When we were preparing an out-of-state move, I made a list of all the places that have our address. The list is surprisingly long: every bank and credit union, every credit card, every brokerage firm, the 529 plan, TreasuryDirect, the IRS (for IP PIN and EFTPS), the state tax authority, insurance companies, PayPal, Costco, REI, airlines and hotel loyalty programs, and all membership organizations.
After we moved, we rented a PO Box from the post office. Because we will move again when we buy a home, using a PO Box saves us the trouble of changing our mailing address all over again with every place. Wherever we can, we turn on paperless statements and paperless billing. Still, some places have a habit of sending mail. We’d like to make sure we get the important mail.
COVID-19 adds a wrinkle to going to the Post Office to retrieve mail. We’d like to minimize the number of trips. Ideally we will go only when we know we have important mail. Is there a way to see what’s coming into your PO Box?
When we owned our home, I had the free Informed Delivery service by the U.S. Post Office. They send me an email every morning with images of that day’s incoming mail. When I signed up, I had to go through identity verification. They used information from my credit report to verify my identity and my address. How does identity verification work for a PO Box?
It turned out that Informed Delivery also works for a PO Box, only slightly differently than for a residential address. If you already have a USPS account with Informed Delivery for your physical address, you can’t just add a PO Box to the same account. You have to create a separate account with a different user name (but the two accounts can use the same email address). To verify that you have access to that PO Box, the Post Office will send a letter with a random code to the PO Box. When you get that letter, you enter the random code in your new USPS online account. That confirms you are in control of the PO Box. After that step, you will start getting emails with images of incoming mail just as you do for a residential address.
Whether it’s for a residential address or a PO Box, I find the Informed Delivery service quite helpful. Especially for a PO Box, it saves you from making unnecessary trips to the post office only to see that you have nothing important in your box.
More info: Informed Delivery® – The Basics, USPS
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I didn’t know such a service existed. I have no pressing need for it, but it sounds so neat, I’ll probably sign up.
Thanks for sharing.
Gary Koenig says
Here’s a tip for having multiple accounts. Unlike virtually every other website I know of, on USPS.com both the password AND username are case sensitive.
And, it looks like they store the email address in your profile with case as entered also.
So, you could use the same username (email) for two accounts, like:
1) [email protected]
2) [email protected]
With each pointing to a different address.
Let me add one possible helpful tip. If you have had an on-line postal account for many years, before they were requiring you to add a phone number, you will save yourself possibly hours of trouble by making sure your account has a phone number attached to it before signing up for informed delivery.
There’s also the “plus trick” with gmail:
Barry Northrop says
I have had a PO Box instead of house delivery for decades and signed up for Informed Delivery when I first learned about it. It is a very useful feature. Be aware that the incoming mail announced in the email may still take a day or two to actually arrive in your box and it does not detect 100%. Another USPS helpful service is Tracking. If you have the tracking number provided by the shipper, you can request a variety of notifications as to its progress and availability by email and/or text. No need to have an account for this. https://tools.usps.com/go/TrackConfirmAction_input
Harry Sit says
If you enable package updates under “settings” in Informed Delivery, USPS will automatically notify you of the expected delivery date when they receive any tracking number for your address. You won’t need each individual tracking number from the shippers.
Barry Northrop says
I should add that some parcels (incorrectly) come addressed to my street address but the local PO does not deliver to the street, only to PO Boxes and the local office redirects to my PO Box. If the parcel is not specifically addressed to the PO Box, Informed Delivery will not detect it.
Curious what state you relocated to. Was it mainly due to cost of living?
Harry Sit says
Nevada. Mainly for lifestyle reasons – less crowded, closer to recreation destinations (winter skiing, summer hiking).
And no state income taxes, Harry! How does the move affect HSA accounts and such? What about ACA plans? Please do tell us.
Harry Sit says
It will be a topic for another day. Everyone assumes the California state income tax is worth escaping from when you are no longer tied to a job. Our CA income tax for 2019 as full-year residents was under $1,000. It can be negative if we are over the ACA cliff this year.
Tom Good says
I heard on a computer talk show a few different times how this is a terrible idea. I can’t recall the details just that they strongly advised against this, I think it was about your email being hacked. I’d never do this based upon how admamant the hosts of the show were that this is a problem waiting to happen.
Daniel Chege says
Very nice financial blog you have here, keep up the good work.
Thank you much Harry for telling us about this service. I read your posts and signed up for Informed Delivery by USPS last month. Then the Post Office sent a letter with a random code to our home. Then I entered the random code in the new USPS online account. Afterward, I get emails with images of incoming mail. On no-mail days, I don’t get an email. Background info: our family live in San Francisco, we opted out of marketing mail and usually get 1 piece of mail biweekly.
ik brunel says
According to USPS.COM, from December 2020 the information above is no longer completely accurate.
A person with both a PO Box address and a valid street address can now use one account with a single email for both addresses. The information is at:
A M says
This will not work for business POB and will only work for personal use POB.