If you are reading this article, you are either an expat or someone who tends to travel a lot, and needs to have a reliable way to access postal mail while on the go. Or you may be someone who just wants to get away from traditional (and unnecessarily pricey,) PO Boxes. Or simply, you belong to a generation of people that prefers having everything on a phone.
Whatever your case may be, virtual mailboxes have been a big relief and help to people who, for one reason or another, want to have a permanent mailing address and a virtual mailbox via which to access all mail and packages that arrive.
How virtual mailboxes became popular
The Virtual Mailbox and Mail Forwarding industry, although has technically been around since the late 90’s with the launch of US Global Mail, has very recently started gaining more and more traction. Various reasons (and more recently, due to the Covid-19 pandemic,) have impacted the way people want to receive and manage their mail. A growing number of businesses as well (corporations like Netflix, Shell etc,) have started looking at virtual mailbox alternatives, in order to decentralize and digitize their corporate mail room. The cost associated to having staff managing employee’s e-mails, compared to the subscription cost of an enterprise level virtual mailbox, does not compare one bit and makes for big savings for a company with such a high headcount like Netflix.
US Global Mail has seen first hand, how this industry has evolved over the years. It really started as an expat mail forwarding industry. People who moved overseas for job assignments, or wanted to retire or simply traveled a lot, were looking for an easy way to be able to stay on top of mail. Over the years, and with companies coming up like iPostal1, more non expat groups (businesses, individuals who wanted a digital way to access their mail etc,) a whole industry was created for virtual mailboxes, that goes above and beyond the expat group.
In this article, we will try and cover some of the top virtual mailbox companies out there, as well as some of the differences that characterize each. For example, some companies work more closely with business clients. Other companies, work exclusively with expats and frequent travelers. Some work equally with both groups. Some companies will manage all the mail in-house, while other companies will have that mail outsourced to independent pack & ship mail operators (Postnett and the likes.)By the end of this article, it is our hope, that you have an educated idea of which company you will want to work with, depending on your needs, price preference as well as matters that relate to privacy (who manages your mail etc.)
But first, let’s talk about what a virtual mailbox is.
What Is A Virtual Post Mailbox?
A virtual post mailbox, is an online mailbox where images of mail & packages get uploaded. Mail that is sent to a physical street address, gets scanned exteriorly and interiorly & those images are uploaded into the virtual post mailbox account.
The Top 5 Virtual Mailbox Services
As mentioned briefly already, iPostal1 was one of the companies that paved the way for businesses that wanted to sign up for a virtual address in a remote location. Work from home individuals, businesses with multiple locations that did not want to rent full office space and people who simply wanted a cheap way to get their mail online, started flocking to iPostal1 probably as of 2014 and onward.
One thing to know about iPostal1, that makes them different from any other virtual mailbox company, is that they outsource 100% of their mail. And iPostal1 has with no doubt, the largest network of independent pack & ship stores that they work with, to manage their customer’s mail. Partnerships with Postnett and some of the largest pack & ship players in the market, have established iPostal1 as the go to platform, for flexible addresses. If you want to get an address in a tiny little town in West Texas you cannot pronounce, you can rest assured iPostal1 will have an address for it.
As for pricing, Ipostal1 is one of the most competitively priced virtual mailbox companies that are out there. Their Green plan (not sure why the grudge against red,) starts at $9.99/mo if you wanted to use their service month month, or $99/year ($8.95/mo) if you wanted to sign up for the full year.
Post Scan Mail is originally based out of Anaheim, California. Similarly with iPostal1, they too have channel partners that they work with to manage mail on behalf of customers. The interesting thing about Post Scan Mail however, is that they will have all (or most,) mail from their channel partners shipped to their in-house location in Anaheim, to process mail. And once that mail is done being processed (sorted, scanned etc,) channel partners will from there take the necessary steps to have things ready for the end customer, when they sign into their virtual mailbox account.
From a privacy perspective, Post Scan Mail is definitely one of the most secure companies you can work with, because they take the extra step of processing all their mail in-house. A potential negative with this, is that there may be some delays in having your mail up into your account, because of the additional shipping step that is part of the process.
As for pricing, Post Scan Mail is slightly more expensive compared to iPostal1, with it’s cheapest plan starting at $15/mo. Something worth noting here is that the Starter plan, will only get you the Anaheim address as an option. So if you wanted to get a New York or Houston address, you would need to select the Standard plan, which starts at $20/mo (twice the price of iPostal1.)
