The Ultimate Guide to a Virtual Mailbox

By
Leela Hopkins
VPM Staff
Updated
September 3, 2020

Whether you’re a digital nomad, full-time traveler, or remote business owner, the question remains the same: how do you handle your mail?

With an on the go lifestyle you may easily fall behind on your physical mail with the traditional handling of snail mail. If you’re looking to upgrade your mailing solution into something convenient, versatile, and flexible that’s where the virtual mailbox comes in.

A virtual mailbox offers a permanent address in the US so you can travel and work remotely without worrying about accessing your physical mail. It’s an online mailbox that will give you 24/7 access, instant email notifications, and the ability to view and manage mail securely with the click of a button.

In this blog, we will introduce the concept of a virtual mailbox and answer your questions on the following:

  • What is a virtual mailbox?
  • How does a virtual mailbox work?
  • Who can benefit from a virtual mailbox?
  • How do I pick a virtual mailbox that works best for my needs?

What is a Virtual Mailbox?

A virtual mailbox is a type of service that allows you to read your postal mail online via any device with an internet connection and from anywhere in the world.

With a virtual mailbox, your physical mail is available to you in an online account, similar to email. In addition, a virtual mailbox offers a variety of other mail services including:

  • Real-time mail notifications.
  • Online viewing of mail.
  • Mail opening and scanning.
  • Mail forwarding.
  • Package forwarding.
  • Mail shredding, mail disposal, or mail recycling.
  • Package storage and shipping.
  • Check depositing.

How Does a Virtual Mailbox Work?

First, take a look at all the types of mail services available, then choose the mail package that serves your business and personal needs the best. Continue with the following steps to get a virtual mailbox:

  1. Complete the USPS 1583 form - you will find detailed directions and resources to complete this form here.
  2. Change of Address With USPS - a change of address is a request to have USPS forward your mail to a new destination address. This can either be temporary or permanent, and it can be done online or in person. You can learn how to file a change of address with USPS here.
  3. Have your mail and packages sent to the new virtual mailbox address as soon as the mail arrives. It will be scanned and uploaded to your virtual mailbox account.
  4. Log in to your new virtual mailbox account and decide on options for mail scanning, mail forwarding, deleting, shredding, or storing.

Who Uses a Virtual Mailbox and Why?

Typically when you move to a new place you will need to fill out a mail forwarding form with the post office and they make sure your mail gets to your new permanent address.

However, the challenge that full-time travelers, digital nomads, and anyone else embracing a location-independent lifestyle faces is that they don’t have an address because they typically don’t stay in one location for more than a month at a time. A virtual mailbox solves the “permanent address” issue.

The reason a permanent address is still necessary even if you work and travel remotely is many institutions still require a physical address for communication purposes such as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and voter registration. In the private sector, some law offices, some financial institutions and banks, and even employers providing end of year tax documents often use snail mail by default. You also need an address for things such as credit cards and packages.

A virtual mailbox is also used for multiple purposes outside of a permanent address. We've listed the other reasons small businesses, digital nomads, travelers, and expats find a virtual mailbox is valuable.

1. Automated Mail Solution for Startups and Small Businesses

A virtual mailbox provides a streamlined digital document solution and saves time so you can focus on billable activities and what really matters in your business.

It is the smartest and easiest way for you to manage your mail and packages, and it comes with additional long-term advantages for your business. Startups and small businesses will enjoy the following benefits.

A Permanent Address Linked to a Commercial Office

Linking your business address to a commercial office will create and maintain a professional image and makes you look more trustworthy to customers. A permanent address also makes it easier for customers to find and contact your business on a local level.

A virtual mailbox enables a company to have different location addresses across the country, thus spurring market presence and helping the company expand.

Privacy Protection with a Business Address

When you register an LLC or corporation the forms require a business address. This business address will be on public and state websites for the world to see. A virtual mailbox that is tied to a commercial office lets you use that as your business address instead of your home address. This will protect your privacy by not exposing your personal home address.

