Letter Boxes | Photo by Mathyas Kurmann on Unsplash

What to do with your physical mail if you travel long-term / have no fixed abode

Paul Ryken Last Updated: Thursday 12 March 2020 Discover Minimalism, Work from anywhere Leave a Comment

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While we all get a lot less physical mail than we used to before the Internet and email came along, you still get it occasionally. And mail doesn’t stop when you travel.

It’s less of a problem if you do short trips now and then, but what if you live on the road long-term/full-time:

  • What do you do with your physical mail if you travel long-term/full-time?
  • How do you provide proof of your residential address if you no longer have fixed abode?

If these are burning questions on your mind (or for someone you know), today’s article will give you the answers.

Options for letters

Using friends or relatives

If you keep your home while travelling long-term, you could just continue to receive physical mail in your letterbox and get a neighbour, friend or family member to empty it occasionally. If your home is tenanted while you’re away, ask yourself: would you be happy for your mail to be mixed with your tenants’?

If the answer is NO or you’ve taken to the road full-time and no longer have a fixed abode, you could ask friends or relatives to use their home address. You’d need to notify anyone you might still get physical mail from but once that’s done, all you need to do is provide your friends/relatives with instructions as to what to do when mail arrives. Enlisting them doesn’t cost you anything, apart from a gesture of appreciation from time to time.

A word on Post Office boxes

What about the Post Office boxes? you might ask. Of course, you could use a Post Office box to receive your mail – for a fee – but you still need someone to collect your mail from time to time, unless your travels take you past your Post Office box every once in a while.

Post Office boxes are also less useful when you no longer have a fixed abode: Institutions the world over are required to know their customers (KYC) to combat money laundering and terrorist financing activities. To comply with their KYC obligations, many institutions require (proof of) residential address to access their services, and for obvious reasons, you can’t use a Post Office box to prove your residential address.

For obvious reasons, you can't use a PO box to prove your residential address | Photo by Jerry Kiesewetter on Unsplash
For obvious reasons, you can't use a PO box to prove your residential address | Photo by Jerry Kiesewetter on Unsplash

Enlisting professional help

If Post Office boxes are not the way to go, and you don’t want to impose on friends or relatives, you could use the services of a professional mail scanning and forwarding company. No idea what we’re talking about? Well, it’s pretty simple: instead of asking friends or family to handle your mail in your absence, you use a company – at a cost, of course.

Mail scanning and forwarding companies usually offer some or all of the following:

  • A street address
  • Physical mail scanning and access to scanned mail via email or online
  • Physical mail storage
  • Physical mail forwarding
  • Online mail management.

How do mail scanning and forwarding services compare?

We reviewed businesses in New Zealand and Australia fitting to the above description (to some degree). All of them provide services to both individuals and businesses.

If you are looking for services in other countries, here are a few of the better-known ones to get you started. Your country is not on the list? Just google mail scanning and forwarding services…

Many mail scanning and forwarding companies provide a street address | Photo by Kirsty TG on Unsplash
Many mail scanning and forwarding companies provide a street address | Photo by Kirsty TG on Unsplash

New Zealand mail scanning and forwarding services

There are only two companies that fit the above description (at least to some degree) in New Zealand:

Several others in the last few years have started up but are no longer in business.

FeatureNew Zealand Post (Hold/Redirect)Private Box
Provides street addressNoYes
Mail scanning and online access or emailingNoYes
Mail forwarding (to any address)Via Redirect: one address at a timeYes
Mail storageVia HoldYes
Online mail managementNoYes

New Zealand Post

Company NameNew Zealand Post Limited
Established1987
Business typeState-owned enterprise
WebsiteNZPost.co.nz

Suitability for long-term/full-time travellers

New Zealand Post may be your provider of choice if you are looking for someone to hold your mail while you’re away or want your mail to be redirected to another address (in New Zealand or internationally) for a period of time. You can only redirect though (from your home address) to one address at a time. If you tiki tour around the country and plan to stay with friends or family for a few weeks at a time, you could set up a redirect to their address and change it whenever you move on. But if that sounds cumbersome (and costly): IT IS. There is a silver lining for senior citizens (pun intended): The holding service is free for up to four weeks and the redirect for up to two months (within New Zealand).

One thing to note: New Zealand Post does not open/scan your mail. If that’s what you need New Zealand Post’s Hold or Redirect services are not for you. If you don’t have a fixed abode but need a residential address, New Zealand Post also won’t be able to help you.

For further information go to the New Zealand Post Hold mail and Redirect mail pages.

Private Box

Company NamePrivate Box Limited
Established2005
Business typePrivate limited liability company
WebsitePrivateBox.co.nz

Suitability for long-term/full-time travellers

Private Box provides a street address which is accepted by most institutions as a residential address. The only time you can’t use it is when you register on the electoral roll.