From the looks of it, the Starter plan is probably a better option for expat groups, who do not really care where the address is located in the US, just as long as it can be accessed from overseas.
Anytime Mailbox is a virtual mailbox company that has been the most aggressive, with expanding the virtual mailbox to every day users. They have been leading the way with white label partnerships, to try and get the virtual mailbox in the hands of your typical every day person, who usually gets their mail in their home mailbox or at a PO Box. So although they catter to businesses and expat groups, just like any other virtual mailbox does, Anytime Mailbox has definitely been a leader in paving the way to getting more awareness of the virtual mailbox technology, to people who have not considered a virtual alternative to receiving and managing mail.
A perk of going with Anytime Mailbox, is that they are very flexible in their pricing. Note that I did not say they are compatitively priced, (although they will say on their website that there is 1 location in their network, that can get you a virtual mailbox for $5.99/mo.) It seems like Anytime Mailbox (who also outsource all their mail to channel partners,) gives the pack & ship stores the liberty of setting their own prices. So if you want a premium address in New York, you can expect to pay top dollar for it. But then again, if you are an expat and could care less about where the address is located, then you can pick the $5.99/mo plan.
If you want a virtual mailbox company that works exclusively with businesses that have high volume mail, then this is your top pick by far. A little bit of history on Earth Class Mail is important; they originally started off as an expat mail forwarding company (much like US Global Mail.) Over time however, they switched their market to focus more on businesses, and moved away from the expat market. It is not that they will not take you as a customer if you are an expat. But the price point, is one that is not suitable for an expat (business pricing,) and therefore you would probably be better off with a cheaper alternative.
According to their website, they have worked with top companies like Lyft and they are indeed the top preference for corporations, that need a reliable and top notch virtual mailbox that ensures the privacy of the organization’s mail.
They are based out of Beaverton, OR and that is important for you to know. The cheapest plan ($19/mo) will only get you a Beaverton, OR address. If you want to work with their own outsourced partners, the cheapest plan you select will be their Premium MailBox plan, which starts at $79/mo.
Whether their price is justified or not we will that up to you. One thing we will say; at this point, pretty much most (if not all,) major virtual mailbox companies, have security and privacy protocols in place that will meet the demands of large Fortune 500 companies.
US Global Mail has been around since 1999. It started off as a mail forwarding company for expats. Because of their Houston location, many professionals would leave from Houston to overseas assignments and would need someone back home, to forward them their mail. Within a few years, they had a fully functional virtual mailbox (probably the first virtual mailbox created,) and started giving their expat customers this virtual mailbox option as a more streamlined way of communicating with the mail personnel back home, and as a way of accessing mail digitally.
For most of its existence, US Global Mail has been working primarily with Expats. In fact, if you go back on older versions of the website, compared to the messaging that is no on their website, you will see that they too have started focusing on the domestic market. As opposed to Earth Class Mail which was a transition from Expats to Businesses, US Global Mail focused on the domestic market in addition to their expat market.
Frequent travelers and people overseas, still make up the bread and butter of their clientele.
One thing that is important to note about US Global Mail, is that they are the only company on this list, that does not outsource their mail. All mail that you receive, will be managed by in-house employees located in its Houston location. They recently opened a 2nd location in California, but that too is fully owned and managed by US Global Mail.
Companies like Netflix, Shell and Chubb have been using US Global Mail for their expat assignees for several years.
As for its pricing, US Global Mail is very competitive in its pricing, with it’s cheapest plan starting at $9.95/mo. From all other virtual mailbox companies on its list, iPostal1 is the only virtual mailbox company to come in slightly cheaper, when you select their annual plan, which would then put you at $8.95/mo.
Whether an additional $1 saving, is worth the outsourcing experience, we will leave that up to you.
The virtual mailbox industry has come quite a long way, since it started in 1999 from a mail forwarding company. The good news is, it is not (yet) over saturated and there is purpose and uniqueness that can be found in all virtual mailbox companies on this list. Pricing ranges from $9.95/mo to the hundreds of dollars per month, if you want to work with some of the pricier companies we mentioned.
For any questions, and a complete price comparison sheet, feel free to reach out to us.