QUICK SUMMARY- EXPAT DIGITAL MAILBOX SERVICE
What is an Online Travel Mailbox Service?
Living abroad is an exciting adventure, but keeping a permanent home address while you’re an expat can be challenging. (No, you can’t just write “Overseas” on your mail.)
While I’m enjoying a nomadic life abroad, my student loan servicer, some banks, and government agencies (I’m looking at you, Nevada DMV) still insist on sending me important documents via paper mail.
Every expat living abroad can tell you a horror story about losing a big check, not receiving a replacement credit card, or missing an urgent letter because a foreign postal service delayed, lost, or couldn’t deliver a letter from the U.S.
Heck, the beach town I lived in Cambodia didn’t even have street addresses.
Having a reliable mailbox service that handles your mail and packages while you’re overseas can give you peace of mind and keep your driver’s license, credit cards, tax statements, and other important documents secure.
If only there were a convenient solution that allows you to maintain a permanent address in your home country while exploring the world.
An online travel mailbox service is your virtual buddy that takes care of your physical mail and receives your packages for you while you are overseas.
But better than using a friend or family member’s address, a travel mailbox provides email notifications, secure data handling, and digitizes your mail, giving you the flexibility to view it from anywhere, anytime, from a cafe in Prague to a beach in the Philippines.
Try getting that kind of service from grandma’s house as your mailing address.
INSIDER TIP: Make your permanent address permanent- choose your virtual mailbox provider wisely because you will be locked in.
While some online travel mailboxes are month to month without long-term contracts, it is a HUGE PITA to contact each of your banks, credit cards, driver’s licenses, IRS, insurance companies, and all the other countless institutions to update your address.
Trust me; you don’t want that hassle every few months because you were too lazy to read a review.
Why do you need a Travel Mailbox Service?
When living abroad as an expat, keeping a permanent address in your home country can be tricky. If you get a P.O. Box, many banks and government agencies will not deliver to any address that isn’t a physical street address.
Thankfully, virtual mailboxes offer physical addresses with additional services that provide expats convenient access to their mail anywhere in the world.
- Permanent address in your home country– Maintain a local address in your home country for official purposes. Have a single address that doesn’t change. Eliminate the hassle of constantly contacting all your banks to update your new current location.
- Real-time Online Mail Notifications- Get instant email or mobile notifications when new mail is received or when packages are delivered. Find out who is sending you what and when.
- Mail and package forwarding- You can request their mail and packages be forwarded to their current location. No more missing important mail, losing credit cards, or abandoned parcels.
- Hassle-free Online Mail Management- Get your incoming mail and package scanned or photographed. Now you can check, access, view, and manage your mail remotely from anywhere. Never miss an important document.
- Secure Physical Storage- Many travel mailbox services offer secure, climate-controlled storage for received mail and packages until they are accessed or forwarded. Rest assured easy knowing your mail is stored safely and protected from potential damage or theft.
- Consolidation, Sorting, Then Sending- For expats receiving multiple pieces of mail or packages, consolidate and sort your items before delivery. Mail and parcels can be combined into a single package for more cost-effective forwarding, providing savings on shipping and handling fees.
- Locate Important Documents Easily- Connect with Dropbox, Google Drive, Onedrive, Notion, and other software for paperless organization. Manage mail more efficiently with filters and rules to automatically sort incoming mail into folders or categories. Digitally organize paperwork and make it easier to find necessary paperwork.
- Privacy protection- Keep your current location confidential, enhancing security and peace of mind.
- Shred For Data Security- Prevent identity theft and protect your personal information by shredding and securely disposing of unwanted or sensitive mail.
- Check Deposit Services– Stop worrying about the physical delivery of checks while living abroad. Get your checks securely deposited remotely, streamlining financial transactions and ensuring you never miss essential payments or funds, no matter where they are in the world.
From March 2020 through February 2021, the Postal Inspection Service received 40,727 mail fraud complaints and 299,020 mail theft complaints.
Source: United States Postal Service
What are the Pros and Cons of using a virtual travel mailbox while abroad?