Additionally, this will protect your personal information when you:

  • Open documents with your suppliers and vendors.
  • Receive statements, invoices, payments, and bills.
  • File for legal contracts, licenses, and permits.
  • Expose contact information on websites and marketing materials.

Immediate Access to Mail

A virtual mailbox enables you to handle your mail from any device. You'll receive an instantaneous notification when mail is scanned and processed into your account. You then will need to log into your online account to open and view the mail scans and decide what to do from there.

Document Management Solution

With a virtual mailbox you will be able to store and archive all your important business documents. This gives you a paperless office solution that automates, eliminates junk mail, and lets you skip the hassle and wasted time of opening and sorting your mail manually.

Digitizing all incoming business mail also means:

  • Effortless record-keeping.
  • Saving time by scanning documents.
  • Fully OCR’ed PDF files for easy searching of important documents, and downloadable digital copies in PDF format.

2. Global Mail Access for Digital Nomads

Digital nomads live and work as they travel from different foreign countries making their offices coffee-shops, public libraries, and coworking spaces. They use telecommunications technologies to earn a living and are not tied to a location.

A virtual mailbox is a perfect fit for this unpredictable lifestyle with the following benefits for the digital nomad on the go.

Easy Management of Mail and Packages

You can view, read, store, or trash mail online, anytime and any location. Other benefits of a virtual mailbox service enables you to easily forward mail and forward packages to any address in the world.

Permanent Street Address

Never having to change your permanent address again is one of the most important benefits a virtual mailbox offers the digital nomad. You can receive mail from all couriers, including FedEx and UPS, and even use that address for your driver’s licenses or credit cards.

Ultimate Mail Security

All the mail and data handled by a virtual mailbox service are safely encrypted and are only accessible to the recipient. Packages are professionally handled and stored at mailing locations with the highest security standards.

Because of the nature of working in public places, security is especially critical for digital nomads. It’s important to keep client and personal information secure as possible across any and all applications and tools as you work and travel.

Check Deposit Services

Receiving salaries and paychecks from different countries is no problem for digital nomads. You don’t need to go to the bank, as everything is managed by your virtual mailbox service. You can deposit checks to any US bank for faster payments. Get paid as you go.

3. Travelers

Virtual mailboxes enable frequent travelers to stay connected without having to worry about missing important documents or worry about mail piling up. As a traveler, you’ll enjoy the following benefits.

Real-Time Mail Access

People who travel frequently often find themselves in a bind when they cannot access their mail promptly and may face large fines, missed payments, and late fees. Things that require immediate responses such as court orders, traffic tickets, bills, and other documents may appear in your mailbox when you are not available to address it until your travels are finished.

With a virtual mailbox you will have immediate notifications so you can address your mail real-time and avoid serious problems. You’ll also be able to decide on what to do with your mail such as store, trash, or recycle it.

Convenience

Travelers can view and manage all of their mail online with any device from anywhere.

Also, if you are on travel for a long period of time it’s not always simple or cost-effective to buy products online and have them shipped to your current location. As a traveler you may also be concerned about shipping prices if you are in need of an item.

With a virtual mailbox the ability to forward mail and packages are easy for travelers. A virtual mailbox allows you to purchase from an online retailer and have the products shipped to a US address. The shipper will then consolidate the packages and ship them to you wherever you are for a more affordable and reasonable price.

4. Expats

While striving for success in their new location, expats must also manage affairs back home. Working abroad for months or years at a time with rare trips back to the US makes it difficult to check a physical mailbox.

Expats still need a permanent address in the US to receive communication from their employers as well as shop and receive mail and packages without the high risk of mail loss in the international post.

By using a virtual mailbox you can rest easy that all your packages, mail, and employer documents will go directly to you rather than through customs. Expats will find a virtual mailbox most advantageous in the following ways.

