What is the difference between a mailing address and a physical address?

Posted on: 17th January 2024

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When you’re running a business it’s common to have more than one address. You may need different addresses for different reasons such as a mailing address for deliveries, a physical address for meetings, and a registered address for public records. But when you think of a physical address vs mailing address - what’s the difference?

In this article, you’ll learn about the various address types and how they differ. This will allow you to choose the correct address for your business needs.

Physical address vs mailing address

Business owners need to understand the difference between physical and mailing addresses as this knowledge will help you to send and receive your mail efficiently. To avoid confusion we’ve explained what each address is below, as well as how you can create them both. 

What is a mailing address?

A mailing address is where you receive your mail and it can be different or the same as your physical address. As many small business owners often run their companies from their homes, having a separate mailing and physical addresses can help protect their privacy. Large businesses typically have the same premises registered as their physical and mailing address. 

Creation of mailing addresses

The United States Postal Service, or USPS, controls mailing address standards and they’re centered around ZIP Codes. Automated mail processing was made much easier thanks to the creation of the ZIP Code. They help the USPS decide the most efficient routes for delivering mail. Because ZIP Codes are all about delivering mail efficiently, the USPS may inform you that you’ll need a different mailing address to your physical address.  

What is a physical address?

A physical address is a geographical location where you live or run your business. It also decides your governing jurisdiction, which laws you follow, the services you can access, and who you pay taxes to.

Sometimes you can receive mail at your physical address, but there may be restrictions preventing you from doing so. If your physical address is an office inside another building or your home is within a bigger complex, such as an apartment, you may not receive your mail directly because it’s inconvenient for the delivery driver. This is why a mailing address can be useful.   

Creation of physical addresses

Your physical address will typically be created by the relevant taxing agency - typically the office of the county tax assessor. The United States Census Bureau collects demographic and geographic data on all US citizens. This creates various datasets that are used by private and public agencies.  

Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing, or TIGER, is one of the datasets used along with Geographic Information Systems, known as GIS. Together they include data on geographic features such as water features, roads, and address information. 

What is the difference between a mailing address and a physical address?

It can be hard to know the difference between a physical address vs mailing address. The main difference between these two addresses is that the physical address is where the company is physically located. On the other hand, a mailing address is where the business’s mail is delivered, and this is not necessarily a physical address. 

For businesses that require a separate mailing address, there are many options available including mailbox services and PO boxes to virtual offices with mailing services. 

Mailing addresses that are not physical addresses

Sometimes a mailing address is necessary to make mail delivery easier for the postal carrier. Other times, it’s for the benefit of the recipient. Below, we’ve outlined some reasons why a physical address may be different from a mailing address.

Weather-challenged area

Although the USPS is efficient, sometimes weather obstacles in certain areas, such as heavy snowfall, make it very difficult for mail to be delivered to physical addresses. It’s the same with rural areas too, where physical addresses are extremely far away from each other.

These areas are known as non-serviceable areas - they’re not on the USPS mailing routes and home delivery isn’t available. Instead, residents living in these areas will need a PO box at the main post office where their mail will be delivered. 

PO box

Many people use PO boxes as a convenient alternative to a physical address. But what are PO box addresses? A PO box is a mailing address that cannot also be a physical address. It will allow you to keep your location private while still receiving your mail easily and securely. 

A PO box is usually a mailbox in the post office that’s rented out. You’ll have a key to your box and you can drop in and collect your mail yourself. It’s important to note that when receiving mail, PO boxes have more delivery restrictions than physical addresses. For example, a physical address can receive unrestricted mail from private carriers such as FedEx, UPS, and Amazon, whereas a PO box cannot. 

Centralized mailboxes

Centralized mailboxes, also known as community or cluster mailboxes, are multiple individual boxes clustered together in one large communal mailbox. If you have a centralized mailing box, the address won’t usually have your physical address, as each box in the cluster will have its own identifier. 

Unique postal/ZIP codes

Unique ZIP codes are given to establishments that receive high volumes of mail, such as universities, large businesses, and government agencies. If you live in one of these unique ZIP code areas, your mail will be sent to the postal location of that entity instead of being mailed straight to your physical address. The business or organization will then distribute the post depending on what policies they have. 