Advantages Of Virtual Travel Mailboxes As An Expat
Disadvantages Of Virtual Addresses
Navigating your mail as a globe-trotting expat presents unique challenges. A virtual mailbox sounds like a smart fix, but there are potential downfalls to keep in mind.
INSIDER TIP: Overseas Deliveries of Packages- Only use the forwarding feature for urgent deliveries, not as a way to get your weekly Amazon fix. Customs can duties, taxes, and import fees.
Depending on the country and package contents, foreign customs can stop packages, cause delays, and charge you exorbitant customs fees. I paid almost $250 for $400 worth of shirts I mistakenly had delivered to Mexico.
Who benefits from using an online travel mailbox?
An online travel mailbox is an idea if you want an easy, efficient way to manage your mail while living the good life abroad.
- Long-term travelers and expats can hold onto your U.S. mailing address for voting, tax, and billing purposes while hopping from one gorgeous Italian vista to the next.
- Digital Nomads and online entrepreneurs can set up a posh business address and present a more professional brand.
- RVers and Vanlifers, forward your mail effortlessly across states to your next scenic campsite stop.
How to Choose the Right Online Virtual Mailbox Service for You?
Picking the right virtual mailbox service is key for managing your mail effectively. The perfect fit can make life simpler, so let’s work out how to find it.
Travel mailbox providers can offer different services and package those services differently. Some cheap basic service plans, but upcharge for optional services. Ask yourself if these additional services provide value.
- Postal Mail Scanning and Software Integration: Does scanning cost extra? Is only the outside envelope scan included? What is the cost of additional scans?
In what ways can you remotely access your documents (app, website, email)? Does your provider offer integration with Google Drive, Onedrive, or other cloud storage?
- Mail Forwarding Services: If you need your physical mail forwarded to your overseas address, what are your options? Will they send something to rush your credit card overnight, and if yes, then for how much?
Do they have the opportunity to consolidate your mail into one package that is sent to you on a fixed schedule?
- Package Handling Policy: Does the digital mailbox service receive packages, or do they only handle letters?
If they can receive your packages and forward them to your overseas address, what are the package forwarding policies on package size, consolidation, storage duration, and forwarding fees?
- Deposit Checks: Do you have a rental property or business back home that sends you physical checks? If you deal with checks regularly, select a service that offers check depositing, making remote business transactions more efficient.
Physical Mailing Address Locations
Not all addresses are the same. Selecting the proper physical address and location for your virtual mailbox is crucial for efficient mail management and official correspondence. Consider the following:
- Physical Locations: Does the service offer a postal address in your preferred state? Do you need a specific address for the business? While a virtual mail address alone cannot establish state residency, a physical address can be used to maintain your residency.
INSIDER TIP: Using A Travel Mailbox Address To Establish State Residency- Many expats have reported success using a travel mailbox address to become permanent residents of Texas, Florida, and South Dakota.
Each state has its own rules. For example, some states require an official “Declaration of Domicile.” Check the Secretary of State’s website for your local regulations.
- Post Office Box vs. Real Street Address: Decide between a P.O. box or a physical street address based on your specific needs and usage preferences. Many financial companies require a “real address” and do not accept P.O. Boxes. Additionally, UPS and FedEx will not deliver to a Post Office box. Two services I reviewed that offer virtual Post Office Box addresses are Earth Class Mail and PostScan Mail. The other travel mailbox services provide you with an actual street address.
- Business Mail: If you’re a freelancer or business owner, opt for a service that allows using the virtual mailing address for official business registration. Some virtual mailbox services even have a registered agent or virtual office services as an option.
INSIDER TIP: State Taxes- Depending on the state and the service, you might be able to use a virtual address to help establish residency in a state with low or no income tax.
I know some people who have pulled it off using a Florida, South Dakota, or Texas virtual address service for tax purposes, but your mileage may vary with this one.
Pricing and Service Plans
Apart from the mailbox service starting price, you’ll need to consider the additional costs for high volumes of mail or any other services. Compare pricing tiers and packages to find a cost-effective combination that aligns with your budget and needs.
Key Costs To Consider
- Scanning Fee: Most services have a monthly cap for free scanned mail, after which scanning mail content may range from $0.10 to $1 per page.