Staying Connected

Using a virtual mailbox gives you a permanent address, which is accepted in more places than a PO Box. Easily forward your mail and forward your packages to your location using the permanent address. In addition, you can shop from US stores and receive your purchases from all couriers.

Seamless Convenience

A virtual mailbox will give expats a permanent address, check deposit services, and the ability to manage mail and packages under one platform.

You can use your permanent address for your bank accounts, tax authorities, and more.

Additionally, you will also have the ability to access check deposit services with your virtual mailbox. With check deposit services you will never have to physically go to a bank to deposit a check again. Your checks will be processed the same way your mail is with your virtual mailbox.

Never miss important documents with your mail too. A virtual mailbox gives expats instant access to important documents and allows you to manage all communication immediately and effectively. You will get a instant notification when your mail is in your account and you can decide the action you want to take from there.

Privacy

If your employer doesn’t provide you with corporate mail services, you will have to rely on family or friends to retrieve, sort, and forward your mail and packages on your behalf. By depending on family and friends you will expose your personal information as well experience an increased delay of documents that are time sensitive.

With a virtual mailbox your correspondence and package contents remain completely private. Mail goes directly to the address of your choice, keeping things between you and the sender only while reducing the risk of loss of mail and packages that may contain confidential information or important documentation.

Pros of a Virtual Mailbox

Subscribing to a virtual mailbox service provides more than a mailing address. Read on to learn more about the advantages of a virtual mailbox.

A Permanent Street Address

A virtual mailbox will give you a permanent street address, which is accepted in more places than a PO Box. When you have a permanent street address you will save time and can avoid the hassle of driving to a physical mailbox location to check it on daily or weekly basis. Additionally, a permanent address is accepted by all couriers such as USPS, FedEx, and UPS. The permanent address provided by your virtual mailbox service is also valid for credit cards, driver’s licenses, and taxes. Beneficially, you don’t have to change your address if you move.

Incoming Checks Deposited Via Mail to Any US Bank

When your check lands in your virtual mailbox all you have to do is request to have it deposited into your bank account. Your request is then processed, and within one business day, your deposit is mailed out. Your bank processes the deposit and puts the money into your account, and the money is at your disposal.

Store and Keep Records of Digital Mail Documents

Important personal, legal, and business documents such as taxes, bills, fees, and licenses are safely stored and archived for as long as you have a virtual mailbox. This is useful for tax and auditing purposes.

Streamline and Automate Workflow and Administration

You can have your mail automatically opened and scanned and then decide whether to shred, hold, or ship the items to yourself. Additionally, OCR technology makes it possible to easily search through PDF scans of your mail. This saves you time and frees you up from manually managing and scanning your mail so you can focus on other aspects of your business.

Simplify Mail Processing

Centralizing all your mail in a single location means never having to deal with mail being sent to multiple offices, services, or people. You’ll manage all important personal and business related documents under one platform.

Cons of a Virtual Mailbox

While having a virtual mailbox provides you with numerous benefits it also comes with certain drawbacks.

Extra Shipping and Handling Fees

If you want to forward mail and packages to another address of your choice, you will need to pay additional shipping fees, which can vary depending on shipment urgency, package size, and fragility. This option is pricier when compared to just driving and picking up mail directly at a brick-and-mortar mailbox location. Also, some virtual mailbox services charge additional fees for specific addresses and extra fees may be charged for interior mail scans and letters.

Daily Login Process

You may need to log into your virtual mailbox account every day to manage your mail, which will depend on the scans and how much mail you anticipate receiving.

Virtual Mailbox Comparisons

Virtual mailbox services and packages may vary greatly from one provider to another. Here we’ve listed the most notable ones with their comparative differences.

