After some debate, we finally decided on the features of a mail-forwarding service that we like. Mail-forwarding? What? Well, since we don’t really have a permanent address (i.e. a house we own, or something similar), we need an address that can receive our more irregular mail and write on our tax forms and the like. Some FS-folk prefer a mail forwarding service that is close to Dulles, as that is where all the pouch and APO/DPO mail gets forwarded through. However, we really wanted a place that did scanning rather than forwarding everything on a set schedule, so we opted for a place in California….
With two added benefits:
1. California is our state of residence, so now it will be easier to demonstrate that with a local address. This benefit we considered in choosing a service.
2. Our new address is in sunny southern California, and once we’ve transferred our DMV address, we’ll get into Disneyland at the locals’ rate. This is an added bonus that we recognized only after we signed up. And, it’s not like we’re Disney-freaks or anything, but it made us smile nevertheless.
So, this particular mail forwarding service will scan all our envelopes as they arrive, and put them onto a web-based database and send us an email notification. Then, we can opt to have individual items opened and scanned, or forwarded to us abroad, or recycled. Some services forward everything, some scan the contents of everything (even junk mail!), and some scan only envelopes. There are also services that deal only in packages, not regular mail, and seem oriented toward the non-US consumer who wants to buy US goods over the internet. Some services will also deposit checks you receive, if you are a member at one of the big banks.
Our service did a little of everything, and offered a price point that matched how much mail we actually receive (most of our billing stuff is done online). If we want to send a domestic letter quickly, they’ll also take an emailed document and print it and send it to whomever we designate, which could be useful in dealing with some companies that insist on that.
In case you want to do mail forwarding, here’s a list of the places that do it for individual accounts: EarthClassMail (popular, various “local” addresses, established business but somewhat expensive), virtualpostmail.com (only one address, various price options), Maillink (cheapest, but seems somewhat shady), St. Brendan’s forwarding (predominantly serving the cruise and RV industry, but breaking into the ex-pat online community). There are also some services that have not yet arrived in the internet age, and do mail forwarding on-demand only via phone requests, like Nato Mail. MyUS.com does packages only. If you have a local US address and want your mail scanned and sent by email rather than receive it physically, you could consider zumbox, which does exactly that and offers to electronically pay your bills even to those companies that don’t do on-line payments.