Post office box

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A post office box full of mail USPS Post office boxes 1.jpg
A post office box full of mail
PO boxes of various sizes in a German post office, with their number range and postcodes written above them Postfachschraenke.jpg
PO boxes of various sizes in a German post office, with their number range and postcodes written above them
Post office boxes next to the S-market supermarket in Klaukkala, Finland Post office boxes in S-market.jpg
Post office boxes next to the S-market supermarket in Klaukkala, Finland
Outdoor Post Office Boxes (as common in Switzerland) numbers one to six at 9054 Haslen, Switzerland Post box Haslen 02.jpg
Outdoor Post Office Boxes (as common in Switzerland) numbers one to six at 9054 Haslen, Switzerland

A post office box (commonly abbreviated as P.O. box, or also known as a postal box) is a uniquely addressable lockable box located on the premises of a post office.


In some regions, particularly in Africa, there is no door to door delivery of mail; for example, in Kenya.[ citation needed ] Consequently, renting a PO box has traditionally been the only way to receive mail in such countries.

Generally, post office boxes are rented from the post office either by individuals or by businesses on a basis ranging from monthly to annual, and the cost of rent varies depending on the box size. Central business district (CBD) PO boxes are usually more expensive than rural PO boxes.

In the United States, the rental rate used to be[ when? ] uniform across the country. Now, however, a postal facility can be in any of seven fee groups by location; in addition, certain customers qualify for free box rental, usually because the Postal Service does not offer carrier-route delivery to their physical addresses.

In the United Kingdom, Royal Mail PO boxes are often little more than pigeon-holes in the secure section of a sorting office and are accessible only by staff. In such cases, the renter of the PO box will be issued with a card showing the PO box number and delivery office name and must produce this to the desk staff when collecting mail. For an additional fee, the Royal Mail will deliver received items to the renter's geographical address.

Some private companies (e.g., United Parcel Service and commercial mail receiving agencies) offer similar services of renting a mailbox in a public location. The difference is that mail sent there is addressed to a street address (along with the private box number), instead of just addressed to "PO Box CSX". [1] Virtual mailboxes are similar to P.O. boxes but usually provide additional services such as scanning or forwarding.

Mounting of boxes

PO boxes in the lobby of a U.S. post office USPS Post office boxes 2.jpg
PO boxes in the lobby of a U.S. post office

Post office boxes are usually mounted in a wall of the post office, either an external wall or a wall in a lobby, so that staff on the inside may deposit mail in a box, while a key holder (some older post office boxes use a combination dial instead of a key) in the lobby or on the outside of the building may open their box to retrieve the mail.

Lobby open hours

In many post offices in the United States, the PO box lobby is separate from the window-service lobby, so that the former may be kept open for longer hours or around the clock, while the latter is locked after business hours. In the U.S. since the 1980s, in cities and large urban areas, post offices have tended to close box lobbies overnight because of the tendency of homeless people to use them for sleeping quarters. As a result, some box lobbies are accessible after hours by customers who are provided a code to a door keypad. In addition, some post offices are located in rented facilities such as shopping malls. As a result, PO boxes can only be accessed while that facility is open.

Dhaka Rosewood Inn

If a parcel does not fit in a PO box, the postmaster will leave a note advising that customer to pick up that parcel from the counter. In some post offices, a key will be left in the PO box that corresponds to a larger, locked box (parcel locker) where the patron may pick up their package if a signature is not required. Most often, in this case, once the key is used to open the larger, locked box, the key cannot be removed again by the patron, but the door cannot be secured either. Notes will also be left in the PO box in respect of cash on delivery (COD) and registered mail that has to be signed for.

In 2011, the United States Postal Service began a pilot program called "gopost" [2] which installed larger boxes to handle package pickup from an unstaffed station. A given box can be used by multiple customers thanks to the integration of a computer which accepts a delivery code. [3] [4] Deutsche Post started a similar concept called a Packstation in 2001.

The privately operated Amazon Locker, started in 2011, is a similar one-time-use pickup (and return) facility for parcels sent to and from the company.

Package delivery by private carriers

Until 2012, package delivery to USPS post office boxes was not available from private carriers like UPS, FedEx and others. In early 2012, the Postal Service introduced a P.O. Box Street Address (PBSA) service that allows box-holders to combine the street address of the post office where their box is located with their post office box number into a street address format. [5] [6] [7] A mailing industry publication called the new service "a great service for people who already have a PO Box and don't want their packages delivered to their home." [8]

Locked bags and caller service

Users receiving very large quantities of mail can use "locked bags", which are numbered like PO boxes. In the United States, this service is called caller service, and the assigned number is called a caller number, although mail is typically addressed to "PO Box (caller number)." [9]


Each country has its own rules and regulations as to how one can retrieve mail at a PO Box. Some countries, such as the United States or the United Kingdom, may require one or more forms of identification. Not all countries offer locked PO Boxes.

