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Virtual Mailbox vs P.O. Box: How To Know Which One You Need!

There are many reasons why you may need a mailbox that’s separate from your home address. Maybe you’re traveling and don’t want to miss important mail, or you have a home-based business and need a physical address for your customers.

Whatever the reason, you’ll need to choose the right solution.

*One option is a Post Office Box or a P.O. Box.
*Popular for over a century, a P.O. Box provides a secure and convenient way to get your mail without worrying about being home to receive it.
*And, thanks to the endemic rise of digital technology, there’s a new option available that offers even more security and convenience — a virtual mailbox.
*Both a virtual mailbox and a P.O. Box provide specific personal and business benefits, so it’s important to understand the differences.

What’s the Difference Between a P.O. Box and a Virtual Mailbox?

Seems obvious, right? One is a physical mailbox. The other is virtual. Don’t be fooled, though. The differences between virtual mailboxes and P.O. boxes are significant. Before choosing which way to go, here’s a quick topline about each

P.O. Box

  • A P.O. Box is used to receive mail securely at a post office or other locations instead of receiving that mail at your home address.
  • You must visit your P.O. box to pick up your mail physically.
  • Most P.O. Boxes offer rental periods from three months to a year, with discounts available if you make longer commitments.
  • The costs of a P.O. Box vary according to the size of the box, location, and other factors.
  • The cost of larger P.O. Boxes that can handle more mail and larger packages can be high, so make sure to do a lot of research, shop around, and compare prices.

Virtual Mailbox

  • For a relatively nominal monthly fee, a virtual mailbox is a secure online mailbox service that allows you to access your mail and packages from any device, including smartphones, tablets, and computers.
  • Virtual mailboxes also allow you to organize your mail with features like automatic sorting and filing. No more sifting through piles of junk mail.
  • You can request to have your documents scanned, emailed, faxed, or even have mail forwarded to another address.
  • You can also opt for secure shredding to ensure your information is protected.

Pros of a P.O. Box

No Tech Skills Required

  • P.O. boxes are a great option for those who don’t have internet access or prefer the traditional way of checking their mail.
  • While it’s true that you can sign up for a P.O. Box online, managing the account and box itself doesn’t require high-level technical knowledge.
  • Managing a P.O. Box is straightforward — your incoming mail goes to the box, you drive to the post office, open your box, and retrieve your mail.


  • P.O. boxes provide security, as the post office is responsible for the safety of mail in its facility.
  • When you sign up for a P.O. Box, you’ll be assigned a locked box in the post office location you pick.
  • It’s unlikely someone will break into the post office to steal your stuff.

Several Sizes to Choose From

  • The USPS offers five P.O. Box sizes. You can pick a box size according to how much mail or what type of parcels you receive regularly.
  • P.O. Box sizes range from 3″ X 5.5″ to 12″ X 22.5″.
  • The smallest box size can accommodate 10-15 letters and several rolled magazines.
  • The largest is ideal for receiving packages. If you often shop online and receive packages from shops, the Large or X-Large P.O. Box sizes should work for you.

Cons of a P.O. Box

Box Size Limits Deliveries

  • Because a post office box comes in a set size, it can limit the incoming mail or packages that you can receive. If you get the smallest box size, for example, it won’t be able to accommodate parcel deliveries.
  • On the other hand, while the largest box size can hold packages, it can be pricey.

Limited Features & Access

  • While a P.O. Box gives you the essentials for receiving your mail or packages at a post office location and nothing more, there are now better mail management services than the traditional P.O. Box.
  • Some services come with mobile apps that allow you to access your incoming mail no matter where you are. Some offer mail forwarding, shredding, or recycling, and other services.
  • Additionally, your access to your P.O. Box may depend on the business hours of the post office. Some allow you to access your box 24/7, but this largely depends on post office locations.

Not Ideal Mailing Address for Business

  • While you can use a P.O. Box as a business mailing address, it’s not recommended.
  • A P.O. Box number gives off an unprofessional image. Your customers or potential clients may think that you’re not a serious entity to do business with.
  • A better mailing address should have a street address, which you enjoy with a virtual mailbox, not a P.O. Box.

There May Be a Waitlist

  • Getting a P.O. Box requires exploring post office locations near you and choosing the box size you need.
  • However, not all box sizes will likely be available at the time that you apply. You’ll be put on a waitlist if you are particular about the post office branch and the box size you want. This isn’t ideal if you need a P.O. Box right away.

Pros of a Virtual Mailbox Service

Remote Access

  • With a virtual mailbox service, you can access your mail anytime, anywhere, in real time.
  • You’ll never have to worry about missing an important piece of mail, being unable to access your mail due to a post office closure or being unable to make it in person for pickup.
  • When your mail arrives, the virtual mailbox provider will take a photo of the address label and upload the image to your account.Via your computer or mobile device, you’ll know right away when paper mail or even a package has been delivered for you. No need to take time out of your day to drive to the post office.

