What is the best virtual mailbox service 2019? For those expats and digital nomads traveling abroad, a virtual mailbox service is a handy tool that allows you to remotely manage your snail mail back home. A few years back, I made the switch to a digital mailbox for my physical mail and I can’t remember how I managed without it! It’s been that valuable to me and my business.
No doubt you have questions, like I did, about virtual mailboxes. Below I’d like to share with you the research I did before making my decision, answer any questions you might have about the process and offer my recommendations for the best virtual mailbox services.
What surprised me most about signing up for a virtual mailbox was that the decision wasn’t as simple as I thought it was going to be. There were a number of hurdles and factors that I hadn’t previously considered, which you might be overlooking as well. These include:
- How do I legally move my address to a new virtual address? (this is especially hard if you’re already living overseas)
- How do I choose my address – and does it really matter? (hint: it does!)
- Is it better to pay per scan/forward or pay for a monthly plan?
- What are the most important features to consider in a virtual mailbox?
- How do I ensure and maintain my security and privacy with a virtual mailbox? (this is a bigger deal than you may realize)
We’re going to dive into the answer for each of these questions in a way that will hopefully make everything crystal clear for you. I’m going to explain how I use my virtual mailbox and then compare the best virtual mailbox services for the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom.
- How a Virtual Mailbox Service Works
- Virtual Mailbox vs PO Box or Virtual Office
- Best Virtual Mailbox Service Comparison (U.S., Canada, U.K.)
- Virtual Mailbox Authorization | Final Hurdle
- Virtual Mailbox Reviews | USA, Canada & UK
- Best Virtual Mailbox Service for USA Address
- Best Virtual Mailbox Service for Canada
- Option #4: UK Post Box Review
- Frequently Asked Questions | Virtual Mailboxes
- Conclusion: Choosing the Right Virtual Mailbox Service
How a Virtual Mailbox Service Works
To start, it might be helpful for you see what a virtual mailbox looks like and how the process works. Personally, I use Traveling Mailbox (which I’ll share more about later), so all my screenshots show this particular service. I have used other apps, however, and the process is usually similar.
You can think of a virtual mailbox as a service that turns your physical mail into digital form. It allows you to conveniently check your own mail or have it forwarded to you while you’re on the road or out of the country without bothering anybody else.
Most virtual mailbox services run on a basic model that looks like this:
- You are Issued a Personal Mailbox Address: Usually this is in the form of a mailbox number similar to a PO box. With rare exception, you will never actually visit this mail address to pickup your mail.
- Incoming Mail is Scanned: Only the front of the envelope or shipping label is scanned. You can view these scans online anywhere in the world on a computer or, with some services, on a dedicated app.
- You Can Choose to Open, Forward, Discard or Archive the Mail: With a few clicks on my computer or phone, I can direct exactly what happens with that piece of mail. Most service packages give you a certain number of mail “opens” per month in addition to a set number of scanned pages. Once you make the request, the company will open your mail, scan it and make it available to you as a PDF. 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.
For expats and digital nomads, this is an incredibly valuable service that makes life overseas that much easier! The only catch is that in order for these companies to open your mail, for most countries you’ll have to go through an identity verification process (further details below). It can be a hassle, but personally, I’m glad that security measure is in place.
Virtual Mailbox vs PO Box or Virtual Office
During my research, I was often directed toward expensive services and companies that I found out I didn’t need. It can be somewhat confusing, so let me make this abundantly clear for you: a virtual mailbox is NOT the same as a PO box or a virtual office.
To start, a PO box requires that a personal physically go and pick up the mail, whereas with virtual mail, you can check it online while you’re on the road. Also, you’ll find that there are many limits to PO boxes (i.e. some companies won’t ship to a PO box and they often don’t accept packages); these limitations don’t exist with virtual mailboxes.
I know it seems like common sense, but during your search online you’re likely to come across companies like Regus or WeWork, where actual office space with a receptionist can be rented on a daily or monthly basis.
While these companies might provide virtual mailbox services and can become your legal business address, they’re quite expensive compared to dedicated virtual mailbox services and include features that extend far beyond the needs of the average expat or digital nomad.
Best Virtual Mailbox Service Comparison (U.S., Canada, U.K.)
Below is a brief comparison of my recommended virtual mailbox services based on the country where you need an address. I personally use Traveling Mailbox since I need an address in the United States, but I’m comparing services from Canada and the UK as well.
|USA Recommended||Services for Canada and U.K.|
|Traveling Mailbox||eSnail Mail||UK PostBox|
|Multiple Address Options?|
|Check Deposit Service|
|24/7 Access to Your Mail|
Note: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, which means that at no extra cost to you, I may be compensated if you choose to use one of these services. Rest assured, I only recommend companies that I have personal experience with, and your support helps keep this website free.
