Traveling Mailbox Review – My Thoughts After a Year
Traveling mailbox is not the biggest player in the virtual mailbox arena, however, the service has accumulated quite a following over recent years.
That being said, whether you are a small business owner looking for a virtual address, or maybe even an expat that requires a virtual mailbox service while away from home, is Traveling Mailbox the service to go for?
In this in-depth review, I have documented my experience of using Traveling Mailbox and all the services it provides over the last year, (update: 18 months now).
Note: Vault50 has also published a virtual mailbox service comparison here. This profiles some of the competing mailbox services in the space. Traveling Mailbox actually came first in that round-up.
- What is a Virtual Mailbox Service?
- What does a virtual mailbox service do?
- Traveling Mailbox Review – My Thoughts After a Year
- Traveling Mailbox vs iPostal1, Earth Class Mail & Anytime Mailbox
- A Summary of the Pros and cons of Traveling Mailbox
- Authorizing Your Virtual Mail Service (U.S.)
- Traveling Mailbox FAQs
What is a Virtual Mailbox Service?
Before I dive into my report on Traveling Mailbox it makes sense to quickly provide an overview of what a virtual mailbox service does.
First and foremost, a virtual mailbox gives you a physical address that is removed from your home or work address.
This is where the service is especially useful for freelancers that do not want business mail sent to their home address, or travelers/expats that do not actually have access to their permanent address.
You can direct all your mail to the address provided by the service. In circumstances where mail has to be signed for, a service such as Traveling Mailbox has a person physically present who can do that for you.
(Power of attorney does need to be provided, however, I will cover how you can do that simply in a moment.)
What does a virtual mailbox service do?
Beyond providing you with a ‘virtual’ physical address where mail can be sent and signed for, a virtual mailbox is beneficial in many other ways too.
Mail Scanning Services
After the mail has arrived at the VMS, a provider such as Traveling Mailbox will alert you to its arrival by scanning an image of the mail/package and emailing you.
This will give you the option to do the following:
- Have Traveling Mailbox open the letter, and scan/email all the contents to you
- Forward the letter to a specified address
- Shred and recycle the letter
In cases where important mail such as bills, banking correspondence, (cards and statements) packages or government papers (if you really want your tax return documents), the VMS will premium post said mail to your given address.
Other convenient services
Traveling Mailbox (and other VMS’s like it) offer additional services such as check deposits, faxing, and delivery of virtual mail and notifications to compatible app services such as Evernote (I’ll cover this in greater detail within the review below).
Traveling Mailbox Review – My Thoughts After a Year
I first started using Traveling Mailbox in preparation for a stint living in the U.K, (a trip I am still enjoying in fact).
I had used Earth Class Mail before, and while I had been happy with the service, I found the online interface a little too busy for my liking.
Anyway, with the one-way ticket booked, (I was following my girlfriend back to England) and all the various stresses of preparing for living abroad, I was pleased that the issue of handling my mail was very easy to set up.
Traveling Mailbox has been around for a long time and that is reflected in how their website is designed to give you what you need, without going for the hard sell.
I like this approach, and I really was up and running in minutes.
The package I went for provided the standard services any expat would ever need from a virtual mailbox service.
The virtual address of course, with fast mail forwarding to any address in the world, should you need the physical mail delivered to you.
The package also included post mail scanning, mail storage, secure document shredding as well as mail filtering (to exclude junk mail).
Another very useful part of the service as someone living abroad, (and wanted to avoid calling on family members to deal with certain issues) is the secure check deposit facility.
For someone looking to use Traveling Mailbox for business purposes, you have a choice of business addresses as the face of your enterprise.
Efficient Digital Access
One of the benefits of using Traveling Mailbox that has impressed me a lot is the speed in which your documents are made accessible in the digital domain.
There is very little lag between the time the mail arrives and the notification that a scanned copy now exists in your Traveling Mailbox dashboard,
These PDF scans can also be uploaded or downloaded from digital mail platforms such as your personal e-mails, the Evernote app, and other website portals of choice.
The service also provides bulk scanning of mail via a ScanPAK bundle, (handy for businesses) with individual envelope scanning being done by the QuickScan application.
A really cool feature and one that has helped me stay on top of my administration is that the scanned PDF documents are fully searchable.
The docs are processed through what is known as an OCR (Optical character recognition) software; finding what you need quickly is made very simple indeed.
A closer look at the interface (Desktop)
The main interface on a computer begins with a simple login screen (pictured above). It also contains a feed of the services’ latest tweets, a feature that is handy as it is another way of being informed of any updates or service interruptions. (You can set the mobile app to give you push notifications of these too).
