This is the first in a series of periodic posts answering some of the questions we receive now that we are houseless. Today's topic: "How do you get your mail?"
Research and preparation for this started well before we actually needed this service. Do we get a PO Box? Who would pick up our mail? How do we get the mail forwarded to us that we MUST have? Can we get rid of some of our mail load?
Our research ultimately led us to Traveling Mailbox - Your mail anywhere. We found this service, and several others like it, through internet searches of mail forwarders. These companies have been around for awhile, mostly as a service for RV'ers who are often away from home for long periods of time. While there are many sites that provide these mail services, Traveling Mailbox seemed to best fit our needs at a manageable cost. Traveling Mailbox provides physical mailing addresses in many different states that you can select from. Some users want a mailing address in their state, while others want a mailing address in another state for tax or personal reasons. RV'ers seem to like South Dakota for licensing and tax purposes. We chose to have a Seattle address for personal and business reasons. Traveling Mailbox is based in North Carolina where the mail is actually processed. They have different plans available based on your expected mail volume - we started with the basic plan. This plan gives us 40 envelope scans and 35 page scans a month. This might seem low to you but you should know we have strived over the past several years to eliminate as much paper mail as we could. We pay bills online or automatically. We use paperless statements whenever possible. We get off mailing lists we do not want. (BONUS: Traveling Mailbox will cull any junk mail that makes its way to your mailbox at no charge!)
So, how does this process actually work?
After account signup and selecting your address location, you will fill out, get notarized, and return a USPS form 1583 to Traveling Mailbox. (Provided by Traveling Mailbox) This basically permits Traveling Mailbox to be an agent for handling your mail, and you now have a new mailing address. Because we started this before our move, we did not transfer everything over to begin with. This allowed us to test the service before ALL the mail went there. What we did do was start to notify banks and businesses individually of the address change. Once the sale of the house was final, we did a standard USPS Change of Address to move everything else over. Now with the address changes made, and we start to get mail at the new address, we begin to utilize the service. The actual mail review process works like this:
- Mail is received by Travelling Mailbox, they scan the outside of the envelope and email a photo of the scanned envelope.
- When convenient, we log into our Traveling Mailbox web page and tell the service how to handle this piece of mail. Some options are:
- Open and Scan - Just what it says. They open the envelope, scan all the contents to pdf and email when the contents can be viewed in your account. My experience is this can be anywhere from 10 minutes to a couple of hours depending on when I make the request. (For a small fee there is a Quick Scan option if you need to read the contents right away for some reason.)
- Open, Scan and Shred - Same as above but if you know you only need the electronic copies, shred the originals.
- Shred and Delete - We use this for mail we know we do not need. For example, we have some online statements that we receive every month. We get these on the web and do not need hard copies. However, the rules for that account require that hard copies also be mailed. Again, we do not need or want these. We have learned what to spot on the outside of the envelopes for these accounts and just have these shredded unopened.
- Forward - This is turning out to be a handy option at times. For those pieces of mail that we know we need a hard copy of, legal documents for example, any mail can be forwarded to us, anywhere we are in the world. Now, there is a small fee every time we utilize this but we can also hold and combine items when we need to get these items. When we know we have an address where we can receive mail, we enter those address details on our account page, choose Forward, and Travelling Mailbox sends our collected mail out to us.
- Once the mail is opened and scanned, we get back online to review the scans. Here we also have several similar options: We can download the pdf scans, have the content shredded and deleted, leave items on the service for later reference, have the contents forwarded, and/or have the pdf scans automatically loaded into our Evernote account. As you can see we are very well covered in how we receive, process and store all our mail.
There are other optional services provided for additional fees. Some of these we have already used and some we have not.
- Check deposit - Just what it says. When a check arrived in the mail, we provided our bank account details (routing info), and Traveling Mailbox sent the check in for deposit. A couple of days later we received confirmation from our bank. Easy!
- Packages - How do we get that Amazon order we just have to have? Remember these addresses are physical mailing addresses and not PO boxes so packages can be received. In fact the service states that someone is available 24/7 to receive mail/packages. This service utilizes a NC address we were assigned for packages only. Once received, we are notified and we can provide address details for forwarding. The other way we are handling these deliveries is by only making some orders when we know we will be at an address long enough to get the package directly from shipper.
Everybody asks; Is this secure? Do you worry about someone opening your mail? While everyone has different levels of comfort regarding security (Including differences between the two of us!) I will comment that Yes, I feel comfortable with this arrangement. Our research revealed that all employees that handle mail at Traveling Mailbox are vetted with background checks. The mail arrives at a secure site instead of sitting in a mailbox on the road in front of your house. Furthermore, from my viewpoint these businesses rely on our trust and will take all precautions to protect their users privacy as their very business survival depends on that trust.
If you made it this far down the post, I hope you have found the information interesting. As stated, we will be doing more of these "How do we..." posts from time to time as more questions come in and time permits.
Thanks for following.