That’s where virtual mailbox services come in handy. Below I’d like to give you a brief rundown of how a virtual mailbox service works followed by a comparison of the best virtual mailbox services for the U.S., Canada, and U.K.. As an added bonus, I’ve negotiated exclusive discount codes for these virtual mailbox services you won’t find anywhere else!
The fact is that earlier this year, I finally bit the bullet and signed up for a virtual mailbox. I’ve been living in China for a couple years now and until recently had all of my mail sent to my parent’s home. It wasn’t a bad setup, to be sure, but it was annoying for my parents and I didn’t like having to nag them – particularly during tax season – to carefully check for my W2, 1099’s and other important forms.
It took me a while to decide that purchasing a virtual mailbox was a good idea. Security was a concern, as was cost. I had to do quite a bit of research, much of which I’d like to share with you below. This is what I wish somebody could have shared with me before I finally made the decision to buy a virtual mailbox.
- How a Virtual Mailbox Really Works
- What You DON’T Need
- Comparison of Virtual Mailbox Services
- How to do a Virtual Mailbox Authorization from Anywhere in the World
Virtual Mailbox Service Reviews (with Discount Codes!)
- Traveling Mailbox Review <– Includes Exclusive Discount Code!
- U.S. Global Mail Review <– Includes Exclusive Discount Code!
- Earth Class Mail Review <– Includes Exclusive Discount Code!
- eSnail Virtual Mailbox Review
- UK Post Box Review
How a Virtual Mailbox Really Works
After a bit of setup, a virtual mailbox is a convenient way to check your own mail while you’re on the road or out of the country without bothering anybody else. Most companies I’ve seen run on a basic model that looks like this:
- You are given a personal mailbox number that is similar to a PO box but different in that most of these services can accept packages on your behalf. With rare exception, you will never actually visit this mail address to pickup your mail.
- Incoming mail is scanned and you can view online from a computer from anywhere in the world. These services only scan the front of the mail, giving you the option to discard without opening because…
- You choose to discard, archive, open or forward the mail you receive in an email-like online interface. Most service packages give you a certain number of mail “opens”per month (although you can always pay for more if you need). Once you make the request, the company will open your mail and scan it up to a specified number of pages. You can also request that they forward the mail on, which is handy if you’re set to receive a new credit card or a package.
An example of what it looks like to view your scanned mail in a virtual mailbox
It’s really a simple and very ingenious service for us travelers! The only catch is that you’ll have to go through an identity verification process in most countries (further details below) in order to give the company permission to open your mail. Personally, I’m glad that security measure is in place!
What You DON’T Need
One last thing before I jump into a comparison and review of the various virtual mailbox services available to travelers. During my research I discovered a number of expensive services and companies that I didn’t need.
The most common of these services was a virtual office. I know it seems like common sense, but your search online is going to come up with quite a few of these types of companies. Think companies like Regus, where actual office space with a receptionist can be rented on a daily or monthly basis. They also provide mail services, but it’s often far too expensive with features that extend beyond the needs of the average traveler.
The second service that you don’t need is a simple PO Box from the US Post Office. Again, this is probably common sense, but a PO Box requires somebody to actually come and pick up your mail. A virtual mailbox allows you to check it online while you’re on the road. There’s a huge difference.
Comparison of Virtual Mailbox Services (U.S., U.K., Canada)
Below is a brief comparison of the most popular virtual mailbox services of which I’m aware followed by a more detailed review. I personally use Traveling Mailbox, which I highly recommend, but these other services are also great. If you feel like I’m missing a particularly good service, please let me know in the comments section below.
*Shared features of all of these services include: Check deposit services, a set number of scans per month, mail forwarding, online access and guaranteed security.
**Note on Setup Fee: Earth Class Mail has agreed to waive this setup fee for Travel China Cheaper readers if you use the links within this review!
Virtual Mailbox Authorization | How to Notarize Online
In order to legally allow a virtual mailbox service to open your mail on your behalf, you will need some sort of authorization. In the United States, this means filling out USPS Form 1583 and having it notarized. In the U.K., this means sending in proper identification to be confirmed by the virtual mailbox service you use.