When you enlist with Private Box you still need to notify anyone you might get physical mail from. But once that’s done, all your mail goes to your Private Box suite. Mail that requires signing will be signed on your behalf. You are notified via email who sent you mail and how heavy it is and can then decide what should happen with your item:

  • Open and scan your mail, and receive a PDF copy via email or access your scanned mail securely online.
  • Physically store (30 days free of charge) or forward your mail to any nominated address anywhere in the world – including any participating New Zealand Post Shop, Parcel Collect location or Private Box branch – for personal pick-up.

Managing your mail is easy via the Private Box online mail management system, where you can customise things to suit your needs. Most orders are processed the same day. Any physical mail you don’t want is destroyed safely and free of charge, and all waste is 100% recycled.

If you (are planning to) run a business while on the road, Private Box offers virtual office services via its Business Plan, including

  • a Registered Office service which supplies a universally accepted street address to register your company and securely stores your company documents (constitution, share register etc); and
  • a phone answering service.
There are at least nine mail scanning and forwarding companies in Australia | Photo by Srikant Sahoo on Unsplash
There are at least nine mail scanning and forwarding companies in Australia | Photo by Srikant Sahoo on Unsplash

Australian mail scanning and forwarding services

There are (at least) nine service providers in Australia fitting above description (to some degree):

All of them provide services to individuals and businesses. We have come across others in our research, but the lack of information available would not make us trust them with our mail (hence they don’t get a mention here).

AusFFAussie MailmanAustralia Post (Hold/ Redirect)HotsnailKeeping You PostedLandbase AustraliaMail Boxes, EtcPostNetSOS Mail Solutions
Provides street addressYesYesNoYesNoNoYesYesNo
Mail scanning and online access or emailingVia Digital PlanYesNoYesYesYesNoYesYes
Letter forwarding (to any address)Via Non-Digital PlanYesVia Redirect: one address at a timeYesYesYesYesYesYes
Parcel forwarding (to any address)Overseas customers onlyYesVia Redirect: one address at a timeYesYesYesYesYesYes
Mail storage (time limits and/or storage fees may apply)YesYesVia HoldYesYesYesYesYesYes
Online mail managementYesYesYesYesYesNoYesYesYes
Suitability for long-term/ full-time travelersLimitedHighLimitedHighMediumMediumMediumHighMedium

AusFF

Company NameAusFF (part of RKH Enterprises Pty Ltd)
Established2005
Business typePrivate limited liability company
WebsiteAusFF.com.au

Suitability for long-term/full-time travellers

While AusFF offers mail scanning and letter forwarding, it is primarily a package forwarding company catering for international shoppers who buy from Australian online retailers (including shipment consolidation).

Aussie Mailman

Company NameAussie Mailman
Established2010
Business typeUnknown
WebsiteAussieMailman.com.au

Suitability for long-term/full-time travelers

AussieMailman’s services are suitable for long-term/full-time travelers and include

  • mail scanning (pending plan chosen, envelop only or envelop and content);
  • secure online access to your scanned mail; and
  • mail forwarding (in Australia and internationally).

You can chose between different plans, with monthly subscriptions or pay per use. Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia members receive a 10% discount off non-discount services.

Australia Post (Hold/Redirect)

Company NameAustralia Post Limited
Estalished1809
Business typeGovernment owned corporation
Websiteauspost.com.au

Suitability for long-term/full-time travelers

Australia Post is suitable only if

  • you are looking for someone to hold your mail while you’re away or
  • want your mail to be redirected to another address (in Australia or internationally) for a period of time, as you can only redirect (from your home address) to one address at a time.

Australia Post does not open/scan your mail. The company’s services are also less suitable if you don’t have a fixed abode and a residential address is important to you.

HotSnail

Company NameDigital Blitz Pty Ltd trading as HotSnail
Established2010
Business typePrivate limited liability company
WebsiteHotsnail.com.au

Suitability for long-term/full-time travelers

HotSnail’s services are suitable for long-term/full-time travelers and include

  • mail scanning (pending plan chosen, scan everything or selective based on scanned envelop);
  • secure online access to your scanned mail; and
  • mail forwarding (in Australia and internationally).

You can chose between different plans, with monthly subscriptions or pay per use. There are no minimum contract terms.

All companies reviewed offer mail forwarding to an international address | Photo by Hello I'm Nik on Unsplash
All companies reviewed offer mail forwarding to an international address | Photo by Hello I'm Nik on Unsplash

Keeping You Posted

Company NameEmma Jane Smith trading as Keep You Posted
EstablishedUnknown
Business typeSole trader
WebsiteKeepingYouPosted.com.au

Suitability for long-term/full-time travelers

Keeping You Posted’s services are suitable for long-term/full-time travelers and include

  • mail scanning (pending plan chosen, scan everything or selectively based on the scanned envelope);
  • secure online access to your scanned mail; and
  • mail forwarding (in Australia and internationally).

