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Got Mail? How to get it sent to Mexico

Updated: Apr 3

For many American expats -- whether short-timers or long-haulers -- there are times when you need to get U.S. mail physically sent to you in Mexico.


As temporary residents in Mexico, we have a U.S.-plated car here in Guadalajara. That means we receive annual registration renewal notices (and renewal stickers!) in our "home" state of Tennessee. We also receive mail periodically from the IRS related to our tax filings.


Digital nomads may be constantly on the move but still get U.S. mail from back home from clients, their employer, or insurance providers. Retirees may be enrolled in Medicare and receive government mailings at a U.S. address they used to register for the program.


But getting these things sent to Mexico via snail mail is neither practical nor reliable.


So what do you do?


Fortunately, many U.S.-based companies offer virtual mailbox services to expats. Known collectively as "CMRA" (commercial mail receiving agencies), these businesses are independently owned and operated but are legally required to be licensed and registered with the U.S. Postal Service.


CMRAs are most commonly located in states with no income taxes like Nevada, Florida, Texas, and North Dakota, since claiming residency in these states can minimize your tax bill.


While services vary a bit by provider, CMRAs will typically set up a private mailbox for you (a PMB in industry jargon) and scan all of your incoming mail so that you can visually confirm what’s been received and decide if anything needs to be physically sent to you. Most CMRAs will also receive packages for you -- something you cannot do with a U.S. post office box.


If you do receive important, time-sensitive mail that needs to be physically sent to Mexico, these services can FedEx or DHL a package to you for an extra fee. Beware that these packages will get processed by Mexican customs when entering the country, adding some risk and delay to the process.


Having a reliable service that holds your mail for you until your next trip back to the U.S. to collect it is a more common expat practice.


We use a family member’s address for bank and credit card accounts, auto registration, and taxes. This family member does a daily "scan" for us on what's coming in, functioning as our very own private mail service.


As such, we're not currently using a CMRA and I'm not explicitly endorsing any of these businesses. That said, I can imagine a time when we'll need one, so I've done a thorough audit of the CMRA landscape, with my findings shared below.



Mail Forwarding Services to Consider


Escapees RV Club is a member organization for the RV community and runs one of the oldest mail forwarding services in the U.S., having started it in 1985. Membership in the club costs $49.95 USD annually and membership is required to sign up for their mail forwarding service.

They offer mailing addresses in Texas, Florida, or South Dakota (your choice) with plans starting at $110 USD annually. Besides giving you a mailbox and personal mailing address, Escapees will review incoming mail with you by phone (it's a bit low-tech!), and forward mail or packages to you upon request. Cheaper options are available for shorter periods.


Electronic scans of your mail cost extra. And while their website isn't the easiest to navigate, most of their users still seem to love them. Get started here.

Google rating: 4.4 on 278 reviews.


DakotaPost bills itself as a mail forwarding service that offers its customers a street address in South Dakota as a way to save money on taxes. Claiming SD residency wasn't on my agenda so I checked out their standalone mail forwarding service instead, which starts at $179 USD per year for mail forwarding once a month.


This service gives you a secure online portal to view your mail anytime you want. The front of each mail piece is scanned to provide you with an image of each item received. Mail can be forwarded to you on an automated or custom schedule.


For $249 USD per year they will open your mail, scan the contents, and forward your mail whenever and wherever you want. All plans have a one-time set-up fee of $25 to get started.


DakotaPost also offers services to register your car and help you get a driver's license from South Dakota -- thankfully without having to go there!

Get started here. Google rating: 4.2 stars on 81 reviews.


Mail Link+ is based in Nevada and provides its customers with a personal mailing address in Nevada (another tax-free state), along with mail forwarding services.


Starting at $200 USD for 12 months, they’ll handle mail for up to 3 recipients for a mail volume of about 36 pieces a month. Their services top out at ~ $350 USD per month for up to 7 recipients averaging 180 pieces per month, which seems like way more than any one family should need.


Mail Link+ is a touch more expensive than other specialists out there, but they get props from me for their website usability. The benefits and pricing of each "mailbox" plan clearly spelled out, with company contact info prominently displayed for additional support. Check them out here. Google rating: 4.6 stars on 128 reviews.



I'd give these providers a miss


TravelingMailbox. They offer clients purchasing a private mailbox an actual mailing address, and will also accept packages. Their website is easy to use and transparent about pricing and service options with the most basic plan costing $180 USD per year covering up to 3 recipients, 40 mail pieces per month, and 35 scans.


Customers report mixed results with the company's customer support team, unexpected price increases recently, as well as missing mail. That feedback definitely gives me pause -- as does their Trustpilot score. Trust Pilot rating: 2.3 stars on 43 reviews.


Anytime Mailbox is a service that offers mail and package forwarding, street addresses, mail scanning, check deposits, and more. The company's homepage claims that services start at $6 per month, but no detailed plan or pricing information is visible without signing up first, i.e. selecting a street address (any US state except Alaska, Vermont, or North Dakota) and providing some personal data.


While I find the lack of price transparency irritating, others don't seem to mind it. That said, Anytime Mailbox has received a lot of passionately negative reviews recently, with complaints of unanticipated price hikes, lost financial mail, and difficulties closing accounts. Proceed with caution. Trust Pilot rating: 4.3 stars on 1,066 reviews.


State Department Credit Union. The credit union was originally set up to serve State Department employees, but you do not have to have worked at State to use the service. However, to join SDFCU you still must prove that you have a relationship with one of its affiliated organizations (a huge list can be viewed on their website). Why bother with that when there are other mail-forwarding providers with faster and easier ways to sign up?

Google rating: 2.1 stars on 110 reviews.


UPS stores. Many UPS stores offer mailbox rental services and will ship overseas clients their mail for an additional fee. Though UPS is an enormous U.S. company with a big presence in Mexico as well, they are not the best option in my view given inconsistent customer experiences across their network (and plenty of poor customer reviews to back it up).

Trust Pilot rating: 1.2 stars on 30,000+ reviews.


Other things you should know


Courtesy of the U.S. Patriot Act and Bank Secrecy Act, Americans cannot legally use

private mailboxes or post office boxes for banking purposes. The law does, however, permit overseas Americans to use a relative’s address on a financial account in their name.


Many banks are reportedly cracking down on clients that use PMBs more so than in the past. That said, plenty of expats are still using them on financial accounts. Please understand the risk you're taking if you do this. Should your bank discover that you use a PMB, they may promptly close your account and return your money to you, leaving you in a difficult spot.


Furthermore, post office boxes also cannot be used as your physical address for a driver’s license, credit card billing address, or tax return.


Conclusion


My CMRA audit is by no means exhaustive. Based on what I found, though, my recommendation to expats who need a mail forwarding service is to choose a company that specializes in this area, has a long track record in business, and consistently positive customer reviews on Trustpilot and/or Google.


In the comments below, I'd love to know about any quality mail-forwarding services we missed and any experiences you've had with a service covered in this post.




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