When we say “PO box,” what exactly comes to mind? It’s a term you may hear thrown out by various pop culture figures to receive fan mail without giving out their home addresses. But did you know over 14.4 million people currently use PO boxes for their mail with USPS having over 21 million PO boxes total? This means a good chunk of your potential customers and/or current customers may be using PO boxes, so needing to know how to ship to a PO box is becoming increasingly common.
Table of Contents
- Benefits of PO boxes
- PO box guidelines and limitations
- Tips for shipping to a PO box
- Other specialty addresses
- Shipping to PO boxes with ShippingEasy
- PO box users can access their box 24/7 at most USPS locations but will have to pick up packages during business hours and only have 10 days to claim their shipment.
- PO boxes and other specialty addresses require precise labeling to avoid packages being lost or returned.
- ShippingEasy gives users the option to verify specialty addresses and update ship from addresses to business PO boxes.
Benefits of PO boxes
PO boxes aka Post Office boxes are rentable mailboxes located inside a customer’s nearest USPS location. PO boxes give customers who may not have access to traditional mailboxes/mail delivery options the opportunity to receive mail and packages with an added layer of privacy. PO boxes are lock-protected, so only customers with the key provided by USPS are able to access these boxes and pick up packages after showing their ID at the USPS pickup counter.
PO box guidelines and limitations
With the added privacy of PO boxes comes specific requirements from USPS. These requirements include specific package/mail size limitations, packages only being held for up to 10 days, and USPS-only service options, with the exception of FedEx Ground Economy. Depending on the hours of their USPS location, customers may have access to their mailbox 24/7 but have to wait to pick up their packages during their location’s business hours. Here’s a quick breakdown of these guidelines and limitations to give you a better understanding:
- 10-day package holds: PO boxes only come in certain sizes, so some packages won’t fit in your customer’s box. Packages are usually only held for PO box users for up to 10 days before it’s returned to the sender, so we recommend reminding your PO customers to snag their package before it’s returned.
- Carrier service options: With the exception of FedEx Ground Economy, only USPS carrier services can be used when sending orders to PO boxes.
- How to find locations: If you need to find your nearest USPS location or your customer’s nearest USPS location, you can use USPS’s locator tool to help!
- Lobby hours vs business hours: Most USPS locations have 24/7 lobby hours, so customers can pick up mail from their PO box wherever it’s convenient for them. However, if a package or piece of mail is too big for their PO box, they’ll have to visit their location during business hours and get their package or mail from an employee.
- Tracking: Tracking updates can differ for PO box shipments because the status may or may not change until your customer picks up their package from USPS directly.
Tips for shipping to a PO box
- Enter the address clearly
- Example: Jane Doe, 123 ShippingEasy Drive, PO Box 456, Austin, TX 78910
- Confirm your package is being sent through a USPS service or FedEx Ground Economy
- Remind customers to reach out to their USPS location for their business hours, so they get their package within their 10-day hold timeframe
- Confirm their PO box address before shipping
Other specialty addresses
Similar to PO boxes, customers may have other specialty addresses, including apartments, duplexes/shared housing, campus mailboxes, and military mail. These addresses need extra information like apartment numbers, letters, and other specifics, so your orders get to the right person and don’t risk being returned or lost.
Shipping to Apartments
- Apartment mail is similar to PO boxes because most apartments have corresponding mailboxes that are only accessible with keys or added security and have specific numbers to include on addresses.
- Example: Clark Kent, 456 Superhero Lane, Apt. 190, Metropolis, TX 12345
Shipping to Duplexes/Shared housing
- Customers who are sharing a space with other tenants may have letters or numbers added to their addresses to help identify their specific addresses.
- Example: Michael Myers, 978 Halloween Ave B, Haddonfield, IL 12345
Shipping Campus mail
- Most colleges and universities have PO boxes for students in a campus mailroom or residence hall mailroom, so we recommend reaching out to your customer directly for more information on formatting these addresses.
- Example: Sidney Prescott, 996 Loomis Drive, C/M 703, Woodsboro, CA 12345
Shipping to Military Bases
- There are a lot of restrictions and guidelines for sending military mail we’ll cover in a feature blog, but military mail requires a specific address format that varies depending on the base type as well as customs forms.
- Example: MSgt John Doe, PSC 123 Box 987, APO AP 96601-0098
- If a customer is moving or going out of town, they may request their mail be held at their local post office. Unlike PO boxes, this mail will have to be picked up during regular business hours. USPS will most likely either leave a slip for them in their mailbox letting them know where the package is being held and/or will update the tracking information on the package to let them know it’s being held at the post office.
Shipping to PO Boxes with ShippingEasy
Still nervous about sending mail to PO boxes and other specialty addresses? ShippingEasy users have address validation tools built into their accounts to help confirm both domestic and international packages. Interested in opening your own business PO box? We also give our users the option to add a PO box to their ship from addresses. Address validation
ShippingEasy uses a USPS address locator to confirm all domestic addresses and the Melissa Global Database tool for international addresses. These tools can be automated within your ShippingEasy account by going to Settings > Shipment Settings > Automations. Here, you can select how these tools are used in your orders that are flagged with invalid addresses to best suit your needs:
Using a PO box to ship your orders
We’re able to give our users the same security as their customers, and you can use a PO box as your ship from address in your account. To update your ship from address, go to Account Settings > Ship From Address > Add Address. We recommend confirming the correct ship from address is updated in your store settings and creating a test label on your orders page as well to avoid having to cancel any labels because they have the wrong address. For more information on setting up a business PO box, reach out to USPS.
PO boxes are used for more than receiving fan mail (which is still awesome). For some customers, PO boxes are the only option for receiving mail and packages available. While USPS does give specific guidelines and restrictions for shipping to PO boxes, communicating these limitations to your customers will help avoid any confusion along the way. Specialty addresses may require extra address lines when you’re shipping, but your customers will be happy you took the extra time to confirm their addresses and understand the inner workings of their PO boxes.