Here’s the problem I ran into: what if you, a US citizen, already live overseas and want to get this setup? Or better yet, what if you just want the convenience of doing the notary process online instead of jumping in your car?
Unless you live next door to a US Embassy or a US Post Office where you can get this document notarized, you really only have one choice: an online notary. This is a relatively new thing but I’ve done my homework…it’s completely legit and legal. I used an online notary to get my USPS Form 1583 notarized and it ended up being a lot easier than I originally thought. I highly recommend a service called NotaryCam.
Using NotaryCam is simple: you download the app on your phone, upload the document you need signed, follow the identity confirmation steps and then essentially have a Skype call with a certified notary in the U.S. All-in-all the process took me less than half an hour. Best of all, it’s only $25 to get it done.
Reviews of the Best Virtual Mailbox Services
While I’ve already mentioned that I personally use Traveling Mailbox, I wanted to provide you with my detailed notes and review of all the other companies that I researched during my quest to find the best virtual mailbox services.
Option #1: Traveling Mailbox Review > RECOMMENDED
Traveling Mailbox has been an excellent service for me over the past year. Aside from the fact that it was the only company that had an address in Dallas, Texas (which was a huge plus for me), they are also a well-rated and very professional company that has been around since 2011.
Of the unique features that I’ve come to enjoy about Traveling Mailbox, one of the best is the ability to integrate with Evernote. I’m an Evernote user so having the option to upload scanned mail directly to the app on my phone is a huge plus. They also allow me to tag and organize my mail similar to how you would with your email, which makes searching and archiving that much easier. Of course, they also offer all the traditional virtual mailbox services you’ll find with all these companies, services such as check deposit, parcel forwarding, shredding, etc. For the Extended and Small Business plans that they offer, they also provide a fax number that you can use to receive faxes.
Update 2017: A iOS/Android app has been added to the Traveling Mailbox service, which I have enjoyed using. It still has some design improvements to make (they tell me that these improvements are in the works), but overall I like the fact that I can check my mail on my phone whenever I want and request scans easily.
Traveling Mailbox Deal
As a bonus, get 2 months FREE service when you sign up for a year! Click here.
Finally, in terms of security, I appreciate how Traveling Mailbox is very transparent about their practices. They are officially authorized by the USPS and their offices are kept under video surveillance at all times.
The Bottom Line: In terms of price and value, though, in my opinion it’s hard to beat Traveling Mailbox. If you’re looking for my recommendation for the best virtual mailbox, this is it. You can give them a try by clicking below:
Option #2: US Global Mail Review > RECOMMENDED
Started back in 1998, US Global Mail is one of the most established US companies on this list of best virtual mailbox providers. They’ve been used by thousands of travelers over the past decade and have a good reputation with a high Better Business Bureau rating. When it comes to reliability and trustworthiness, US Global Mail is a leader on this list.
While they have plans that focus on businesses, I’m going to spend my time here on their individual and family plans that seem to fit the average traveler best. Their primary selling point is that there are no hidden fees. You know up front how much it costs to forward each parcel and how much it costs to open and scan each letter. Unfortunately it doesn’t come with a set number of scans, which leads me to believe that US Global Mail is geared more toward the traveler who wants to have their mail forwarded along more often than scanned.
US Global Mail Discount Code
As an exclusive bonus, use the promo code “TCC” for 1 FREE month of service (min. 3 months). Click here.
The only downside is that they only have one location: Houston, Texas. There are no options for other cities or addresses.
Single address aside, if you’re willing to pay for 3 months, a year or two years up front (Update 2017: they now offer month-to-month plans!), you can get incredible savings that easily make this the cheapest virtual mailbox on this list. That alone may be reason enough for you to choose US Global Mail.
The Bottom Line: If you don’t mind a Houston, Texas address, this is the best value for your money as a virtual mailbox and forwarding service. One and two-year plans beat the pricing on any other service on this list.
Option #3: Earth Class Mail Review
During the course of my research, Earth Class Mail came in a close third in terms of the best virtual mailbox service. While Earth Class Mail is certainly an excellent service, my reasoning for not going with them boiled down to two factors: they didn’t have a Dallas, TX physical address and they were a bit pricey.
