Can You Use Private Carriers to Ship to a USPS PO Box?

Can You Use Private Carriers to Ship to a USPS PO Box? Some people prefer using a USPS PO Box to receiving mail to their residential address. While PO Boxes do have a number of advantages for those who receive mail, they make things more difficult for senders who prefer private carriers such as UPS or FedEx. Is it possible at all to use private carriers to ship to a USPS PO Box?

First and foremost, let’s figure out what a PO Box is. “PO Box” is short for “Post Office Box”. It is a lockable mailbox located on the premises of a post office. Each PO box has a unique number that is used instead of the street address. You can rent a PO Box from the United States Postal Service for a term of 3, 6 or 12 months and use it to receive mail and packages instead of having them delivered to your residential address.

Many people prefer PO Boxes for a variety of reasons. Firstly, a PO Box will keep your mail and packages safe; it is an important advantage for those who are concerned about the security of mailboxes in their place of residence and want to prevent mail theft. No one but you or people specified by you will be able to pick up mail and packages from your PO Box. Secondly, a PO Box will help to keep your residential address private.

However, every medal has its reverse, and PO Boxes have their downsides as well as upsides. For example, PO Boxes have certain size limitations. They come in five sizes, and if you rent a small PO Box to save money or because you don’t receive parcels often, you may encounter problems with parcel delivery. When a package does not fit into a PO Box, the Post Office will hold it aside for you, but you will be required to claim it within ten business days, otherwise it will be returned to the sender.

Another downside is that most private carriers won’t ship to a USPS PO Box unless certain conditions is met. This brings us back to the question we asked at the beginning of this post: is it possible at all to use UPS, FedEx, DHL or other private carriers to ship to a PO Box or you shouldn’t even bother?

There is a common misconception that the introduction of a service named Street Addressing by the USPS has solved this problem. The service works by assigning a real street address to a PO Box; it consists of the street address of the Post Office location where the PO Box is located combined with the PO Box number.

Theoretically, private carriers should be able to recognize the street address of a PO Box as a valid mailing address. Practically, the USPS does not allow to use this address for receiving private carrier shipments. Even if a private carrier agrees to ship a package to a PO Box Street Address, the USPS will refuse the shipment or hold it for return pickup by the carrier.

The only way to ship to a USPS PO Box using a private carrier is by using FedEx SmartPost or UPS SurePost. FedEx SmartPost and UPS Sure Post are hybrid shipping services that FedEx/UPS and the USPS provide together. A private carrier accepts packages and delivers them to its hub closest to their final destination, whereas the USPS is responsible for the final leg of delivery.

This collaboration with the USPS allows FedEx and UPS to reach every address in the United States, including USPS PO Boxes. Hybrid services are a little faster than USPS ground services and cheaper than regular FedEx/UPS services, but they can be used only for small, lightweight packages.

So, let’s sum everything up. The easiest way to ship something to a USPS PO Box is by using the USPS. It is highly advisable to contact the recipient before sending them a package to make sure it will fit into their PO Box. Another option is to use FedEx SmartPost or UPS SurePost for small, lightweight packages. However, you cannot use other FedEx/UPS services or DHL to ship to a PO Box, regardless of whether it has a Street Address or not.