Vote Charlie!

Switching to a post office box

Posted at age 28.
Edited .

Since I am in between apartments, I got a post office box to avoid changing my address everywhere for a short period, and to avoid cluttering my friend’s mailbox with my crap. I was then able to set up forwarding from my old address to the PO box. I tried changing my address directly with all my credit card companies and banks, but only some of them allowed a PO box.

Initially I thought about using a service like I heard about years ago that would scan your mail and only forward it to you if you wanted. I could only find a couple such services, but they seemed to charge dollars per page, so I quickly dismissed that idea.

Then I looked into renting a mailbox, and briefly looked into ones at The UPS Store and elsewhere. I couldn’t find prices listed, other than a few references regarding other cities in comments on various forums, so I figured those would be at least as expensive here in San Francisco.

I settled on a normal PO box through the US Postal Service. Using their website, I found there were small boxes available now at the offices closest to where I am staying in Chinatown. I opted to pay for a year upfront and got a month free, for a total of $134. I printed the form and took it to the post office to get my keys today, after arriving too late Saturday and trying again yesterday, not realizing it was a holiday.

It was a little unclear how to handle my physical address. I needed to apply for the PO box using my previous address since that is what is on my ID, and I do not yet have a new address. Once I got my box number, I came home and set up mail forwarding on usps.gov. I was glad to find they allowed setting up permanent (expires after a year) forwarding to the PO box. In theory I am now supposed to tell the post office my new physical address for the PO box account (though it would not be used for forwarding), but I assume they would require an ID to prove the address anyway. I think I have no choice but to hold off reporting the physical change of address till I actually have a new permanent address.

Next I updated my address to the PO box with my credit cards and banks, but some did not allow addresses like with “PO BOX 1234”, though some of those did allow addresses beginning with “BOX 1234” Hopefully the forwarding catches the rest!

Banks that accepted PO box:

  • U.S. Bank
  • Barclaycard
  • Chase
  • 1st Financial Bank USA
  • Discover
  • Firstmark Services (where my CitizensBank loan is serviced)
  • ECSI
  • Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation

Banks that partially accepted PO box:

  • Capital One (required at least one non-PO box address for three types of mailings)

Banks that did not accept PO box:

  • University of Wisconsin Credit Union
  • Citi (but accepted “BOX 1234” with “PO ” removed)
  • American Express (said must provide physical address for either home address or alternate address, but still would not accept PO box after setting physical alternate address; did however accept “BOX 1234” with “PO ” removed; see below for update)
  • SF Fire CU (did not try removing “PO “)

Update: October 17

I received a letter from American Express dated October 12 instructing me to add a physical address, so I guess they have some other review in place beyond the web form validation.

We are writing to let you know that we recently received your request to update your address and have made the requested change. However, we noticed that we do not have a current physical address on file for your Card account and request that you provide it to us by November 11, 2016.

Why we need a physical address for your Card account
Federal guidelines require us to maintain a physical address for our customers. For your reference, your physical address is the street address where you reside and cannot be a P.O. Box or mail collection agency address. For the purpose of managing your Card account you may have multiple addresses on file with us. However, one of those addresses must be a physical address.

It went on to explain how to provide the address by calling or using the website, which as I noted above does not let you add a PO box even if you have a physical address listed in the alternate address field, despite the instructions saying you should be able to do it. Perhaps they can handle it on the phone, but I will just keep my “BOX 1234” address as my “Home” address along with the physical address in the alternate slot.

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