In the United States, two forms of identification are required when signing up for a PO Box; one of which must be a photo ID.

By continent

Many countries offer some type of PO Boxes for different uses. There are an increasing number of private companies that provide similar PO Box services to the official postal service privately under the guise of mail forwarding.


PO boxes inside the NamPost main building in Windhoek. PO-Boxes.jpg
PO boxes inside the NamPost main building in Windhoek.


Cameroon uses the PO Boxes in Kumba, Yaoundé, Duoala, Bamenda, and other provinces.


In Namibia, PO boxes are the only form of mail delivery to private individuals. Even small settlements feature a block of PO boxes for rent. In Windhoek, capital and the only large town, blocks of PO boxes are scattered all over the city and not necessarily located at post offices but at shopping malls, in pedestrian zones or on public places.

South Africa

The South African Post Office has Post Boxes available for rent. These are usually attached to or close to a post office. In urban areas with PO Boxes for rent there also may be home delivery of mail. In rural areas Post Boxes are often compulsory as no street deliveries take place. In the areas for which there is no street delivery, Post Boxes are not charged for. Boxes and Street delivery postal codes may be the same in an area, or may differ. Private Bags are available for recipients of large mail volumes.


Post office boxes in General Post Office, Hong Kong. Post Office Boxes in General Post Office, Hong Kong.JPG
Post office boxes in General Post Office, Hong Kong.

Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, PO boxes are available in two different sizes. They are available in many post offices throughout the territory.


In Japan, PO boxes are available at most post office locations. There is no cost to rent a post office box as the box is provided to ease the effort to deliver postal items to regular customers. Therefore, renters must receive at least one postal item every day and expected to visit and retrieve mails regularly (daily, in principle) from the box. The renter must also rent the box for 6 months or more. Boxes in the metropolitan areas are often full and a new user expects to wait for years or more. [10]


In the Philippines, PO boxes are available for rent in selected post offices. PO boxes, also known as lock boxes, are available in three sizes: small, medium and large. [11]

South Korea

In South Korea, PO boxes are available in one size at selected post offices. There is no charge for renting PO box, but renter must fetch mail at least once in 30 days. Application is only available at post office with valid ID, seal for receiving registered mail, and key fee (usually around 10,000 won). Seoul CPO box room is the only PO box in Korea with fully automated mail retrieving system. [12]



In Austria, PO Boxes come in one size, and four different versions

  1. Only Post addressed to the PO Box will be delivered to it,
  2. All mail addressed to the address of the customer and the PO Box will be delivered to the PO Box,
  3. Same as 1., but for businesses,
  4. Same as 2., but for businesses, – they are generally available at all post offices throughout the country. [13]

Only mail from Austrian Post can be delivered to an Austrian Post PO Box, [14] but there are also private companies offering the same services.


In Serbia, anyone can apply for Post Office Box (in Serbian: Поштански фах) for very small yearly fee (curentlly, cost is two standard postal stamps). Application contains identification and address information of a user. User may choose what mail should be delivered to postal office Box and what should be delivered to the real address. If not specified otherwise, all mail goes to Post Office Box.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, anyone applying for a Royal Mail PO box must produce documentation to verify their home or business address.

North America

In Canada and the United States, Postal Boxes are available in five different sizes (A, B, C, D, and E). They are generally available in all post offices throughout the country.

In the United States, PO Boxes are generally available through the United States Postal Service (USPS). They are usually arranged from the smallest boxes at the top to the largest boxes at the bottom. The two largest sizes may be configured as drawers. To rent a PO Box, two different forms of identification are required. At least one of them must be a valid photo ID. This also applies to others who wish to share the box with the original subscriber's permission, and are of legal age. The post office will not forward mail from a PO Box until the box is closed, and then only to one address for all subscribers. As part of the agreement to rent a PO Box, if the PO Box is used for business, the Post Office will provide, upon request, the geographical (street) address of the business.

