Whether you run your small business from your home office or already have a dedicated storefront, you might consider a post office box, or PO Box, if you need a professional and private mailing address. Other advantages of using the United States Postal Service for a PO Box include keeping your business mail more secure, having convenient access to your mail and getting a selection of mailbox sizes and rental plan terms from which to choose.
When evaluating your business's needs, considering these benefits as well as knowing the limitations of a PO Box can help you decide whether this type of mailbox rental service works best for you.
The benefits of a PO Box for small business owners include a dedicated business address, privacy, security, convenient access and flexible rental options.
Having a PO Box at the post office benefits small businesses that are home-based or operate only on the internet because it provides a more professional mailing address than a home address does and allows you to separate business and personal mail.
If you live in a small town and want to use a more well-known town for your business address, then a PO Box provides this flexibility since you get to pick a post office in your desired location. If you later decide to operate in a different area, you can easily forward your business mail or even transfer your PO Box for your convenience.
If you plan to use the PO Box as your official business address and have registered your business as a corporation, limited partnership or limited liability company, LegalZoom warns that you must obtain a PO Box with a physical street address. USPS offers this option at select post office locations as part of its premium PO Box services. You can visit the USPS website and use its post office locator tool to find nearby locations that offer street addressing for PO Boxes.
Since the post office monitors incoming mail and your mailbox will contain a lock to prevent unauthorized access, a PO Box offers better security than a mailbox outside your house or building. This gives you greater peace of mind that people will not steal important letters from your mailbox or take packages left at the door. This improved security keeps your mail more private since confidential documents with your personal or business information are less likely to end up in an unauthorized person's hands.
When you receive packages that require a signature at your PO Box, there is also less risk that an unauthorized person will sign your name and accept the delivery. Instead, you can choose to have your signature on file and allow a post office representative to accept and hold the package securely until you can pick it up. This also eliminates the hassle of having to reschedule package deliveries.
When you're busy running your business, you may find a PO Box convenient since all your mail remains held at one place until you have a convenient time to pick it up. While some post offices just allow you to pick up your mail during their regular business hours, others offer extended hours in the early mornings and late evenings so that you can visit before or after work. Select locations even place the PO Boxes in a lobby location that you can conveniently access 24 hours a day for no additional fee.
A PO Box can offer your business more flexible mailbox size options than some other private mail service companies, like UPS. When choosing a PO Box size, you can consider what kinds of mail you receive and how often you plan to pick it up. You also have the option to get a smaller or larger box as your business needs change. While the number of sizes offered vary by post office location, the USPS offers these five options:
- Extra small: This smallest size fits up to 15 regular letters and does not accommodate more than two rolled-up magazines.
- Small: Similar to the extra small PO Box, this also fits up to 15 regular letters, but it is taller to accommodate up to five magazines.
- Medium: This option may fit businesses that receive large flat envelopes but not any boxes or other thick items.
- Large: This size can fit a couple small boxes along with up to 15 letters.
- Extra large: You might choose this size to have enough room for several letters and parcels.
You also get the benefit of flexible rental terms that can work for you whether you just need the PO Box for a few months or plan to keep it for a year or longer. The USPS offers three, six and 12-month rental terms for your PO Box. The rental prices increase as the PO Box size does, and longer terms work out to a lower monthly rental cost. You can easily renew or change your rental online when the term expires.
Although PO Boxes have a lot to offer, they may not suit every small business. Unless your post office offers the street addressing option for your PO Box, you may benefit from a different private mailbox rental service, such as a UPS mailbox, if having an actual street address is important or required for your type of business. Since the major shipping providers FedEx and UPS only deliver to actual street addresses, this means you may be limited to receiving only USPS mail with only a PO Box number.
Depending on your post office hours and the availability of 24-hour access, you also may have limited access to your PO Box at times that do not fit your schedule. You may also experience inconvenience if you often receive packages that require a signature since you won't be present at the post office to personally accept such packages, although some post offices do allow you to keep your signature on file.
You can sign up for a PO Box at the post office or via the USPS website. When doing it online, you start the mailbox rental application process through the "Quick Tools" menu on the USPS website. The process first involves searching for the post office locations by address, zip code or city. The results will show you a list of locations, the PO Box sizes they offer, rental fees and terms and any premium PO Box services available.
To begin reserving your PO Box for your chosen location, select the box size and rental term you desire and click "Reserve Now." You can expect to log in to your USPS account and fill out an application containing the following:
- Your personal address and contact details
- Additional PO Box users you want to designate
- Optional add-on services, such as street addressing or signature on file
- Credit card payment details
After you fill in the application, you will pay a key deposit and your initial rental fee online. You will see a prompt to print the application and take it along with two forms of ID (including one photo ID like a driver's license) to your selected post office. Your post office will then assign you your PO Box number and keys.