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Why and How to Restrict Shipping to P.O. Boxes

September 2021
How to ensure your package is protected
Nikolay Pasholok
Product Owner, Calcurates

Why is it Necessary to Restrict Shipping to P.O. Boxes for Your E-commerce?

In the US and Canada, many carriers do not ship to p.o. boxes, the reason is that only USPS is allowed to ship to p.o. boxes. The rest of the carriers need to use USPS for a final stage of delivery or are restricted to shipping to physical addresses only. It is important for e-commerce to reflect on this issue, and do not allow their customers to choose shipping to p.o. boxes as a shipping option at the checkout. Having packages sent with multiple carriers makes shipping only more complicated, prolongs the whole process, and often results in faulty tracking. As a retailer, you might wish to avoid this and restrict shipping to p.o. boxes for your customers.

Let's have a look at how to restrict shipping to post office boxes with Calcurates. Calcurates is shipping software for Magento, Shopify, and WooCommerce stores.

What are P.O. Boxes?

P.o. box is basically a lockable box at the post office where you can receive your mail.  Each p.o. box has its unique number. You can rent p.o. box for your business or as a private person if you do not want to receive mail at your home address. These postal boxes are available at all post offices and are accessible 24/7. The p.o. box can be of the size of the small drawer up to something larger where possibly a bigger package could be stored in.

How Does a P.O. Box Work?

The process is very easy and simple to navigate around. First, choose a location nearby you or your work. And, then register this new address with the National Change of Address Program operated by the USPS. Your mail should be redirected to this address within a week or two.

Many people jump straight away for the cheapest option which is ultimately also the smallest post office box. If you send and receive lots of bills, personal mail, newsletter, business-related letters maybe it is better to get a bigger post office box. USPS does not limit you in terms of frequency or the size of the package, if the package you receive does not fit in the mailbox, USPS will simply place a key in your post office box which will grant you access to a bigger post office box at the office. 

How Much Are P.O. Boxes?

When you apply for the p.o box you will have an option to select a 3, 6, and 12 month payment period. You will have to pay a rental fee and deposit. The price of the p.o. box depends on the size and the location where you rent your p.o. box in. The payment will be tied to your credit or debit card, for international billing you can't use your credit card.

Let's have a look at the example of rentals per one post office box at USPS. The Market Dominant Box Size and fee for a 6 month period can range from $22.00 to $58.00. Competitive Box Size and fee for a 6 month period can be from $47.00 to $150.00. Have a look here for detailed USPS P.O. box pricing.
Calcurates Related Features

What Are the Benefits of a P.O. Box?

There are certain advantages to renting a post office box at the post office. Delivering mail to p.o. boxes provide speed, security, convenience, and anonymity.

  1. Receive mail at any suitable location you choose.
  2. Easy to renew - it is very easy to renew a p.o. box either online, in person, or by mail with a check attached.
  3. Usually, faster delivery as all the mails are distributed from the post office
  4. The perfect alternative to a physical address for businesses expanding to different areas.

What Are the Rules and Regulations Regarding the Use of P.O. Box?

Only USPS is allowed to ship p.o. boxes. Private shipping companies and carriers like  FedEx, UPS are prohibited from shipping to p.o. Boxes. However, some carriers might cooperate on the final delivery with the USPS carrier. 

Shipping to P.O. Boxes Based on Carriers

carrier shipping fleet
All the major carriers need your physical address to ship mail and packages to you. Only USPS is allowed to ship to p.o. boxes. There are some exceptions though, have a look below at each carrier. 

Can You Ship FedEx To a P.O. Box?

If you want to ship to p.o. boxes with FedEx, you will have to select FedEx SmartPost. This service by FedEx uses the USPS for the final stage of delivery. However, for international shipping to some countries outside of the US, you can use FedEx Express.

Does UPS Deliver To P.O. Box?

UPS doesn't deliver to p.o. boxes. If the shipper selects UPS delivery to p.o. box, there must be a valid telephone number of the recipient included on the package. The package will not be sent by any UPS service and will require a change of address to a physical one.

Does USPS Deliver To P.O. Box?

Yes, USPS is the main provider for shipping to p.o. boxes in the US. You can even send Priority Mail Express to p.o. box. Packages that are too big for the size of your rented p.o. box will be stored elsewhere at the post office for no additional charge.

How to Restrict P.O. Boxes As Shipping Addresses?

You can restrict shipping to p.o. boxes with Calcurates shipping software. Calcurates provides you with a preset Shipping Segment with conditions for address lines 1 and 2 that contain a set of regular expressions for p.o. boxes commonly used in the US and Canada: HCR, RFD, P.O.B, Box, PO., P.O, and Route. This Shipping Segment can be used as a condition for the Shipping Rule that restricts shipping to p.o. boxes.

If any of these restrictions are activated and the customer enters any of those conditions in address lines 1 or 2, the shipping method will not be available at the checkout and the explanatory message can be displayed to inform the customer about the P.O. box shipping restriction.

You can install Calcurates multi-carrier shipping extension for Magento, Shopify or WooCommerce.
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