What is a virtual mailbox?

A virtual mailbox can be a useful tool for individuals and businesses, as it offers convenience and security.

There are features for scanning, storing physical mail, and setting up mail forwarding, but does using a virtual mailbox have any disadvantages?

This article will break down what a virtual mailbox is, its pros and cons, and how it works.

What is a virtual mailbox?

A virtual mailbox has many names, from online mailboxes to digital mailboxes and e-mailboxes.

Virtual mailboxes are online services that let you receive mail digitally. 

So, instead of using your physical address or a PO box alternative, mail will be sent to a secure location where your mail gets scanned digitally.

Afterward, you can view and manage your mail by logging into the service provider.

Example of using a virtual mailbox, MailMate

Example of using a virtual mailbox, MailMate

Why would someone need a virtual mailbox?

Those who work from home, operate small businesses, or travel frequently can all benefit from a virtual mailbox.

You can also register your business with a virtual mailing address and get mail and packages forwarded to any address in the country, making virtual mailboxes a convenient option for businesses and individuals alike.

What can you do with a virtual mailbox?

1. Accept mail

Similar to how you receive bills, bank statements, magazines, etc., in your physical mailbox, a virtual mailbox address will do the same, but electronically.

You can view images of the envelopes and contents inside without physically opening the mail. 

Once you have a virtual mailbox, you can request the post office to forward incoming mail to the new mailbox. 

usa.gov will show you how to forward your mail

usa.gov will show you how to forward your mail

See also: How Do I Choose a Registered Agent for My Business?

2. Accept virtual mail for your business

Doing tasks online has become easier with technology, and since 26% of U.S. employees choose to work remotely and 62% have opted for working hybrid, virtual mailboxes can be a welcomed addition for businesses. 

So why continue the trend with a virtual mailbox? A virtual mailbox allows business owners and employees to access the account. 

This authorization allows owners or employees to secure items, such as business documents and bank statements.

Additionally, a virtual mailbox makes sharing important mail with your team members or employees easier.

Mistakes to avoid for virtual business address vs. virtual office | FreedomThruBusiness

What are the pros and cons of using a virtual mailbox?


a. Convenience

A virtual mailbox is perfect for those who travel often and cannot regularly check their physical mailbox. Since the mailbox is virtual, you can log into your account anytime, anywhere. 

Additionally, many virtual mailbox providers allow users to enable email notifications so they can get notified immediately after their mail has been scanned.

For businesses, using a virtual address reduces the hassle of managing multiple physical mailboxes across different locations and makes it easier to access important documents securely. 

b. Added security

Your mail will be sent to a secure mail-processing facility to be scanned.

Virtual mailboxes also provide security features, such as email encryption, which ensures individuals and businesses that their information will stay confidential and secure. 

Furthermore, as a user, you can use a VPN to encrypt your online presence when checking your virtual mailbox.

c. Easier to manage

Keeping track of incoming and outgoing mail and sorting through stacks of paper can be a hassle. 

With a virtual mailbox, you can go paperless, quickly scan emails, and decide if they are relevant. 

Most virtual mailbox services will handle anything, including junk mail, so you won’t have to be bothered by them ever again. 

That said, you still might have to do some decluttering, such as specifically marking the mail you want to shred, recycle, or store within your account.


a. Extra charges

Since virtual mailboxes are a service, there might be extra charges that you need to be aware of. 

These charges may include mail scanning, processing, forwarding, shipping, or storage fees. 

There could also be fees for mail shredding or other specialized services. Be sure you know what each virtual mailbox’s plan offers before signing up.

b. Limited access if there is a connection issue

If you don’t have wifi or an internet connection, you won’t be able to access your virtual mail. 

Take the possibility of limited mail access into consideration if you don’t have pocket wifi or have limited internet access.

c. Possibly a slight delay depending on scanning and processing

With virtual mailboxes, businesses have no control over how quickly mail is scanned. Some virtual mail services may provide a timeframe for how quickly mail is processed, while others do not. 

How does a virtual mailbox work?

When you set up your virtual mailbox account, the provider will give you an address to forward your mail. 

Mail will be sent and then scanned into your account, Mailmate

Mail will be sent and then scanned into your account, Mailmate

Afterward, any postal mail will be sent to the alternative mailing address, where the virtual address service provider will scan the paper mail.

Once your mail has been scanned, you will get an email notification. 

You can then log into your virtual mailbox account to view the envelope before opening or shredding it.

What is the difference between a virtual address and a mailbox?

A virtual mailbox offers more features than virtual addresses.

A virtual mailbox offers more features than virtual addresses.

Virtual addresses give users a real street address (other than their personal one) to use for business purposes—either to register their business or to have a professional business address on record.

A virtual address, or virtual business address, can be a good option for small business owners looking to keep their home addresses private.

On the other hand, a digital mailbox is for those who want to keep their personal address private and have a place to receive private or business mail virtually or on-location, as well as mail and package forwarding services.

What precautions should I take when using a virtual mailbox?

While there is also the potential for theft at a traditional mailbox, keeping your online virtual mailbox safe from a security breach could be cause for concern. 

Choosing a virtual mailbox provider that fits your criteria and ensures that your mail will be protected online is important.

Remember to read the terms and conditions before signing up for the service and to familiarize yourself with their policies.

Frequently asked questions

Are virtual mailboxes safe?

Yes. Many virtual mailbox providers have security measures to keep all of your personal and important information secure. Shoeboxed’s MailMate is a leading virtual mailbox provider that uses a secure network with SSL and a heavy-duty VPN to protect your data. Additionally, any credit information is kept securely with Stripe—one of the safest payment platforms.

What will happen to the original postal mail?

After you have requested mail forwarding, any mail from the previous address will be sent to a secure location for your mail to be scanned. Afterward, the mail will be stored or shredded depending on the provider and user’s preference.

In closing

Using a virtual mailbox has many benefits, but it is not without its drawbacks. 

Before using a virtual mailbox, consider contacting the provider or going to their support page to ask your questions. 

Knowing the ins and outs of a virtual mailbox provider will make you confident in your final decision.

Shoeboxed’s newest feature, MailMate, is a virtual mailbox service for scanning your postal mail. 

MailMate provides users with a virtual mailbox address to use, so they can receive all of their physical mail in a digital format.

MailMate users can easily share any important mail with a click of a button.

Tammy Dang is a staff writer for Shoeboxed covering productivity, organization, and digitization how-to guides for the home and office. Her favorite organization tip is “1-in-1-out.” And her favorite app for managing articles and deadlines is Monday.com.

About Shoeboxed!

Shoeboxed is a receipt scanning service with receipt management software that supports multiple methods for receipt capture: send, scan, upload, forward, and more!

You can stuff your receipts into one of our Magic Envelopes (prepaid postage within the US). Use our receipt tracker + receipt scanner app (iPhone, iPad and Android) to snap a picture while on the go. Auto-import receipts from Gmail. Or forward a receipt to your designated Shoeboxed email address.

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