Street Addressing

Until 2012, only items mailed or shipped via USPS could be received at a USPS PO Box. However, a service called Street Addressing has begun to change this. [15] Once a permission form is completed by the box holder, Street Addressing allows private shippers, such as United Parcel Service (UPS) or FedEx, to ship items to a modification of the actual street address of the Post Office where the PO Box is located. The Post Office accepts the item, and places it in the PO Box or, for larger items, handles them the same way they would a package sent via USPS. (Some have storage lockers.) Only certain Post Offices offer Street Addressing, and even for ones that do, it may not be available to all of its PO Box customers (e.g., boxes without a fee). Other restrictions also exist, including the same limitations on items that cannot otherwise be mailed by ground service though USPS. (Not to be confused with items that cannot be shipped by air.) In many cases, the package may require one additional business day for delivery, and the service was never intended for overnight delivery. Also, federal holidays not observed by the private shipper might cause a delay. If an item is shipped using Street Addressing in which the box holder did not properly sign up for, it will be returned to sender.

Street Addressing will have the same street address of the post office, plus a "unit number" that matches the P.O. Box number. As an example, in El Centro, California, the post office is located at 1598 Main Street. Therefore, for P.O. Box 9975 (fictitious), the Street Addressing would be: 1598 Main Street Unit 9975, El Centro, CA. Nationally, the first five digits of the ZIP Code may or may not be the same as the P.O. Box address, and the last four digits (Zip + 4) are virtually always different. Except for a few of the largest post offices in the U.S., the 'Street Addressing' (not the P.O. Box address) nine digit Zip + 4 is the same for all boxes at a given location.



In Australia, wall-mounted PO boxes come in five sizes: small, medium, large, jumbo and A4. The different sizes boxes can be mixed almost completely arbitrarily on the wall. There is also an option for locked private bag which comes in two different sizes as well: small and large. [16]

PO boxes and private locked bags can be combined. [16]

New Zealand

In New Zealand, customers have the option to select between two sizes of PO Boxes: small and large. There is also an option to hire a Private Bag similar to "locked bags" in other countries. The annual fee is paid annually in advance. [17]

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Post office</span> Customer service facility of a postal system

A post office is a public facility and a retailer that provides mail services, such as accepting letters and parcels, providing post office boxes, and selling postage stamps, packaging, and stationery. Post offices may offer additional services, which vary by country. These include providing and accepting government forms, and processing government services and fees. The chief administrator of a post office is called a postmaster.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">United States Postal Service</span> Independent agency of the United States federal government

The United States Postal Service (USPS), also known as the Post Office, U.S. Mail, or Postal Service, is an independent agency of the executive branch of the United States federal government responsible for providing postal service in the U.S., including its insular areas and associated states. It is one of the few government agencies explicitly authorized by the U.S. Constitution. The USPS, as of 2021, has 516,636 career employees and 136,531 non-career employees.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">ZIP Code</span> Numeric postal code used in the United States and its territories

A ZIP Code is a postal code used by the United States Postal Service (USPS). Introduced on July 1, 1963, the basic format consisted of five digits. In 1983, an extended ZIP+4 code was introduced; it included the five digits of the ZIP Code, followed by a hyphen and four digits that designated a more specific location.

Canada Post Corporation, trading as Canada Post, is a Crown corporation that functions as the primary postal operator in Canada. Originally known as Royal Mail Canada, rebranding was done to the "Canada Post" name in the late 1960s, even though it had not yet been separated from the government. On October 16, 1981, the Canada Post Corporation Act came into effect. This abolished the Post Office Department and created the present-day Crown corporation which provides postal service. The act aimed to set a new direction for the postal service by ensuring the postal service's financial security and independence.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Package delivery</span> Type of delivery service

Package delivery or parcel delivery is the delivery of shipping containers, parcels, or high value mail as single shipments. The service is provided by most postal systems, express mail, private courier companies, and less than truckload shipping carriers.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Registered mail</span> Postal service

Registered mail is a mail service offered by postal services in many countries, which allows the sender proof of mailing via a mailing receipt and, upon request, electronic verification that an article was delivered or that a delivery attempt was made. Depending on the country, additional services may also be available, such as:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Australia Post</span> National Post services of Australia

Australia Post, formally the Australian Postal Corporation, is the government business enterprise that provides postal services in Australia. The head office of Australia Post is located in Bourke Street, Melbourne, which also serves as a post office.

Poste restante, also known as general delivery in North American English, is a service where the post office holds the mail until the recipient calls for it. It is a common destination for mail for people who are visiting a particular location and have no need, or no way, of having mail delivered directly to their place of residence at that time.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Letter box</span> Receptacle for receiving incoming mail

A letter box, letterbox, letter plate, letter hole, mail slot or mailbox is a receptacle for receiving incoming mail at a private residence or business. For outgoing mail, Post boxes are often used for depositing the mail for collection, although some letter boxes are also capable of holding outgoing mail for a carrier to pick up. Letterboxes or mailboxes use the following primary designs:

An address is a collection of information, presented in a mostly fixed format, used to give the location of a building, apartment, or other structure or a plot of land, generally using political boundaries and street names as references, along with other identifiers such as house or apartment numbers and organization name. Some addresses also contain special codes, such as a postal code, to make identification easier and aid in the routing of mail.

