PO Box vs Virtual Mailbox – Which is Right for Your Business?

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po box vs virtual mailbox

Starting a business is an exciting process. There is a lot to think about, and while it can be stressful, launching your own enterprise is definitely worthwhile.

When you first form your business, the issue of which address to use is something that needs to be considered.

We have discussed the pros and cons of using a virtual mailbox address over your home address here. For various reasons (security, professional image, etc), a virtual address came out on top.

But what about PO Box addresses? Traditionally, many small companies have used PO Boxes as a location for their mail. Are they still relevant when compared to digital virtual mailbox services?

Today we will take a look at just that…

First, though, let’s briefly outline what a PO Box is.

What is a PO Box?

po box

Quite simply a PO Box is a lockable box within a post office that has a number. You pay a fee to have access to the box and you can use its address to receive your mail.

Why you might use a PO Box

  • To keep your home address private
  • Extra security because they are housed within a post office under lock and key
  • To have a central address if you are someone that is often on the move

A PO Box does have disadvantages, however. PO Box numbers have become less trustworthy business addresses in recent years. So much so, most States will not register an LLC if it uses a PO Box address.

We will come back to this later in the article. Let’s now take a look at what a virtual Mailbox is.

What is a Virtual Mailbox?

virtual mailbox

We have covered this in detail here, and here. In summary, a virtual mailbox is a service that allows you to choose an address that belongs to a service provider, (in the case of Anytime Mailbox this can be a choice of thousands, other providers may only have a handful of addresses).

The service will then scan your mail when it arrives at your chosen address so that you have access to it via your digital device (laptop, phone, tablet, etc).

You can then select what action you would like the provider to take on that mail. Options include opening and scan contents, forwarding onto another address, or securely shredding.

Some Advantages of a Virtual Mailbox

  • Virtual mailbox services can offer premium addresses in the commercial districts of large US cities. This immediately gives your business a more professional image.
  • Fast access to your mail no matter where you are (great for expats and travelers)
  • The ability to create secure backups of important documents in the cloud
  • Consolidate packages and have them forwarded around the world
  • Some providers have check deposit facilities (again great for expats and travelers)
  • Extremely convenient and easy to use

The list actually goes on. In fact, the many benefits of the virtual mailbox mean that a PO Box is an inferior choice to your business address in 2021.

Let’s take a closer look…

Disadvantages of a PO Box compared to Virtual Mailbox Services

virtual mailbox

Not accepted for LLC Formation

As we mentioned earlier, a big disadvantage of a PO Box address is that they are very often not permitted for business registration.

In other words, if you plan to form an LLC or corporation you cannot use a PO Box as your legal address.

This is not an issue with a virtual mailbox where an LLC and corporation can be formed using your chosen address with no complications at all.

Non-professional Image

Assuming you are able to trade using a PO Box, a consumer or client may be dubious about dealing with you if your business is hidden behind a PO Box address.

The ability to be anonymous using a PO Box has diminished their reputation and trustworthiness. There are too many examples of people using them as a front for scams and other illicit enterprises.

Again, this is very different from a mailbox address. You can choose an address in a business district of a major city, in order to exude professionalism.

Couriers will refuse delivery

Because of the issue described above (lack of trust), some couriers do not deliver to PO Box addresses.

In fact, only USPS is permitted to deliver to a PO Box. This is clearly a disadvantage and differs from a virtual mailbox address where all mail and packages are accepted, and the service provider can even sign on your behalf.

(When you subscribe to a service you will need to fill in USPS Form 1583, giving the provider permission to receive your mail)

Cannot be accessed remotely

Not only do you have the inconvenience of items being undelivered, but you also have to reach the physical PO Box address to retrieve your mail.

This is vastly different from a virtual mailbox service where you can be on the other side of the world and have full access and control of your incoming mail and packages at any time of the day.

How do I sign up for a Virtual Mailbox service?

children on laptop

As this article has demonstrated, PO Boxes are an outdated concept in 2021. Whether you’re a business owner or an individual that requires the convenience of a remote address while on the move, a virtual mailbox service is clearly the better choice.

If you are interested in signing up for a service, I would point you to our extremely in-depth article on some of the best virtual mailbox providers on the market today.

There we deep dive into the pros and cons of each and provide a handy comparison table to help you decide which might be the best for your needs.

About V50

The editorial team here at Vault50.com is made up of a number of writers based all over the world. Our interests and experience cover the full range of what we talk about here. Clare Turner is one of our key contributers writing about the home. David Lachance is our resident e-commerce and business guru, if it's anything to do with that, he's your man. Kevin Simpson takes care of the website layout and publishing and also heads up our education section, with in-depth reviews and articles on courses and training. Find out more about all of us here.

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