Mail is received at Keeping You Posted’s PO box. The company’s services are therefore less suitable if you don’t have a fixed abode and a residential address is important to you.

You can chose between different membership options, with subscriptions from 1 to 12 months. Your contract starts when the first piece of mail is received. Keeping You Posted provides a dummy user account upon request, enabling you to check out the members’ area before you buy.

Landbase Australia

Company NameJennifer Fountain trading as Landbase Australia
Established1996
Business typeSole trader
WebsiteLandbase.com.au

Suitability for long-term/full-time travelers

While Landbase Australia offers mail scanning, the company is primarily focused on mail forwarding (in Australia and internationally). You can register for 3, 6 or 12 months, and there is a special offer available for First Time Users.

Landbase Australia maybe your provider of choice if you are after personal, hands-on service, as its online capabilities are the most limited out of the companies reviewed.

Mail is delivered to Landbase Australia via Locked Bag. The company’s services are therefore less suitable if you don’t have a fixed abode and a residential address is important to you.

You won't want your letter-box spill over when you are away from home | Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash
You won't want your letter-box spill over when you are away from home | Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash

Mail Boxes, Etc

Company NameMail Boxes Etc. (Australia) Pty Ltd
Established2000
Business typePrivate Limited Liability Company and associated francisees
WebsiteMBE.com.au

Suitability for long-term/full-time travelers

MBE’s services may suit long-term/full-time travelers who

  • do not have a fixed abode but require a residential address;
  • only require mail storage/forwarding services (as the company does not offer mail scanning).

Customers receive SMS or email notifications when mail is received.

MBE’s services are primarily tailored to suit small businesses. MBE’s business services include graphic design, printing, mailbox and courier services as well as virtual office services.

PostNet

Company NamePostNet Australia Pty Ltd
Established2007 in Australia
Business typePrivate Limited Liability Company and associated franchisees
Websitewww.postnet.com.au

Suitability for long-term/full-time travelers

PostNet’s services are suitable for long-term/full-time travelers. When mail arrives, the envelop is scanned and displayed on the company’s mobile app. Customers then choose to have the mail opened and scanned or forwarded (in Australia or internationally).

You can register for 1, 6 or 12 months and select your suite at a variety of locations in NSW, Victoria, Queensland and WA. For small businesses, PostNet also offers graphic and web design as well as printing and courier services.

SOS Mail Solutions

Company NameThe trustee for SOS Business Trust trading as SOS Mail Solutions
Established2006
Business typePrivate Limited Liability Company
WebsiteSOSMail.com.au

Suitability for long-term/full-time travelers

SOS Mail Solutions’ services are suitable for long-term/full-time travelers and include

  • mail scanning and secure online access to your scanned mail;
  • mail storage (for an unlimited time); and
  • mail forwarding (in Australia and internationally).

Mail is received at SOS Mail Solutions’ PO box. The company’s services are therefore less suitable if you don’t have a fixed abode and a residential address is important to you.

Individual customers can choose between two service options and register for 3 or 12 months. For small businesses, the company offers a business service option and additional services, such as graphic design, printing and administrative services.

Options for parcels

Whether you use friends, family or professional help, forwarding mail costs money and forwarding parcels won’t come cheap. If you receive parcels while travelling long-term/full-time, the quickest, cheapest and most convenient way would be to use the Parcel Collect or Parcel Pod/Locker services provided by New Zealand Post and Australia Post, respectively.

New Zealand Post Parcel Services

  • With Parcel Collect, you can get your parcel delivered to any participating New Zealand Post Retailer, Countdown or Z Service Station – free of charge.
  • Parcel Pod delivers your parcel to a locker at one of five locations (Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Wellington and Christchurch) – for a fee.

Australia Post Parcel Services

  • With Parcel Collect, you can get your parcel delivered to any participating post office. You are notified via email and SMS when your item has arrived and have up to 10 business days to pick it up.
  • Parcel Locker delivers your parcel to a locker at a participating post office, train station, petrol station or supermarket. You are notified via email and SMS when your item has arrived and have 48 hours to pick it up.

In Australia, both of these services are free.

What we do

With our company incorporated in New Zealand and based on their service features, we decided to go with Private Box. We have used them now since 2016, and have been extremely happy with them.

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Do you travel long-term/full-time? How have you solved your physical mail/residential address problem? Which service do you use ansd would you recommend it? Please leave a comment below or send us an email.

Feature photo by Mathyas Kurmann on Unsplash

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Best options to manage your physical mail while travelling
Best options to manage your physical mail while travelling
Best options to manage your physical mail while travelling

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