Post office boxes, or PO boxes, are a convenient way to receive mail when you don’t want to use your home address, or you travel a lot and aren’t home to collect mail all the time.
However, you are restricted in some ways by the size and shape of your particular box. Even some envelopes are too big for smaller PO boxes.
This might lead you to wonder: Does USPS deliver to PO boxes? Here’s what you need to know.
Does USPS Deliver To PO Boxes In 2023?
The United States Postal Service is the only mail service, aside from Amazon (in very specific circumstances) to deliver mail to PO boxes. The post office box is located inside the post office, giving USPS the most direct and convenient access. Other major carriers, like UPS and FedEx, cannot deliver to a PO box.
To learn more about how PO boxes work, which carriers can and cannot access PO boxes, if you can access your PO box outside of post office hours and much, much more, I have all you need to know below!
How Do PO Boxes Work?
Per the United States Postal Service website, PO boxes are “a premium service offered for a fee to anyone who requires more than free home delivery or general delivery.”
You can apply for a PO box either in person at a post office location or online, via USPS.com.
Before you head in, you can search online to see what is available at each/any of the post office locations near you.
Your search results will also tell you how much each PO box costs; the price varies based on size, and for how long you want to “rent” the space.
For example, in my city, a Size 2 (small), which is 5” by 5.5”, costs $54 for three months, $94 for six months and $188 for an entire year.
When you sign up for a PO box you are given a key to the box; this is what you’ll use to get into it, so don’t lose it!
Accessible hours will vary based on the post office you choose.
But many post office locations have 24/7 PO Box Access hours that allow you to retrieve your mail at any time that it’s convenient.
How Do You Ship To A PO Box With USPS?
Shipping to a PO box via USPS is quite simple since the PO box is part of the USPS system.
You don’t have to look up the post office’s address or anything; you just write the recipient’s name, their PO box number, the city and the zip.
That’s really it! And USPS can handle it from there.
Does UPS Ship To PO Boxes?
UPS does not ship to PO boxes.
According to the UPS.com site, they “do not deliver to PO boxes.” Instead, you must use a valid street address.
The reason, ShipVine.com says, is that USPS won’t let them; UPS would have to enter a special agreement with USPS to be allowed access to the PO boxes.
And UPS already has such a robust delivery system, they are doing just fine on their own without.
Does FedEx Ship To PO Boxes?
FedEx does not ship to PO boxes.
Like UPS, you must use a valid street address.
And like with UPS, the reason FedEx can’t deliver to a PO box is because they do not have a special arrangement with USPS to allow access to the boxes.
So instead, you will have to ensure your recipient has a street address you can use, or if you usually receive mail to a PO box, you will have to provide a street address.
Can You Access Your PO Box When Post Office Is Closed?
You can access your PO box outside of normal post office business hours.
This is because most post offices have “lobby hours” and “PO Box Access Hours.”
If you visit the post office during these times, you will see a big metal gate separating the service desk from the rest of the building.
Thus, you’re able to access your PO box without posing a threat to any of the highly sensitive and personal items contained within the post office.
Not sure what your post office’s PO Box Access hours are?
Well, you can use this tool to search and see “Retail Hours” (business hours), Lobby Hours and PO Box Access Hours.
The smaller post office nearest me personally only has lobby and PO Box Access hours during business hours.
However, the much larger post office in a different area of the city has lobby and PO Box Access hours 24/7!
How Do You Track A Delivery To A PO Box?
Whether are you the shipper or the recipient, you think you need to keep a closer eye on the delivery process because the destination is a PO box.
But in fact, the tracking is just the same as for a street address.
If you have a tracking number, you will enter it into the USPS Tracking tool online.
Then you can follow the package’s journey to its destination, just as usual.
The only difference is that when it says “Delivered,” you know it’s either in the PO box (if it fits) or being held at the post office, with a slip in the PO box to inform the recipient.
What Happens If You Get A Package Bigger Than Your PO Box?
Since most PO boxes are quite small, it is pretty common for a package not to fit within.
But this is no problem! If the package doesn’t fit, one of the postal associates will leave a slip in the PO box to inform the recipient that they should come to the front desk to retrieve it.
You simply give them the slip, and they will retrieve your package from a safe place in the back.
What Kind Of Mail Can’t Be Shipped To PO Boxes?
There are very few things that cannot be shipped to PO boxes, and the vast majority include items sent via parcel delivery services like UPS, FedEx and DHL.
Items that USPS can receive but cannot place in your physical PO box include boxes or envelopes that won’t fit and items requiring a signature.
For these types of things, you will instead receive a notification slip in your box, which you can take to the front desk in order to receive your package.
Finally, anything that is prohibited by the USPS for shipping, including firearms, marijuana, alcohol and perishable foods, is undoubtedly not for shipping to a PO box.
The United States Postal Service is the main mail delivery service that can deliver to PO boxes.
This is because the PO boxes are located within post offices’ physical locations.
Obtaining a PO box is easy, while shipping, tracking and receiving items to a PO box are equally straight-forward and convenient.