VirtualPostMail

VirtualPostMail offers a fully managed mail service that includes:

  • A real commercial business street address
  • Free registered agent services
  • Mail contents viewable online and downloadable as a PDF file
  • Mail forwarding and package forwarding
  • Unlimited cloud storage
  • Check depositing
  • 60 days free storage of physical items
  • 1 business day request processing

Earth Class Mail

  • Mail content available in PDF format
  • Mail forwarding and package forwarding
  • Integrated with other services like QuickBooks, Xero, and Google Drive
  • Unlimited cloud storage
  • Check depositing
  • 30 days free storage of physical items
  • New pricing plans for individuals (it used to have pricing geared toward enterprises). If you want a break down of the new pricing because it can be confusing you can read the Earth Class Mail pricing analysis.

Traveling Mailbox

  • Mail content available in PDF format
  • Mail forwarding and package forwarding
  • Integrated with other services like Evernote and Bill.com
  • Unlimited cloud storage
  • Check depositing

Anytime Mailbox

  • Opening and scanning of your mail contents
  • Unlimited cloud storage
  • Mail forwarding and package forwarding
  • Software only, not an actual virtual mailbox

PostScan Mail

  • Mail opening and scanning
  • Mail forwarding and package forwarding
  • 30 days free storage of physical items
  • Online mail management filters for organizing your mail scans

IPostal1

  • A mobile app to check your mail, available for iPhone or Android
  • Scanned incoming envelopes and packages with 2 GB free cloud storage
  • Phone or faxing available
  • Check depositing

Click here to view the pros and cons in a full virtual mailbox review.

Things to Know Before Choosing Your Virtual Mailbox

In order to legally register an LLC or corporation you must have a registered agent with a physical street address in each state you wish to operate. An unattended mailbox address or PO Box is not accepted.

VirtualPostMail is the only virtual mailbox service that offers registered agent services at all our locations. Get a registered agent service FREE with a virtual mailbox account. Learn more.

Also, be sure to choose your address carefully.

Pay attention to these things:

The more addresses often mean that they do not have real commercial business addresses and instead use PO Boxes, virtual offices, or other mailbox stores so you should do your research and be careful on selecting the provider and address.

The address with the most disadvantages is with a PO Box:

  • Many states require you to use a physical address to register your LLC or Corporation. PO boxes are not accepted.
  • You cannot receive any mail or packages from third-party couriers like UPS, FedEx, DHL. You can only receive mail from the US Postal Service. This will severely limit the types of mail you can receive.
  • Bank institutions will not accept a PO box as your principal business address. This means that you will not be able to use it to open a new bank account for your business or apply for merchant services to accept credit card payments.
  • Certain government applications and forms will not allow PO boxes for your registered address.

Many virtual mailbox providers will use PO Boxes, virtual offices, or mailbox stores and forward mail to their sorting and scanning facility. This allows the virtual mailbox provider to offer more addresses even though they may not have a physical presence in that state.

By using third-parties your mail and packages will have to be forwarded to a central processing facility, which increases delays in mail reception.

Although a virtual mailbox provider may have many locations, it adds an extra step that creates room for error, misplaced mail, and also delays how soon your mail is scanned into your mailbox since it must be forwarded to the virtual mailbox providers headquarters. Learn how to choose your address for a virtual mailbox.

Lastly, it is recommended that you check where the virtual mailbox service can forward mail to before signing up. Some locations are not available for mail forwarding services.

Conclusion

A virtual mailbox service offers individuals the ability to work, travel, and manage their business remotely. It is a convenient online mailbox where you can access your physical mail from every corner of the world on any device.

In addition to providing a permanent address to receive personal and business documents a virtual mailbox offers check depositing, mail forwarding, package forwarding and other services under one single platform.

Overall, you will be able to manage your mail in real-time and automate tedious tasks that will save you time while staying connected.

Ready for a Virtual Mailbox?

Having VirtualPostMail can easily improve your life. It is the smartest and easiest way to manage your mail and packages as you work and travel remotely. Managing your postal mail online is so easy; you’ll never want to handle mail the traditional way again.