Articles

 

Is there any preference between a street address and PO Box?

Street Address vs PO Box

From a financial standpoint, the USPS prefers to deliver mail to a PO Box. A letter delivered to a PO Box costs the USPS less money because they don't have to transport that letter to a street location. They just deposit it in the PO Box which is at the same post office in which the letter is sorted.

So, if you provide a valid street address AND a valid PO Box and ask them to choose, they'll almost always go with the PO Box. (Want to see if an address is valid?)

But what if YOU want to decide which one the post office delivers to?

In this article, we'll share three hacks that show you:

How to get the USPS to deliver to a physical address instead of a PO Box

What do you do if you want to get the USPS to deliver to your choice of PO Box or a physical address? There are a few "tricks" that you should know, that you can use to determine whether a piece of mail will go to the PO Box or to the physical location.

Let's look at some addresses and see how to direct the USPS to deliver to a PO Box vs a street address, and vice versa.

345 Airport Rd
PO Box 1242
Malta, MT 59538

This address has both a valid address in the first address line and a valid address in the second address line. Since both are valid, and the physical address is listed first, the letter will be delivered to the physical address. (Disagree because Pub. 28 says otherwise? Take a look at our reasoning.)

How to get the post office to deliver something to your PO Box instead of your physical address

To get the post office to deliver the same letter to your PO Box, simply swap the two address lines and put the PO Box address first.

PO Box 1242
345 Airport Rd
Malta, MT 59538

Since both address lines still contain valid addresses, by listing the PO Box first, you're telling the post office to deliver the letter to your PO Box.

Having already established that the post office does have a slight preference, let's see what happens if the two addresses are combined on the same line:

345 Airport Rd PO Box 1242
Malta, MT 59538

or

PO Box 1242 345 Airport Rd
Malta, MT 59538

When these addresses are normalized to USPS standards, they are both converted to:

PO Box 1242
345 Airport Rd
Malta, MT 59538

Preference is given to the PO Box address, with the other address listed on address line 2.

Thus, if you have a preference between a street address and a PO Box, put the preferred address on the first line and the "backup" address on the second line. (More detail)

Let's look at one more example.

PO Box 1844
16346 E. Graham Circle
Palmer, AK 99645
16346 E. Graham Circle
PO Box 1844
Palmer, AK 99645

The two address lines are swapped. However the Graham Circle address is not valid according to the USPS. Thus, the first address is valid and the second one is not. The USPS treats the address line 2 as just "extra information", information that is helpful to the person actually delivering the mail but not to the system that is routing and processing the mail.

However if the address line 1 and address line 2 were combined:

PO Box 1844 16346 E. Graham Circle
Palmer, AK 99645

or

16346 E. Graham Circle PO Box 1844
Palmer, AK 99645

It will always return:

PO Box 1844
16346 E Graham Circle
Palmer, AK 99645

Notice that the Graham Circle address is on the second line. Even though that is not a valid USPS address, it may still be valuable data so our address verification API system doesn't discard it, just relegates it to address line 2, where the "extra data" lives.

How to get UPS and FedEx to deliver a package to your PO Box

However, some retailers will not ship to PO Box addresses, since UPS and FedEx deliver only to physical street addresses. So what does a PO Box owner do if they want something shipped to their PO Box and not their physical address?

PO Box owners can get retailers and shipping companies to send packages to their PO Box, if they use a slightly different format. The format is called a PO Box Street Address.

What Is a PO Box Street Address?

The format of the PO Box Street Address, or PBSA, is simply the street address of the post office itself, plus the PO Box number. For example, if your post office is located at

222 Main St 
Atlanta GA 30301

and your PO Box number is 99, your PBSA would be

222 Main St #99 
Atlanta GA 30301

When a PBSA address is processed using CASS-Certified address-matching software (like the kind we have at SmartyStreets), the PBSA address is standardized using the word "Unit" instead of the # sign, like this:

222 Main St Unit 99
Atlanta GA 30301

If you have a PBSA, both Street Addressed mail and PO Box addressed mail can be delivered to your PO Box. When large items are shipped to your PO Box, they are stored in a back room of the post office, and a postal worker puts a slip of paper in your PO Box.

How Do I Set Up a PO Box Street Address?

PO Box holders who want to use the PBSA option will need to go to their local post office and fill out a customer agreement that explains the allowable uses of the PBSA.

Things to know when using a PBSA

It is important to note that if you use a PBSA-style address, and then close your PO Box, you must submit change-of-address forms for both the PO Box format and the PBSA format. And, both forms should show the same forwarding address.

If you want to know if a certain address is a PBSA address, submit it to our US Street Address API, then check the output. Look in the dpv_footnotes for footnote PB, which means "Confirmed as a PO Box street style address." Another place to check the output is the carrier route. PBSA addresses will always have a carrier route of C770 through C779.

Summary

In this article we shared three hacks with you, to help you master using a PO Box.

If you have a PO Box and a street address, you can decide which one the USPS will deliver your mail to, simply by putting your preferred delivery location on the first address line. Sounds so simple. And, it really is.

We also clued you in on how to get FedEx and UPS to deliver a package to your PO Box. The secret is in using a PBSA.

So now you know. And knowing is half the battle.

(Admit it, you just said 'G.I. Joe' to yourself, didn't you?)

This site uses cookies for analytics, personalized content, and ads. By continuing to browse this site, you agree to this use.