- Mail Forwarding Fee: Determine the fees for forwarding letters ($1-2 plus postage) and packages ($5-10 plus postage).
- Mail Storage Fee: Assess storage charges, usually low (around $1-5 per pound per month) after a grace period.
- Shredding Costs: Some popular plans offer free secure shredding.
- Monthly Fee: Compare monthly fees, ranging from no monthly fee (pay-as-you-go) to $10 to $50+ for comprehensive packages for a virtual business address.
- Junk Mail Filtering: Depending on your mailbox plan type, receiving and scanning junk mail may get increase your monthly cost. See if the basic Plan includes filtering and trashing any mail addressed to “Current Resident or Occupant.”
Protecting your sensitive information is a critical feature. Check you to ensure you feel secure with the company’s security features, including:
- Data Encryption and Two-Factor Authentication: For security purposes, ensure the provider employs robust SSL data encryption and 2FA protocols to protect your data.
- Independent Partners vs. Local Company Branches: Assess whether the service relies on local partners or has its own company branches at each location. Since local partners are independent operations, it is harder to guarantee the physical security of your mail.
- Package Management: Verify that the service efficiently manages packages, ensuring secure storage and forwarding options for travelers and infrequent recipients.
- Secure Facility With Restricted Access: Choose a provider with security systems, 24/7 monitoring, and restricted access technology at the facilities that receive and store mail items.
- Shredding of Discarded Mail: Opt for a service that shreds physical mail after digitization to prevent data breaches and enhance security.
Reviews and Testimonials
- Client Reviews: Read feedback from current users to assess overall satisfaction and client service.
- Business Ratings: Consider Better Business Bureau ratings to gauge service quality and trustworthiness.
Top Travel Mailbox Companies For Expats
- Traveling Mailbox: High-quality virtual mailbox with mail scanning and forwarding for travelers and businesses.
- PostScan Mail: Access mail anytime with 600+ addresses; view, scan, forward, or recycle online from any device.
- iPostal1: World’s leading digital mailbox with 2,750+ addresses; manage mail via app or website for privacy, business, and more.
- U.S. Global Mail: Manage mail virtually with instant access, choose from 30+ U.S. addresses, and save up to 80% on international shipping.
- Anytime Mailbox: 24/7 mail access from anywhere on any device.
- Earth Class Mail: Convert postal mail to digital; access and deposit checks online with trusted handling of over 21 million mail items.
|Virtual Mailbox Services
|Mailbox Service Starting Price
|Cloud Storage Integrations
|Basic Plan of $15/month
|40 Incoming Envelopes / Month
|35 Page Scans / Month
|Extra Cost of Postage + $2 per shipment (not per piece).
|At Discounted Shipping Cost
|Dropbox, Google Drive, Onedrive, Box, Evernote
|Fee: $4.95 per check + Postage
|Starter Plan of $10/month
|Starter Plan: 30 Incoming Envelopes / Months
|Starter Plan doesn’t include Mail Opening and Scanning
|Shipment fee of $0.85 per piece
|$2 for the first item, and $0.50 for each additional item, plus shipping
|Amazon Web Services
|Do not offer check deposits, but coming soon
|Virtual Mailing Address Plan and Virtual Business Address Plan starting at $9.99/month
|Starter Plan: 30 Incoming Envelopes / Months
|$0.25 per page and Single order of $2.25 for up to 10 pages
|Follows real-time shipping prices by carrier (UPS, FedEx, USPS)
|$1.95 per package or letter-pack consolidated + Additional charge for packaging materials
|Available But Not Specified
|$4.95 for the deposit up to 5 checks + trackable shipping fee.
|US Global Mail
|Basic Plan of $9.95/billed annually
|Unlimited Incoming Envelopes for all Plans
|Unlimited exterior Scans and $3+.50cents/page interior Scans for Basic Plan
|Fee: $2 per bundle of letter shipping and $5 for packages
|Free Handling. No fees but At Discounted Shipping Cost
|Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services
|Offers Check Deposits and no additional fees.
|Varies depending on Location.
