After nearly two years in Buenos Aires, I thought it would be a good time to revisit some of my earlier posts on planning my original move from the States and update them based on my experiences. The first topic I decided to start with was the one on using a mail forwarding service to handle my US postal mail while I was gone.
I had originally converted as many of my paper bills to e-bills before leaving the States, and this turned out to be a great solution for about 70% of my mail. Unfortunately, not everyone offers e-billing (why?) and there are various other documents that still require physical mail as well. This is where a mail forwarding service proved invaluable. They receive your mail for you, scan it and put it on the web, and even batch it and send it somewhere else for you.
Originally, I signed up with Earth Class Mail (ECM), and while the service was great, I can no longer recommend them due to their massive price increases. Originally, I was paying $19.95/mo for up to 5 different names, 100 received mail pieces, 100 scanned pages per month and recycling or shredding. Their price for the same services is now $19.95/mo for receiving mail, $4.95/mo for shredding services and a ridiculous $1.50/mail for black and white scanning. This cost alone really adds up and makes this service prohibitively expensive.
About three months ago I started to look for a new service and found two that looked more reasonable – MailboxForwarding and Virtual Post Mail. MailboxForwarding plans start at $9.95/mo $14.95/mo and include 40 received mail pieces and 10 scanned items, while Virtual Post Mail has a $9.95/mo plan that includes 25 10 received mail items and 5 scanned items (though these numbers can be greatly increased through their constant promotions). While I preferred the Virtual Post Mail web site’s design, I went with MailboxForwarding because I needed to receive mail to multiple recipients and they offered this with their lowest plan.
Now, I’d suggest that if you are signing up for the first time, you pick wisely because if you need to change, it is a bit of a pain in the ass. First, you need to change your address everywhere. Then, you also need to send a notarized USPS form that allows that company to receive mail for you. If you are doing this from Buenos Aires, you will need to make a trip to the embassy to have the form notarized ($50) and then send it via FedEx or DHL. Finally, the USPS does not allow you to submit a change of address form for these services, so if you change services you will need to keep them both active for a few months in order to make sure you do not miss any mail. I’m currently on my third month of paying for both services and just about to cancel ECM now.
As for MailboxForwarding, while the service is not as slick as ECM was, their support has been pretty good and it does what it is supposed to do. Here are the things that ECM does better:
- While both send email when new mail has been received, ECM actually sends you a scan of the outside of the envelope which allows you to see if it is important or not without logging into the web site
- ECM has a better web interface, which includes a trash folder that allows you to recover mistakenly deleted mail items. At MailboxForwarding, you have to create a support ticket to recover mail.
- ECM has better scans of your mail. MailboxForwarding includes the envelope in the scan, which is useless in my opinion and requires me to use a program to split the pages of a PDF.
Like I said though, MailboxForwarding is only $9.95/mo $14.95/mo and does what it is supposed to do, so I’m happy that I made the switch.
If you use one of these services or another one, let me know your thoughts in the comments.
UPDATE: Updated some pricing information above on March 11, 2013.