes in the mail, like credit card numbers and bank account numbers. Some post offices are open 24 hours per day, so you can check your mail anytime you want.
A permanent address
If you travel often, a PO Box is a great way to avoid missing mail. It also lets you receive mail from people you might not want to reveal your home address to. For example, if you own a business, you could let customers make payments through the mail with your PO Box. That way, your home address will stay private. If you move, you won’t need to update your address.
Since you won’t have to wait for a postal employee to come to your home, you can get your mail faster with a PO Box. Mailing a letter is also faster when you deliver it to the post office instead of putting it in your mailbox. Bringing your correspondence to the post office when you check your PO Box can take more than a day away from its journey.
The disadvantages of a PO Box
For business owners, having a PO Box may not look as professional as using a business address. However, it’s the best option for many people who work from home or businesses that receive large amounts of correspondence.
Only USPS can deliver mail to PO Boxes, and you may not be able to get shipments from Amazon, UPS, FedEx, or other companies there. If a package doesn’t fit inside your PO Box, USPS will set it aside until you ask for it. However, you might not get any packages you don’t remember to check on. If you don’t check your PO Box regularly, it will eventually get full. When the post office can’t fit anything else inside, it will stop delivering mail.
Set up your PO Box
Getting a PO Box is easy and convenient. If you don’t need a PO Box for as long as you think you will, you can cancel early and get a partial refund in many circumstances. If you’re thinking about a PO Box because you’re moving soon, take a look at our moving checklist for more information.