Here is the complete list.
|Amazon Web Services
|Earth Class Mail
|Starter Plan: 5 Incoming Envelopes / Months
|20 Page Scans / Month
|$1.25 per shipment plus postage for domestic, $5 for International shipments and $10 for Expedited Shipment
|Additional fee of $1 + Shipping cost
|Dropbox Business, BILL, Google Drive, Box
|Fee: $10 per check without check deposit subscription
Additional Tips For Using A Travel Mailbox Service
Pick the right Plan for You
Determine your specific needs, such as expected mail volume, frequency of package handling, and any additional features you desire. Compare the advantages and costs of each Plan to identify the one that aligns best with your budget and needs.
For instance, if you expect to receive a considerable volume of mail, a plan offering unlimited mail scanning and forwarding may be the right choice.
On the other hand, if your main requirements are minimal, a pay-as-you-go plan with limited services might be more economical. By choosing an annual plan, you could save up to 30% compared to a month-to-month subscription.
USPS Form 1583 is the official form authorizing a travel mailbox provider the legal right to receive and manage your mail on your behalf while you’re living abroad.
- Obtain Form 1583: Request USPS Form 1583 from your chosen virtual mailbox service or directly from the United States Postal Service (USPS) website.
- Fill Out the Form: Complete all required fields accurately, including your name, virtual mailbox address, and the provider’s name and address. Provide your U.S. residential address, if applicable.
- Notarize the Form: Get a notary public to verify your identity and witness your signature. You will need your valid photo I.D. such as a driver’s license or passport, and the completed Form 1583. You can do this online through these online notary services: (Table for online notary services)
- Submit the Documents: Send the notarized Form 1583 and proof of identity to your virtual mailbox provider’s designated address, following their instructions.
- Await Confirmation: Your provider will review and process your documents. Once approved, you’ll receive confirmation that they are now authorized to manage your mail.
Reduce Your Physical Junk Mail
Every piece of incoming mail could contribute to your monthly costs. To save money, reduce unwanted promotional mail. Sign-up for paperless billing and online statements wherever possible.
Limit the number of catalogs and sales flyers you receive by using DMAchoice. It has a fee of $5, but its effects last for ten years.
Additionally, you can opt out of unsolicited credit card, and insurance offers through OptOutPrescreen. This service is free and offers two options: a five-year opt-out or a permanent opt-out. To verify your identity, you may need to provide the following personal information:
- Social Security number
- Date of birth
- Home telephone number
FAQs- Virtual Expat Mail Services
Yes, most online travel mailbox services are safe. Digital mailbox technology protects against mail theft, and identity theft and ensures the confidential handling of sensitive information. But you need to choose a reputable provider that provides proper security.
The location mail is received and scanned should have 24/7 surveillance and undergoes secure shredding.
When you access your digital mail remotely, your provider should employ advanced data security measures like Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption and two-factor (2FA) user authorization.
These measures encrypt your information and help insure that it cannot be intercepted by third parties.
No, a travel mailbox isn’t the same as a P.O. Box. Unlike a traditional Post Office Box, most travel mailbox providers provide physical street addresses just like a real mailbox allowing you to mail from all carriers like FedEx, UPS, and DHL that won’t deliver to a P.O. Box.
No, you cannot establish state residency using a virtual travel mailbox. State residency requires documentation (public utility bills, employer pay stubs, apartment lease, etc.) proving you have a residential address in the state.
However, your can designate your definitive mailing address for your state and federal tax forms, department of motor vehicle registration, and your bank and brokerage accounts.
To set up your travel mailbox as your new address, you will first need to get a notarized USPS Form 1583 authorizing your provider to receive, open, process, and scan your physical mail.
Reroute current mail by submitting a temporary (from 15 days to 18 months) or permanent change of address with USPS. You can submit an address change with USPS online or at your local post office using P.S. Form 3575.
Expats can get a travel mailbox with plans starting at $6 per month. Most expats will pay between $15 – $20. Prices depend on the volume received, pages scanned, and the number of recipients on the Plan. I think every expat should use a travel mailbox. The service is convenient, safe, and cheap.
Premium plans with features to support online business like volume scanning, phone and fax service, and business registration at a prestigious address can reach $70 per month.