Once you have signed up and have your login credentials you will be taken to the following screen once logged in, (click to enlarge).
This is where it all happens if you are controlling your mailbox from your laptop/computer. It is here that you can see scans of any incoming mail that has been received.
It is also here when you can request any action that needs to be taken. A simple scroll down menu provides you with the options of having the mail opened, shredded, and forwarded, etc.
The left sidebar menu allows you to arrange your inbox in a manner that suits you. You will also find options such as Requesting a ScanPax, mail a letter, faxes (does anyone send faxes any more? 🙂 ), and general account management.
The screenshot below is from the PDF2Email list. You can also have access to your forwarding addresses and change your preferences from this area of the dashboard.
The email address you use to signup will receive an alert after a scan has been sent to you. It is then just a case of login and choose what you want the service to do with it. What follows is a list of the available options.
I have used every one of these options over the past year and each has been carried out quickly and efficiently.
It is worth noting that if mail forwarding is chosen, you need to create a shipment profile for that particular item.
Within your dashboard you can select how the item/s are packaged when they are to be shipped, and if shipping insurance/tracking should be purchased.
The Traveling Mailbox management platform also supports keyword tagging which makes keeping on top of things, (assuming you are diligent in creating the tags), nice and simple.
These services can be also be accessed using the TravelingMailbox app running on iOS or Android platforms.
- Related Content: An in-depth look at iPostal1: Does it live up to the hype?
Other features I like about Traveling Mailbox
The number one feature for me is that it is available on my mobile phone via a dedicated app. This is the way I nearly always access my mail, and being able to do it on the move, where ever I am is fantastic. I live a busy life here in London and this versatility is a real bonus.
The app notifies me when I receive a new piece of mail, so I know immediately without checking my emails. From there I can direct Traveling Mailbox on what to do with that mail (from the options in the box above).
The app is available for both Android and IOS, which is great as I know some competing services only provide Android compatibility (with other services not even having a dedicated app at all!)
This is a big thumbs up from me. I will admit that I am surprised to see that the IOS app has such a bad score in the IOS store (the app is free). At the time of writing, it has been voted one star from 2 reviews. This is not in line with my experience anyway.
Another feature I am a fan of is the fact Traveling Mailbox will send mail on your behalf. Just upload a PDF of the mail into your online mailbox and request it to be sent to an address of your choosing. This is available no matter what type of plan you have. Extremely useful while living abroad, and you want mail sent within the US.
The secure check deposit facility is another great feature that I use from time to time.
I still have business interests in the US and when check payments need to be made, I can rely on Traveling Mailbox to facilitate that, (this is an additional cost above the subscription fee – currently $4.95 per check plus postage).
The great thing about this feature is that Traveling Mailbox supports all banks with its Check Deposit Service, (as long as your bank accepts checks for deposit by mail).
The turnaround time is often good too, with the check being at the bank within 24hrs of Traveling Mailbox receiving it. (That’s the fastest you’ll ever get though).
Overall, the ease of use and the way the service allows me to stay on top of mail and other issues back home is a big reason I am a happy, Traveling Mailbox customer.
What I don’t like about the service
Not every service is perfect, of course. If I didn’t include some of the things I didn’t like about Traveling mailbox, it wouldn’t be a fair review.
That being said, using the service as I do, (I don’t test the limits of what it offers on a regular basis), it is hard for me to find discernible faults.
Since my review has been published, some customers have left comments on a Vault50 article discussing the top 5 virtual mailbox services. A complaint has been made about how hard it is to get hold of someone if you run into problems.
Also, the fact the service doesn’t have a sorting facility at every location they offer an address can mean delays. This is because there is an extra step before your mail is processed and scanned for you to see it.
This doesn’t apply to me as the address I have used is directly connected to a main sorting facility, however, this is something to bear in mind. And if delays are an issue for you, choose an address with a sorting facility if you can, (Traveling Mailbox can provide you details of these locations).
The 3 Traveling Mailbox Monthly Plans
As I have already mentioned, I opted for the Basic plan however there are 2 other plans available; the Extended plan, and the Small Business plan.
All 3 plans come bundled with an online postal mailbox, mail forwarding services, and postal mail scanning.
The main difference between the plans is the amount of scanning and forwarding you can access on any given month, (you can always upgrade if your mail volume increases, however).
The Extended and Business come with the ScanPAK bundle and fax services.
