A PO (postal office) box works great for basic mailbox service requirements. Even people who have physical addresses may opt for a PO box if they’d like to keep their real address confidential. But can your PO box address be your physical address?
You cannot use your PO box as your physical address because the former doesn’t fulfill the requirements of a “physical address.” In other words, a PO box address has no apartment or suite number in it. Also, a physical address denotes the place where you live – a PO box address doesn’t state that.
If you’re contemplating using a PO box as your billing address or an address to receive mail or ship in goods, continue reading.
Can You Use Your PO Box As Billing Address?
Most likely, yes, but there could be exceptions. Banks usually do not accept a PO box as a billing address. Banks can certainly send mails to a PO box, but they must first validate the physical address to do so. There could be multiple reasons why that might be the case:
- Financial institutions must carry out multiple processes to ensure they aren’t party to their customers’ criminal acts.
- The KYC (Know Your Customer) and CIP (Customer Identification Program), for instance, are requirements through which these institutions confirm their customers’ physical addresses and verify their identities.
- Nefarious acts (if any) in the future could be easily traced to the customer using CIP and KYC information.
If you cannot provide a bank your physical address or cannot authenticate your place of residence, you’d most likely not be able to open a bank account.
As far as how other businesses address this situation, most e-commerce companies in the U.S. usually will not mind a PO box address being used as a billing address. But some non-U.S. e-commerce firms that ship physical goods such as smartphones may not accept a PO box as a valid billing address. You need to confirm the same with your merchant or vendor before considering shopping.
Why You Might Need a PO Box?
If a PO box cannot be your physical address, then why does it even exist? Apparently, there are quite a few benefits to renting a PO box – even in this day and age of the Internet, emails, and various other forms of digital communication. A PO box:
- Ensures quicker mail delivery since it’s completely run by the United States Postal Service (USPS).
- Helps keep your home address private when dealing with personal or business mails.
- Offers you a street or permanent mailing address – irrespective of whether you’re living in a rural or remote area, or abroad.
- Ensures mail security since it’s located within postal office premises where it’s continually monitored.
Also, the locked PO box can be accessed only using a lock combination or key. If your parcel cannot fit inside your PO box, it will be placed at your postal office’s lockers.
How Do You Apply for a PO Box?
A PO box doesn’t get automatically assigned to citizens, or the general public cannot choose one randomly. They’ll have to apply for one with the USPS. When applying for a PO box, you must enter your physical address in the application form. The post office needs your physical address for identification purposes.
To receive your PO box number and keys, you must fill out USPS Form 1583 and have two valid IDs to show – one with a photo and another without a picture. The following are IDs you may use:
- State ID card or driver’s license
- University, military, corporate, or government ID
- Passport, certificate of naturalization, or alien registration card
- Mortgage, deed of trust, or lease copy
- Vehicle registration or voter card
- Vehicle or house insurance policy
The USPS does not accept birth certificates, credit cards, or social security cards as valid identity proofs.
If you’d like to know how to reserve a PO box online, watch the video below:
USPS’ General Delivery Service
If you are homeless or do not have a real address, you can’t get a PO box. But you can still receive mail or shipments, thanks to USPS’ General Delivery service. General Delivery is USPS’s proprietary mail service for people without a physical or permanent address.
To address a mail intended for General Delivery, just mention your name, write down the words “General Delivery,” mention your local post office’s street address, your city, state, and zip code. Once the mail or package has arrived, you could collect it from the assigned post office upon showing your ID. Mails received via General Delivery would remain in the post office for up to 30 days from the date of receipt.
Before using a local post office’s street address, make sure the particular branch office offers General Delivery service. If your city or town has more than one USPS office, only one of them could be accepting General Delivery. Therefore, it’s worth your while to confirm the same.
Kindly note your local post office isn’t your substitute for a physical address. You cannot be using your name and mentioning the post office’s address as your own. If you do not mention General Delivery in your address column, the mail or package will be returned.
Using a PO Box for Shipping in Items
Popular delivery service companies such as UPS (United Parcel Service) and FedEx usually do not ship to PO boxes since a PO box is primarily a USPS service. However, if you opt for FedEx, UPS, or other mail carriers’ special delivery services and/or are okay with some of their delivery conditions, you could use their services to deliver mail or parcels to your PO box address.
SmartPost is basically FedEx’s quick delivery service that ships lightweight packages across the U.S. and America’s various territories. It works in conjunction with USPS to deliver parcels to your PO box. FedEx SmartPost takes care of the first phase of the shipping process before handing over your parcel to USPS for delivery to your PO box.
You may use FedEx SmartPost if you’re shipping to PO boxes in certain international destinations as well, such as Puerto Rico. In such cases, you must provide a legitimate telephone, telex, or fax number.
If you want UPS to deliver a shipment to your PO box address, you must provide your telephone number. In addition, there are certain stipulations you need to be okay with, which include:
- Accepting the possibility that your package could be delayed
- There will be no UPS Service Guarantee cover for your shipment
- You will have to pay address correction charges if any
Kindly note, UPS doesn’t accept FPO (fleet post office) and APO (army post office) addresses.
A PO box address also cannot be used for business purposes or serve as a registered office address. Companies must have a real official address, which could be easily found by anyone. If you were considering using a PO box address for your firm, you could always use registered address services.
Even if you can use a PO box address for your virtual business, it would not look professional and may hurt your venture’s growth. Not to mention, customers and vendors alike will not be inclined to engage with a business that uses a PO box address as its primary legal address.
There are different ways to cut costs when starting a business on a shoestring budget. Its physical address is an area you certainly shouldn’t be compromising on.