Virtual Mailbox Authorization | Final Hurdle
Once you’ve chosen a good virtual mailbox company, you would think that the hard part is over, right? Not quite – there’s still one more hurdle.
In order to legally allow a virtual mailbox service to open your mail on your behalf, you will need to provide official 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 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.
Virtual Mailbox Reviews | USA, Canada & UK
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.
Best Virtual Mailbox Service for USA Address
For those who need an address in the USA, Traveling Mailbox has been an excellent service for me over the past few years. Aside from the fact that it was the only company at the time that had an address in Dallas, Texas (which was something I needed), they are also a well-rated and very professional company that has been around since 2011.
There are a number of great features that I’ve come to appreciate about Traveling Mailbox over the years. For example, Traveling Mailbox offers:
- Useful Mobile App: Not every virtual mailbox service has a mobile app, but I find that I log into the service more on my phone than on my laptop computer.
- Evernote Integration: Any mail scans can be directed uploated to my Evernote account.
- Ability to Organize Mail: Traveling Mailbox allows me to not only tag each piece of mail, but also sort it into different “folders” for the purpose of keeping everything organized.
- 2-Factor Authentication: Traveling Mailbox is one of the few companies I’ve seen that offers 2-factor authentication, an added layer of security beyond your typical username/password. This is important data – it needs to be protected!
Of course, they also offer all the traditional virtual mailbox services you’ll find with any virtual mailbox company, services such as check deposit, parcel forwarding, shredding, etc. You can read my full review of Traveling Mailbox for more a more in-depth look.
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, 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:
Get 2 months free with any annual plan using this button!
Best Virtual Mailbox Service for Canada
For those travelers who need a Canadian address, the best option I have been able to find (in fact, the only option) is eSnail Mail. I really wish I could recommend another company – I’ve never been very impressed with eSnail – but until I find another option, this is all there is.
There is only one address available in Vancouver, but they offer all the features you might want 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 purchased annually), 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: While eSnail doesn’t offer an updated dashboard, if you need a Canadian address, it’s pretty much your only option. Thankfully, it’s not too expensive.
Best Virtual Mailbox for the UK
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. 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 post 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.
Frequently Asked Questions | Virtual Mailboxes
I’ve tried my best to cover all the information in-depth, but for the sake of brevity and in case you’re just skimming this article, here are the questions I get asked most frequently in regard to virtual mailboxes.
A virtual mailbox is a paid service that allows remote access to a personal, physical mailbox. Users receive digital notice of new mail and have the option to request that the mail be scanned for digital delivery, forwarded to another physical address, or shredded.
Yes, it can. In fact, using a virtual mailbox is often preferred over the alternative of listing your home address or paying for an office space.
A virtual mailbox usually costs an average of US$15-$20 per month for personal plans and US$45-$55 for business plans, depending on the amount of mail you receive. There are additional fees for forwarding mail, depositing checks and other ancillary services. Below is an example of pricing from Traveling Mailbox.
Security measures vary by company, but the best virtual mailbox services must secure both the sorting facility as well as their server data. Before signing up with a service, make sure they offer 24/7 monitoring of their facility and routinely backup their servers. Better yet, enable 2-factor authentication for secure login if it is offered and make sure to shred all mail once it has been downloaded.
Whereas a PO Box requires somebody to physically collect mail on a regular basis, a virtual mailbox allows for remote access to the mail anytime. A virtual mailbox can also accept packages and be used as an address for business and banking, which isn’t permitted with a PO Box.
USPS Form 1583 is required to be filled out and notarized in order to use a virtual mailbox service. Fortunately, the state of Virginia in the United States made remote video notarizations legal in 2012, which makes it possible to get the form notarized while outside the US.
If there are any questions I’ve missed here, feel free to leave a comment or find another way to contact me and let me know!
Final Thoughts | Choosing the Right Virtual Mailbox Service
For expats, digital nomads, or anybody who spends significant time overseas, I always recommend investing in two things: a good VPN service and a good virtual mailbox service. As you can see, there are a number of great options to choose from.
All of these virtual mailbox companies will help you take care of your mail while you’re out and about, but each of them offers a unique selling point. The choice for the best virtual mailbox services is often based on these primary features:
- Virtual Address Locations: Do they have an address in the city/state/region you need?
- Included Mail and Scans: Every service package differs in the included number of incoming mail and scans. Choose the one based on the volume of your monthly mail.
- Additional Benefits: Do you need check deposit services? A fax number? The ability to send a letter? These features can often be a deciding factor in which service you use.
- Security Features: You should be concerned about somebody else opening your mail, scanning it and storing it on their servers. For this reason, choose a company whose security and data policies make you comfortable.
As I shared above, I ended up going with Traveling Mailbox a number of years ago and I’ve been using their service ever since. I highly recommend it if you need an address in the United States.
What has been your experience with virtual mailbox services? Leave a comment below to let me know!