No matter the plan you opt Traveling Mailbox is compatible with the following services:
Traveling Mailbox vs iPostal1, Earth Class Mail & Anytime Mailbox
When researching the best virtual mailbox service to go for, I also looked at some of the other players on the market: iPostal1 and Earth Class Mail to name but a few.
Because of the headache of comparing what each offers, I found myself scouring the websites, jotting things down so that I could see how each faired against the other.
Rather than throw my notes away, I have turned them into a handy comparison table…
EARTH CLASS MAIL
FREE MAIL ITEMS PER MONTH
Up to 200/mo
Up to 240/mo
Up to 250/mo
Up to 200/mo
FREE MAIL STORAGE
DropBox, Evernote, Bill.com, GoogleDrive
DropBox, Evernote, Bill.com, GoogleDrive, QuickBooks, Xero
RECYCLING & SHREDDING
2048 bit SSL
PRICE PER MAIL (OVER QUOTA)
Up to $1.00
$15 - $55
$9.99 - $39.99
$19 - $79
$6.50 - $80+
A Summary of the Pros and cons of Traveling Mailbox
Authorizing Your Virtual Mail Service (U.S.)
Opening mail that does not belong to you is a Federal criminal offense within the United States. So how does a Virtual Mailbox service function if this is the case?
Upon signing up with a VMS you will be asked to authorize the provider to legally open your mail.
The only way of doing this is via the USPS Form 1583. While filling this out is easy, having it notarized can be very inconvenient especially if you are already abroad and wish to set up the service.
In steps online notarization now. If you cannot make it to a U.S. post office to have your 1583 form notarized, you can use an online notary service.
This will enable you to have your documents legally notarized by an official notary via your webcam.
This is an inexpensive way of setting everything up so that a service such as Traveling Mailbox can legally open your mail.
Traveling Mailbox FAQs
The answers to some of these common FAQs may help you decide whether Traveling Mailbox is for you.
Q. Are Traveling Mailbox addresses PO Boxes or Physical Street Addresses?
I am pleased to say that Traveling Mailbox only uses real physical street addresses as part of their service.
Q. Will I be able to receive mail from FedEx and UPS through Traveling Mailbox
The answer is yes. Because Traveling mailbox provides physical street addresses you will be able to receive mail sent by any of the main carriers.
Q. Are accounts limited to just one name or business?
Not at all. Each plan has a certain number of recipients that can be included on the account, (see the pricing information covered in the review, or head here for more details).
Q. Am I charged for each piece of mail scanned?
No, each plan has an allocated amount of scans included each month. There are no charges if you stay within that amount.
Q. How long does it take from the arrival of mail until it is scanned for me to view?
The mail first has to be sent to the nearest Traveling Mailbox sorting facility. From here the envelope is scanned and ready to view the very same day.
If you decide to have the contents opened and scanned, the request is normally completed within a few hours. Unless you opt for the QuickScan service, where the contents will be scanned and available within minutes of your request.
Q. Are there penalties if I go over the limits of my plan?
There are no penalties, but additional services over your allocated amount will be charged. For example, if you go over the amount of received mail included on your plan, it will cost $0.25 per extra envelope received.
If you go over the number of page scans included on your monthly plan, it costs $0.50 per additional page. The good news is, if you find yourself going over your plan limits on a regular basis, you can upgrade to a more comprehensive account at any time.
Q. Can I still receive mail through Traveling Mailbox that requires a signature?
Yes. A great part of the service is that any mail you receive that requires a signature, will be signed and made available within your account.
Q. How long does the mail forwarding service take?
If you request a piece of mail to be forwarded (either to you or another address) you can expect it to be sent the same day as along as you make the request before 3 pm EST. Of course, the time it takes to reach its destination is dependant on the forward address location, and the postage service you select.
Q. Can Traveling Mailbox mail documents to addresses on my behalf?
Yes! This is a very useful part of the service that I talk about in the review. No matter what plan you choose, you will have the ability to submit a PDF through your online mailbox. Traveling Mailbox will then mail out the document on your behalf.
Q. Can original mail be stored for me while I am away?
Absolutely. All mail you receive is stored free for 30 days. If you wish for the hardcopy original to be stored after this period, Traveling Mailbox charges $1 per envelope per month. (The digital copies remain in your account as part of your plan, until you delete them.)
Q. How much does it cost to have my mail shredded?
Traveling Mailbox will shred any mail upon request free of charge. This service is included as part of every plan, with no limitations.
Q. Does Traveling Mailbox have a Check Deposit Service?
Yes. This is another service that I mention in the review, (I use it and am very thankful for it). The Mail-in Check Deposit Service is available on all plans. It costs $4.95 for each check plus postage to send it to the bank.