Mail Scanning

  • You’ll get digital scans of the mail you receive, so there is no need to go to the post office.
  • Your mail will be scanned and then emailed or faxed to you.
  • This is especially useful for those who don’t have the time or inclination to fight traffic to visit a post office.
  • And if you work remotely or travel frequently, this flexibility is huge.

Tools For Business Owners

  • With a virtual mailbox, you can organize your mail and set up automatic sorting and filing, keeping you from wasting time sorting through junk or worrying about missing an important package.
  • Virtual mailboxes also come with additional services like forwarding, package consolidation, shredding and recycling, and more.

It Comes with a Real Street Address

  • A virtual mailbox service also comes with a real street address. It’s a useful feature that can be used as a mailing address for business or personal reasons.

How Do You Know Which Is Best For You?

If you’re deciding between a virtual mailbox and a P.O. Box, here are a few points to consider.

How Often Do You Need Access to Mail Items?

  • A virtual mailbox service might be the best option if you need to access mail items regularly. It’s more convenient to be able to access and manage mail from any device, anytime.
  • With a virtual mailbox, you don’t need to drive to the post office every time you need to access your postal mail or packages. You can just sit at home or even in another country, and you’ll still be able to check your incoming mail.
  • A P.O. box could be an option if you don’t need regular access to your mail.
  • With a P.O. Box, you’ll need to travel to the physical location to access your mail. If you’ve got the time, though, it can be a fun ritual to make the trip. There may be a tasty froyo nearby.

Are You a Remote Business?

  • A virtual mailbox to go with your virtual number is a no-brainer if you have a virtual office. And if you have a remote business, the tools offered by virtual mailboxes can be beneficial.
  • From legal documents to customer inquiries, a virtual mailbox can help you keep track of everything safely and quickly.
  • If you receive many small, high-value mail items, such as check payments, a P.O. Box might be a good option since the post office will physically guard your loot.
  • But keep in mind that virtual mailboxes are safe, too, with services like secure document scanning and shredding. Be sure to research these options before making your decision.

Are You a Digital Nomad?

  • Understandably, the digital nomad lifestyle has become wildly popular. But stay alert. Remote work requires an exceptional level of proactivity, organization, and flexibility. If you’re going to wander while you work, you’ll need a seamless way to manage your mail while you’re on the road.
  • For nomadic types, virtual mailboxes offer mail forwarding, package storage, and document scanning, making life easier while you’re mobile. If you run a remote business, this is a must-have.

How Much Mail Do You Receive?

  • P.O. Boxes tend to fill up quickly, making staying on top of your mail challenging. If you receive mail regularly, then the flexibility of a virtual mailbox might be the better option.
  • If you do opt for a P.O. Box, be aware that some locations may charge for excess mail.
  • Virtual mailbox services generally have much higher limits on mail volume than a P.O. Box.
  • Both virtual mailboxes and P.O. boxes are good options depending on your individual needs and preferences. Ultimately, you’ll decide which one is best for your situation.

Are You Concerned About Security and Privacy?

  • A virtual mailbox offers a layer of protection to your home address. Your mail will go to a secure, staffed location that isn’t your home. Not only will a virtual mailbox protect you from mailbox theft, but your packages will also be safe from porch pirates, too.

Do You Need a Business Address?

  • A virtual mailbox service comes with a real street address that you can use for business. It lends your business credibility and polish.
  • A real street address printed on your business cards, website, and flyers can make your business look more trustworthy.

Do You Want a Digital Archive of Your Postal Mail?

  • With a virtual mailbox you can request the operator to open and scan your paper mail.
  • The scanned files will serve as a digital archive of your important documents.
  • You can access them whenever or wherever, contributing to a much smoother way to work and conduct business.

If You’re Considering A Virtual Mailbox

How can you get started if you’re thinking of going with the convenience and value of a virtual mailbox?

  • Getting a virtual mailbox is surprisingly easy and fast. And with plans starting at $10 per month, it’s worth considering.
  • All you need to do is take a couple of minutes to browse locations and then sign up for a virtual mailbox account. Once your account is set up, you’ll be able to start receiving postal mail. Done. Sorted.
  • You can choose which mail items you would like forwarded to your physical address, and you can scan and view documents online.
  • When you receive a package, you’ll be notified by email or text message.
  • You can also opt for package forwarding services to have your packages sent to wherever you are in the world.
  • A virtual mailbox is an ideal way to manage your business mail and save time so you can focus on other aspects of your business.

At SBN New York, we offer virtual address services for both businesses and individuals, and we help you stay connected with your customers and partners, wherever they are.

67 thoughts on “Virtual Mailbox vs P.O. Box: How To Know Which One You Need!

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