How to get a P.O. Box

P.O. Boxes are a service offered to customers by the U.S. Postal Service. With a P.O. Box, individuals and small businesses can receive mail in a secured box inside the post office, instead of at a home or business. 

In general, getting a P.O. Box is relatively simple. Keep reading to learn how to get a P.O. Box, what’s required and what to consider before applying for one. 

Key takeaways

  • A P.O. Box is a numbered box within a post office that holds mail for an individual or business. It’s kept locked and typically requires a key for access.
  • You can apply online or visit your local post office to get a P.O. Box. 
  • P.O. Boxes can provide benefits like security and privacy. But there are some potential inconveniences to consider, like packages can only be delivered by the Postal Service. 

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What is a P.O. Box?

A P.O. Box is a personal, secured mailbox at a post office used to receive mail and smaller packages. A P.O. Box owner can have their mail delivered to the numbered box and pick it up at the post office. Most P.O. Boxes are secured with a lock and key, but some may have a combination lock. 

You can use a P.O. Box for personal or professional reasons—they’re popular among small-business owners. P.O. Boxes may also be ideal for people who are ineligible for Postal Service home delivery.

How to get a P.O. Box in 4 steps

If you follow a few steps, it can be easy to get a P.O. Box. Here’s what to expect during the process. 

1. Find a local post office

First, you’ll need to pick a location for your P.O. Box. The Postal Service site has a feature that allows customers to search for their nearby post offices. 

It’s possible to have a P.O. Box in a different city or state, but you’ll still need to complete the verification process in person. 

2. Pick a P.O. Box size

The next thing to choose is the P.O. Box size. There are up to five sizes to pick from, ranging from extra small to extra large. You can check with your local post office or the Postal Service’s site to see what sizes are available.

3. Apply online or in person

To apply for a P.O. Box online, use the Postal Service online reservation system to search for nearby locations, select a preferred size and reserve a box. The online application will also include a step for payment information. 

To apply in person, head to your preferred post office to complete a P.O. Box request form—PS Form 1093. Or print the form, complete it at home and bring it to the post office. There, you can pay for the box using cash, credit card, debit card, check or money order. 

4. Verify your identity and pick up the keys in person

Until you verify your identity and current permanent address in person with two forms of ID—primary and secondary—your application isn’t complete, according to the Postal Service. If you apply online, you’ll have 30 days after submitting your application to visit your selected post office with the completed form and forms of ID. 

Primary forms of ID must include a photo. Acceptable forms of primary ID include a:

  • U.S. government ID that’s federal, state or tribal issued
  • Passport 
  • U.S. university ID 

Secondary forms of ID must verify the address provided on the P.O. Box application. Acceptable forms of secondary ID can include a:

  • Lease, mortgage or deed of trust 
  • Voter registration card 
  • Vehicle registration card 
  • Home or vehicle insurance policy

Once the post office verifies your identity and address, you’ll get your box number and keys to begin receiving mail. 

How much does a P.O. Box cost?

A P.O. Box has a monthly cost that depends on the post office’s location and the size of the box, plus a refundable key deposit fee. A small box is at least $4.50 a month, and an extra-large box is at least $22.50 a month. 

P.O. Box owners have the option to pay in three-month, six-month or 12-month terms. You may also have the option to pay online, at a self-service kiosk, by mail or in person at your P.O. Box’s location.

Can you get a P.O. Box for free?

Some people may be eligible for a free P.O. Box—also called a Group E P.O. Box—but they must meet specific requirements to qualify. Check out the Postal Service’s rules and regulations to see if you qualify for free P.O. Box services.

What to consider before getting a P.O. Box

P.O. Boxes can be helpful for individuals and small businesses, but there are a few potential benefits and limitations to consider before applying. 

P.O. Box benefits

A P.O. Box can provide a few potential benefits, including:

  • Security: With a P.O. Box, your mail is locked within the post office. Only you as the keyholding P.O. Box owner—and any other people you specify—may pick up mail from the box.  
  • Privacy: As a P.O. Box owner, you can keep your home address and other mailing addresses private from others. You can also receive important documents confidentially. 
  • Flexibility: In general, P.O. Box users can choose when and where to get their mail, even if they wish to continue receiving home delivery.

P.O. Box limitations

P.O. Boxes also have a few possible limitations, including: 

  • Delivery limitations: P.O. Boxes can only receive mail from the Postal Service. This means that P.O. Box owners can’t receive packages delivered by UPS, FedEx or Amazon directly to their boxes.   
  • Access limitations: Most P.O. Boxes are located in post office lobbies. Although many post offices offer 24/7 lobby access, there are exceptions. You may want to consider checking your nearby post offices’ lobby hours before selecting a location.

Getting a P.O. Box in a nutshell

A P.O. Box can be a convenient and secure way for people to receive mail. It could also help those looking for a secure address in a different state or city. However, P.O. Boxes may not be helpful if you’ll be receiving packages from delivery services other than the Postal Service. 

Looking to get a P.O. Box to help prepare for a big move? Discover ways to save money while moving.

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