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What’s the difference between Informed Delivery and a virtual mailbox?

Joanna Heep

June 21, 2021

What’s waiting for you in your mailbox? When you’re anticipating a payment, important paperwork, or a package, you don’t have to physically check your mail anymore to know what’s there. 

The U.S. Postal Service offers a preview of what’s on the way to your address through a feature called Informed Delivery. If you need something more robust, a virtual mailbox could meet your needs.

What is Informed Delivery?

Informed Delivery launched to most of the U.S. in 2017, giving its users a preview of what mail to expect. 

More than 22 million people use the service. They receive daily emails that show them scanned images of the exterior of the envelopes on their way. Sometimes, the mail preview shows what’s coming in the mail that day, other times it can take two or three days to arrive. 

This helps people know when to check their mail and tells them what will come soon. Informed Delivery doesn’t have a mechanism to open users’ mail to show them what’s inside envelopes, or do anything with the contents. 

What is a virtual mailbox?

Virtual mailboxes take the mail preview function of Informed Delivery and go several steps further. 

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. 

Informed Delivery Mail preview

One of the biggest differences between Informed Delivery and a virtual mailbox is the digital scans the customers receive.  

Informed Delivery won’t always show users all of their mail. With Informed Delivery, customers receive a low resolution, gray-scale digital image of the outside of incoming mail the day the mail arrives. Not every piece will show up, since Informed Delivery skips some types of mail and limits each user to 10 pieces a day. 

With a virtual mailbox, you’ll receive a  mail notification with high resolution, full-color PDFs of the outside and inside contents of incoming mail and documents. 

Mail received at virtual mailboxes enable you to do more than read your mail. You can share PDFs with colleagues or family, shred the mail, forward the physical contents, upload it to the cloud, or deposit incoming checks to your bank. 

Because Informed Delivery allows you to digitally preview the outside envelope, it’s not ideal for anyone who can’t access their mailbox regularly.

Long-term travelers, business owners and others may prefer a virtual mailbox, which allows them to manage all their mail online and read their mail from anywhere with the use of a mobile app and account dashboard. 

Mailing addresses eligible for Informed Delivery 

Informed Delivery can only be used on your physical address or a PO Box. It doesn’t offer a way to receive mail if you don’t have a physical address there. Businesses and certain mailing addresses aren’t eligible for the service. 

A virtual mailbox gives you a real address to use remotely as your mailing or business address without the need to physically occupy the space. These addresses give remote businesses a virtual business address to use for registrations and marketing purposes.

Mail scanning 

The number of scans a virtual mailbox customer receives depends on the service provider

chosen. If you choose Earth Class Mail, our plans for individuals include 50 scans per month, which increases for business plans. Those scans don’t include junk mail.

Earth Class Mail filters out junk mail, unless you specifically choose to receive it.

Comparatively, PostScan Mail includes 5 scans in its base price and Anytime Mailbox doesn’t include any.  Informed Delivery limits its scans to up to 10 incoming pieces of mail at a time.

Cloud and Physical Storage 

Informed Delivery gives you a preview of incoming mail and saves that digital scan for seven days. Afterward, it's no longer accessible in your account.

Virtual mailboxes offer digital storage of your mail. Earth Class Mail integrates with Google Drive, DropBox, Quickbooks, and Bill.com and stores your PDFs indefinitely.

Additionally, virtual mailbox services will store the physical mail items and packages—Earth Class Mail gives its customers the first 30 days of mail storage free, while Informed Delivery does not offer any storage. 

Informed Delivery for businesses

Informed Delivery limits its availability to customers who live in eligible residential zip codes. However, residents in some densely populated urban areas may have difficulty signing up if they live in apartment complexes or buildings, depending on your mailbox’s individual coding.

You can’t sign up for Informed Delivery for your business. The USPS doesn’t offer the service for businesses at all, whether they are home-based or in commercial buildings. 

Anyone can sign up for a virtual mailbox, whether it's for their business, personal mail, or they live in another country. 

The price difference between Informed Delivery and a virtual mailbox 

The USPS doesn’t charge customers for Informed Delivery, which is why it limits the service. 

Earth Class Mail’s virtual mailbox starts at $19 a month which includes 50 mail scans, a virtual address, and unlimited cloud and forwarding capabilities.

Interested in the other ways a virtual mailbox can make your life easier?  Learn more here.

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