Before I get into more details about those two points, let me begin by sharing what I really liked about Earth Class Mail. It seems to be a service whose target customer is a small business, which although this is quite different from a world traveler, it does mean that they offer a few services you won’t find elsewhere. This includes the option to use them as your registered agent (if you’re starting a business while traveling), integration with Dropbox or even the ability to have multiple “user” logins. If you have a couple friends who want to go into together (and whom you trust!), this latter feature could be one option to reduce your costs while on the road. You all go in on an account together and each have your own login to check the mail.
Earth Class Mail has the highest number of addresses to choose from when compared to all the other services I researched. Most of them are physical addresses while a few are P.O. Boxes, which are cheaper. The downside to a P.O. box, however, is that they don’t accept packages from the likes of FedEx, UPS, DHL and others like the addresses can.
Earth Class Mail Discount Code
As an exclusive bonus, get a $25 discount PER MONTH for the first 6 months of service when you click here.
Also, because Earth Class Mail is directed more toward the small business customer, they are incredibly detailed about security. They offer secure warehouses, secure online storage and what they call “secure shredding.” The biggest downside to Earth Class Mail is the cost: they are a top-notch service that entails a higher-than-average price. It starts at US$50/mo (for select street addresses and P.O boxes) and runs up to $200 for a full-featured street address. However, this does include one free session with NotaryCam to get your Form 1583 notarized.
The Bottom Line: If you’re running a business while on the road or if you have multiple friends to join together, this is an excellent option. It might be overkill for the average solo traveller, though.
Option #5: eSnail Review
For those travelers who need a Canadian address, the best option I have been able to find (in fact, one of the only) is eSnail. Thankfully, even though your options are limited, it’s still a very good option as a virtual mailbox while you’re traveling.
There’s only one option for an address in Vancouver, but they offer all the features you might want – plus some – with any virtual mailbox. You can forward mail, scan it, or securely shred it. On top of that, if you receive magazines you can have them either forward it on OR scan the magazine in its entirety for you to read. The magazine scanning service comes at an additional fee, but I don’t know any other service on this list that does this!
They offer the “Backpacker” plan for as low as $12.50/mo (when you purchase for the year), which in my opinion is about right for most travelers. If you receive more than 10 pieces of mail per month, however, you’ll probably need to upgrade to the “Basic” ($18/mo with 20 scans) or “Personal” ($20/mo with 100 scans) plans.
The Bottom Line: If you need a Canadian address, eSnail is an excellent option with low-priced plans that will meet your needs.
Option #6: UK Post Box Review
For those travelers who have need of an address in the United Kingdom, the best virtual mailbox service is UK Post Box. In fact, I love some of their features so much I wish that I could find a similar company in the United States!
To begin, UK Post Box offers what I have come to expect with almost any virtual mailbox service: document scanning, parcel forwarding, check deposit, etc. In addition to these features, though, they also offer two more that set them apart: multiple UK addresses and the ability to send mail from the UK.
UK Post Box offers a number of UK addresses and PO Boxes, although the pricing for each depends on location. These can work well for both individuals and businesses and if you decide to go for a cheaper PO Box, the good news is that they offer what are known as “courier points” to make sure that you can have packages delivered (since they can’t be delivered to PO boxes).
The second unique feature of UK Post Box is the ability to send mail. That’s right, you can write a letter, upload it to your account and have them print and mail it for you! Save money on postage by making it a domestic instead of international mail.
The Bottom Line: If you’re in the UK or need a UK address, UK Post Box is one of the only services you should consider.
Conclusion: Choosing the Right Virtual Mailbox Service
As you can see, there are a number of great options to choose from. All of them will help you take care of your mail while you’re out and about but each of them offers a unique selling point. Figuring out what is important to you while you’re gone (access to fax? business needs? short term? specific city?) will help you narrow down which virtual mailbox service is right for you.
What do you think? Do you have experience with any of these services that you’d like to share? Or perhaps there’s a service not listed here that you think deserves a mention? Please leave a comment below!