Military addresses

Similar to unique ZIP code areas, if you live within a military base, your mail will be delivered to the military postal location or office and then distributed depending on its policy. 

New street address

In 2013, the United States Postal Service changed its delivery policy for newly registered addresses. Rather than home delivery, the service announced it would deliver the mail to centralized mailboxes. 

This means that in newer apartment complexes or housing communities, the mailboxes are in one location instead of at each address. This helps the postal carriers save time by not having to make long journeys to each door. 

Why is it important to know the difference?

Choosing the correct address can save you from making expensive mistakes. Not only will you avoid wasting money on return and shipping fees, but it will also prevent valuable resources and time from being wasted. Knowing the difference between the addresses means you can focus on your business and connecting with customers. 

Which address is right for your business?

Neither type of address is necessarily better than the other as they have different purposes and depend on your business’s location. Not every business will have a need for both address types.

For example, a large enterprise with lots of commercial space won’t need a separate mailing address as it will have enough room for a designated mailroom at its physical business address. 

In contrast, a small business owner who is operating their enterprise from their home may not want all of their business mail and packages sent there. In that case, they would benefit from a separate mailing address. 

Smaller organizations may also benefit from using this type of address as it will give their business a more professional image by choosing an address in a sought-after location.

When is a physical address necessary?

There are several reasons why having a physical address for business purposes is necessary. Firstly, it gives your company credibility. Many people won’t trust a company that doesn’t have a physical address - they may think your business is fake or it’s potentially a scam. 

Having a physical address also provides a place for you to meet with your clients personally. Although you could meet them at a local coffee shop, having your own address allows for more privacy and can boost your professional image.

When is a mailing address necessary?

Just like a physical address, a business mailing address can boost your company’s credibility and professional image. A mailing address also makes things more convenient as you can keep important documents organized and separate from other non-business mail. 

Physical address alternatives

There are several alternatives to having a physical address, such as:

  • PO box: A PO box can be used as a business address for mailing purposes which means you don’t have to disclose your home address to the general public.  
  • Pack and ship mailbox: This is an independent mailbox where your mail is received and every neighborhood has them.
  • Virtual office: For business purposes, it’s not advisable to use your physical home address and you cannot use a PO box. Because of this, a virtual office can be a good alternative.
  • Virtual mailbox: It’s often thought that a virtual office and a virtual mailbox are the same. A virtual mailbox is essentially an online version of a mailing address. Your mail will be delivered to a remote location and you can view the deliveries on your device. 

Take advantage of a virtual address

Despite the name, a virtual office is a physical street address that saves you the overhead costs of operating an office space. You also don’t need to be physically present at the address, so if you have a small or medium business, a virtual address can be valuable. 

Having a virtual address also means you’ll have a professional address as well as all the tools you need such as an answering service, phone number, and customer support options. Many home-based business owners opt for virtual addresses instead of using their home addresses as it improves security too.  

How to get a mailing address

How to get a mailing address for your business depends on how you want to receive your mail. There are several companies dedicated to helping you find a mailbox for your business, whether you’re looking for a PO box, physical address, or virtual business address with a mail forwarding service.

At Regus, our virtual office packages can be tailored to suit the needs of your business and your mailing address needs. We offer everything from a simple business address with a mail handling service to more premium packages with phone answering and the use of dedicated desk space.

Which address is right for you?

Now we’ve been through the different types of addresses available to your business and the differences between them, you should have a better idea of which address is right for you and your organisation.

Still unsure? We’re always on hand to help you find the right serviced office space, whether that’s a simple business address or a virtual office.

Common Mailing Address FAQs

If you still have questions about the various types of addresses available, take a look at our useful FAQ section below, to get the answers you need.

Is a mailing address the same as a street address?

An address for mailing purposes can be the same as a street address if a company is happy for the mail to be delivered to its physical address, which is typically what a street address is. But, the two addresses can also be different. 

What is the difference between a registered address and a business address?

Although registered addresses and business addresses can be the same, there are differences. A registered address tends to be used for receiving legal correspondence, whereas a business mailing address is a location used for receiving general mail - usually at the physical address.

Is a PO box a physical address?

No, a PO box isn’t a physical address. It’s ideal if you don’t want your mail sent to your home or business address as it allows you to stay anonymous.

Topics in this article

  • Work Trends
  • Productivity


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