If you’ve decided to travel for more than a month, and especially if you’ll be traveling for more than six months, you’ll need to do something about your mail.
From the U.S., here’s what we did:
1. Cancel Bills No Longer Needed.
We canceled all bills we no longer needed to pay. As we gave up our house, that meant no more bills for rent, water, electricity, cable, auto insurance, AAA auto service, and so on.
2. Make Online Arrangements.
For any bills or mail we still needed to receive, such as monthly bank and credit card statements, we made arrangements to receive and/or pay them online.
3. Opt Out of Receiving Junk Mail.
We also signed up to opt out of receiving junk mail, such as credit card offers with those blank checks just waiting for someone to snatch and misuse. All the information and steps you need to do this are on this Federal Trade Commission web page. I followed the directions under “Consumer Reporting Companies” to opt out permanently. It may take up to six weeks to take effect, so be sure to do this early enough before you leave.
4. Sign Up with a Mail Service Like VirtualPostMail.
Finally, we needed a U.S. address and an affordable service to handle whatever mail was left. After all, taxes still need to get filed, credit or debit cards expire or get lost on the road, and an address needs to be included on forms for visas and other paperwork.
After much research, we chose VirtualPostMail.com, which offers great services at affordable prices. Their website is very easy to use for reviewing and handling your mail online, and their customer service and response time is simply outstanding.
What VirtualPostMail Does for You
Here’s what they do: they scan the front and back of every piece of mail that comes in for you. For each mail piece you can decide to 1) trash the images and shred the mail; 2) have the mail opened and its insides scanned for you to read; 3) have the piece of mail shipped to you or a friend just about anywhere in the world.
If you’ve chosen to have a mail piece scanned so that you can read it, you can afterwards decide to 1) download the scanned PDF images to your computer; 2) trash the images and shred the mail; 3) or have it shipped to you or a friend almost anywhere in the world.
They also include special services, such as FedEx or DHL International shipping, and they will also deposit checks for you (they have a list of approved U.S. banks for this service).
Their most basic program runs at a mere $10 per month, which is the one we’re still on! It works great if you reduce your mail in advance by eliminating or bringing it online, as described above. With any of the pricing plans, VirtualPostMail offers two types of promotions for free: you can either get lots of added scans (that’s what we chose) or lots of added mail pieces received.
If you go over the quotas in your plan, you have to pay extra, but even then, prices are reasonable. When you have your mail shipped, there are extra charges as well (it’s usually $1.95 per standard letter within the U.S.).
For details on all their cost plans see this link. At the time we did our research (late 2014), this company stood far above the others in their affordable pricing plans.
VirtualPostMail will deposit checks for you at one of the banks they support for about $5 (worth it to us!).
If you need special delivery services, VirtualPostMail is happy to do that for you too, but it will naturally cost more. We had to do that when we were in Bangkok and learned our one ATM card was being replaced with one that had a chip and too bad, the old one was being terminated. We had it shipped via DHL Express Services by advice of many expats, as apparently mail theft is a problem in Thailand, and in any case, we needed it right away. We also asked our mail service to include the address in Thai and we sent them an image file of this. They did this for us and we had our new card three days later for a total cost of $65. When you think about what we got for that price, it was worth it! We just chocked it up to cost of travel.
Our charges are taken directly from our credit card, by choice, so we don’t even have to think about it. And we can access the login screen to our mail from anywhere in the world, even from communist Vietnam! I know, because we’re in Vietnam right now, and although a few of our sites have been blocked, even the information site for VirtualPostMail.com, we always have access to our login screen so that we can read and manage our mail.
Note: We are not affiliated with this company in any way, we’re just huge fans.
Taking care of your mail before you leave on a lengthy trip gives peace of mind, so you can focus on more important things, such as family, travel, and adventure!