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What’s the difference between a PO box and a virtual mailbox?

Joanna Heep

July 6, 2021

What’s the difference between a PO box and a virtual mailbox?

What’s a postal office box (PO Box)?

Available to individuals and businesses, the United States Postal Office offers customers PO boxes, or locked mailboxes, to hold mail and packages safely at a post office location of their choice. Customers can choose from a range of sizes.

What’s a virtual mailbox?

A virtual mailbox takes all your incoming mail and digitizes it, giving users the ability to access PDF images from any device, 24/7. 

Users that sign up for a virtual mailbox select a virtual mailing address to use, whether it's for their small business or for personal use. All mail sent to them gets processed, sorted, and scanned. Users can preview their mail on any device, see the contents inside, and decide what to do with it, such as shredding it or sending the original copy to another address. 

Is a Virtual PO box more convenient?

We all want convenience. Nearly anything you want to do - from managing your bank account to your daily schedule - you can do with an app on your phone. Virtual mailboxes give you the ability to control your mail anywhere you have an internet connection.

In comparison, PO boxes don’t have remote access for its users. It requires a trip to the post office each time you want to check your mail. 

This could pose a problem if you’re traveling or you don’t live near the post office. 

Uses of a PO Box and virtual mailbox 

There are a few reasons people use a PO box or a virtual mailbox, including keeping residential addresses private or having a secure way for mail delivery to avoid mail theft

However, when you rent a PO box, you typically choose a post office near your home to shorten trips to check the mail. 

With an Earth Class Mail virtual Po Box, you choose from 80+ addresses from around the U.S. We also offer street addresses. Many states require street addresses and not PO boxes for business registrations, so a virtual address can keep your personal address separate from your business. 

Access to your mail

PO boxes limit users' access to their mail to postal business hours - eliminating the ability to check your mail after-hours and on federal holidays. However, with a virtual mailbox, you have unlimited access. You'll be able to look and take action on your mail and important documents from any device, from anywhere.

Limited mail and package capabilities

 As a subset of the postal office, PO boxes can only receive mail from USPS. That means you won’t be able to receive mail and packages from FedEx, UPS, DHL at the PO box you rented. 

If you order a PO box that’s too small, all your incoming mail might not fit - a physical constraint that can cause your mail to not get delivered

A virtual mailbox accepts mail from all carriers. You never have to worry about all your mail fitting in your mailbox, because our HIPAA-complaint staff will scan and digitize it all for you.

Virtual Po Box - manage mail online 

As mentioned earlier, PO box users must physically check their box to get their mail. USPS offers Informed Delivery, a free service that gives customers an exterior preview of mail that’s on its way. However, it stops there.  

Virtual mailbox gives customers a full-range of options to manage all their mail, important documents, and packages online, from any device.

Can you register your business with a PO Box address?

The majority of states don’t allow  businesses to use a PO box to register their LLC, corporation, or partnership. A business address must be a physical street address. If you don’t have an office space and don’t want to use your home address, we recommend using a virtual address. 

In summary, PO boxes and virtual mailboxes are more different than they are alike. Both will give customers a non-residential address to share, but similarities end there. Unfortunately, a PO box address cannot be used to register LLCs or LLPs. If that’s something you’re looking for, a virtual mailbox is your best solution.

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