Post offices and other mail service providers typically offer a mail forwarding service, commonly known as hybrid mail or virtual post office box services, to redirect mail addressed to one location to another address – usually for a given period. In the case of the United States Postal Service's First Class Mail, it is generally for a period of one year. British Royal Mail provides a service called Mail Redirection, enabling redirection for up to two years. Customers of such a service usually, but not exclusively, use mail forwarding when they change an address.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Parcel post</span>

Parcel post is a postal service for mail that is too heavy for normal letter post. It is usually slower than letter post. The development of the parcel post is closely connected with the development of the railway network which enabled parcels to be carried in bulk, to a regular schedule and at economic prices. Today, many parcels also travel by road and international shipments may travel by sea or airmail.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rural letter carrier</span> Letter carriers in rural areas

Rural letter carriers are United States Postal Service and Canada Post employees who deliver mail in what are traditionally considered rural and suburban areas of the United States and Canada. Before Rural Free Delivery (RFD), rural Americans and Canadians were required to go to a post office to get their mail.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hrvatska pošta</span>

HP-Hrvatska pošta d.d., founded in 1999, is a joint stock company owned by the Republic of Croatia that performs postal and payment transactions. It is the national postal operator of the Republic of Croatia and has a leading position in the postal services market in the country, [3] and has won a number of awards for its activities. [4]

Centralized mail delivery is a unique form of mail delivery system where a letter carrier provides delivery and collection services to a number of residences from a centrally located installation – whether in a single-family subdivision or multi-family structure. Business customers also receive delivery services from a convenient central location. Centralized mail delivery equipment can be in the form of any "clustered" type mailbox – including free-standing, pedestal-mounted cluster box unit (CBU), or other cluster mailboxes mounted in a wall, kiosk, or shelter. The U.S. Postal Service prefers centralized mail delivery in all new construction because it is less expensive. The United States Postal Service aims to continue to review and modify its operations to provide universal service as efficiently and cost effectively as possible. Therefore, there is pressure to establish centralized mail delivery, which is required in some communities.

STD-4C or STANDARD-4C refers to a set of standards and regulations set by the United States Postal Service regarding the specifications of cluster mailbox units used in new construction. All multi unit constructions building plans submitted after October 6, 2006 are required to use STD-4C compliant mailboxes

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mail pouch</span> Lockable bag for transporting mail

A mail pouch or mailpouch is a container for mail, designed to transport first-class, registered mail, domestic mail and military mail. It usually has a drawstring, and is made of a stronger material than mail sacks and is designed to lock at the top with a mechanism system consisting of special closely spaced eyelets and a strong strap to secure the top where access into the bag is closed off and locked, where a mail sack does not have these features.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mail bag</span>

A mail bag or mailbag is a generic term for a type of bag used for collecting, carrying, categorizing, and classifying different types of postal material, depending on its priority, destination, and method of transport. It is oftentimes used by a post office system in transporting these different grades of mail. The mailbag is carried by some means of transporting like a mail carrier, animal, or a mobile post office. Letters and printed material delivered by mail in the seventeen-hundreds were carried by horse in a saddle bag. There are several different types of mailbags for different purposes. These different styles of mailbags depend on its size and purpose. It can range from "a large bag used for transporting mail on a truck, plane, etc." to a simple "postbag" used by a mail carrier to deliver mail.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mail sack</span>

A mail sack or mailsack is a mail bag used to carry large quantities of mail.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Package tracking</span>

Package tracking or package logging is the process of localizing shipping containers, mail and parcel post at different points of time during sorting, warehousing, and package delivery to verify their provenance and to predict and aid delivery.


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    "우체국 우편사서함 제도~ 그것이 알고싶다!!" (in Korean). Korea Post . Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  13. "Postfach". Retrieved 24 August 2013.
  14. Nur Sendungen die von der Österreichischen Post zugestellt werden, gelangen ins Postfach. – English: Only mail from Austrian Post gets in your PO Box
  15. "PO Boxes | USPS". Retrieved 20 April 2022.
  16. 1 2 Post, Australia. "Post Office Boxes & bags". Retrieved 9 November 2016.
  17. "PO Box & Private Bags | New Zealand Post". 3 February 2015. Retrieved 9 November 2016.