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A P.O. box full of mail
P.O. boxes in a German post office of various sizes, with their number range and postcodes written above them.

A post office box (commonly referred to as a PO Box or a Postal Box) is a uniquely-addressable lockable box located on the premises of a post office station.

In many countries, particularly in Africa, and the Middle East there is no 'door to door' delivery of mail. For example, should one post mail to a street address in Namibiamarker, it will be returned to sender as undeliverable. Consequently renting a PO box has traditionally been the only way to receive mail in such countries, although some, like Jordanmarker, are now introducing home delivery.

Generally, post office boxes are rented from the post office either by individuals or by businesses on a basis ranging from monthly to annual, and the cost of rent varies depending on the box size. Central business district or CBD PO boxes are usually more expensive than a rural PO box.

In the US, the rental rate used to be uniform across the country. Now, however, a postal facility can be in any of seven fee groups by location; in addition, certain customers qualify for free box rental.

In the United Kingdommarker, Royal Mail PO boxes are often little more than pigeon-holes in the secure section of a Sorting Office, and are only accessible by staff. In such cases, the renter of the PO box will be issued with a card on which is written the PO box number and post office name, and must produce this to the desk staff when collecting mail. For an additional fee, the Royal Mail will deliver received items to the renter's geographical address.

Number of boxes

The quantity of post office boxes in a station varies widely. Stations of small areas are often equipped with fewer than 100 boxes, while stations in a CBD area may offer a combined quantity of over 100,000 post office boxes.

Numbering of boxes

Top to bottom, from the point of view of the postal worker on the inside, so that the boxes are numbered right to left from the point of view of the box-holder.

Other countries use numbering systems different from that just described. For example, in the United States, it is typical to number PO boxes from left to right from the point of view of the box-holder. In newer facilities, the boxes are numbered from top to bottom and then from left to right from the point of view of the box-holder; the least significant digit indicates the position of the box in a column.

Mounting of boxes

P.O. boxes in the lobby of a U.S. post office
Post office boxes are usually mounted in a wall of the post office, either an external wall or a wall in a lobby, so that staff on the inside may deposit mail in a box, while a key holder on the outside of the building may open his or her box to empty the mail. In many post offices in the U.S., the P.O. box lobby is separate from the window-service lobby, so that the former may be kept open around the clock while the latter is locked after business hours. However, in the U.S. since the 1980s, in cities and large urban areas, post offices have tended to close box lobbies overnight because of the tendency of homeless people to use them for sleeping quarters. As a result, some box lobbies are accessible after-hours by customers who are provided a code to a door keypad.


If a parcel does not fit in a PO box, the postmaster will leave a note advising that customer to pick up that parcel from the counter. In some post offices, a key will be left in the PO box that corresponds to a larger, locked box where the patron may pick up his or her package if a signature is not required. Notes will also be left in the PO box in respect of COD and registered mail that has to be signed for.

Locked bags and caller service

Users receiving very large quantities of mail can use "locked bags", which are numbered like PO boxes. In the United States, this service is called caller service, and the assigned number is called a caller number, although mail is typically addressed to "P.O. Box (caller number)."


Different countries offer different PO Box sizes. Usually there are sizes for general use and sizes for larger use.


Each country has their own rules and regulations as to how you can pickup your mail at a PO Box. Some countries, such as the United States or the United Kingdom may require you to show one or more forms of identification. Not all countries offer PO Boxes that are locked.


Many countries offer some type of PO Boxes for different uses. There are an increasing number of private companies that provide similar PO Box services to the official postal service privately under the guise of mail forwarding.


In Australia, wall-mounted PO boxes come in three sizes, which are designed so that different sizes can be mixed almost completely arbitrarily on the wall.


In Canada, Postal Boxes are available in five different sizes (A, B, C, D & E). They are generally available in all post office's throughout the country.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, anyone applying for a Royal Mail PO Box must produce documentation to verify their home or business address. The Royal Mail will provide, on request the geographical address relating to a PO Box, unless local Police have requested that the information be withheld.

United States of America

In the United States, PO Boxes are generally available through USPS. They are available in five different sizes. They are usually arranged from the smallest boxes at the top to the largest boxes at the bottom. The two largest sizes may be configured as drawers. To purchase a P.O. Box, two different forms of identification are required. At least one of them must be a valid photo ID.

See also


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