Using Mail Boxes Etc. to Receive Mail and Packages

28
95
Mail Boxes Etc. in Medellín
Mail Boxes Etc. in Medellín
Mail Boxes Etc. in Medellín
Mail Boxes Etc. in Medellín

Mail Boxes Etc. has an e-box service that permits you to receive mail and packages in Medellín from the United States inexpensively and reliably. I have been using the service for over two years now and haven’t had a problem.

One of the challenges of being an expat from the United States living in Medellín is receiving mail and packages reliably from the United States.

Mail Boxes Etc. solves this problem with its e-box service, which provides a mailbox in Medellín linked to a mailing service in Miami. With this service, you get a mailing address in Miami and any mail received at this address in Miami is forwarded to Medellín.

The e-box mailing address in Miami for letters is:

YOUR NAME
COLXXXXX CASILLERO XXX
P.O. Box 025720
Miami, FL 33102-5720

For packages and express mail packages the e-box mailing address in Miami is:

YOUR NAME
COLXXXXX CASILLERO XXX
2250 NW 115th Ave. Unit 1L
Miami, FL 33192-4177

Any mail or packages received in Miami are sent to Bogotá where they clear customs and are then sent to Medellín. My experience is this processtypically takes 5 to 10 business days.

Note that the re-mailing service in Miami used by the e-box service sends each item to Colombia as it is received, so there is no opportunity to consolidate items to reduce mailing costs.

Buy from Amazon and other websites and receive packages in Medellín
Buy from Amazon and other websites and receive packages in Medellín

What are the Mail Boxes Etc. e-box Costs?

The Mail Boxes Etc. e-box service costs $14 per month and includes a one-kilogram package for free each month.

I normally forward all my regular mail (letters and magazines) from the United States every six weeks or so. This usually weighs less than one-kilogram so it is sent free to Medellín from Miami.

I also buy some items from companies like Amazon.com, Apple and Best Buy that arrive in packages in Miami. These packages cost money to send to Medellín for shipping, handling, insurance and taxes.

The last two packages I received, I sent via Amazon Prime for free to Miami and the cost to send to Medellín was 14,288 pesos ($7.17) for one package and 19,484 pesos ($9.77) for the other. Both totals included charges for IVA (VAT) that appear to be based on the package invoice.

UPS mailbox in the United States

I also have a UPS mailbox in the United States, where I can call to ask what mail I have received and have them trash any junk mail and consolidate items into one large mailing envelope that is sent to Miami.

My UPS mailbox address is the address I use for credit cards and other bills plus some magazine subscriptions. My UPS mailbox costs $25 per month.

This mailbox is needed, as the Miami re-mailing service provided by the Mail Boxes Etc. e-box service won’t hold items to enable consolidating letters/magazines into one package to save on shipping. Unfortunately they send things as they are received.

Other Mailbox Services in the United States

UPS is a better mailbox service to use in the United States than a USPS mailbox. With a USPS mailbox you can’t call to check on your mail and have junk mail trashed. USPS does have a weekly Premium Forwarding Service that consolidates mail and forwards it weekly, but this is expensive at $17 per week.

UPS mailboxes are available in every state in the US and are available in most cities so you can have an address where you want. But there are other mail forwarding services available in the United States.

For example, US Global Mail is based in Houston and provides a physical mailing address and a virtual mailbox that costs $12.50 per month if you pay a year in advance.

With the US Global Mail service you can log into a website to see scans of items you have received and dimensions of packages. You can also discard junk mail and consolidate items to be forwarded. Another mailbox service based in Houston is USA2ME.

Florida has several mailbox services that cost $9-10 per month, including Good Sam Mail Service and American Home Base.

Mail Boxes Etc. in Other Colombian Cities

Mail Boxes Etc. is not just in Medellín, they have stores in several other cities in Colombia including Barranquilla, Bogotá, Bucaramanga and Cartagena. Sorry no Mail Boxes Etc. is in Cali yet, per their website.

Mail Boxes Etc. is also located in several other countries in Latin America including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The Bottom Line

Between my Mail Boxes Etc. e-box service in Medellín and UPS mailbox in the United States I have solved the problem of receiving my normal mail reliably from the United States at a cost of $39 per month.

I also can buy items from websites like Amazon.com in the United States that is shipped to Miami and packages show up reliably in Medellín one to two weeks later and doesn’t cost that much to ship.

I could pay less if I used one of the mailbox services in Houston or one in Florida instead of using a UPS mailbox but I don’t want a physical mailing address in Houston or Florida at this time.

Like the story? Take a second to support Medellin Living on Patreon!
SHARE
Previous articleMansion Club: A Small Club with Big House Tunes
Next articleUn Paso Hacia La Paz
Jeff first discovered Colombia back in 2006 and has traveled to all the major cities in Colombia. He is fortunate to have lived over seven years in Medellín. He is also studying Spanish to become fluent.

LEAVE A REPLY

28 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks Jeff. I’d like to add another virtual mailbox company to the mix. Earth Class Mail (http://bit.ly/1ujpwBd) has a similar service to US Global Mail except it will probably be cheaper in the long run. I use it and it is really good. I receive a piece of mail and the front and back are scanned for free. I can then elect to have the contents scanned or have it recycled. I pay $25/mo. for a P.O. box at one of their many locations plus $1.50 per item to scan for first 15 pages (.10 per page after that). I get a fair amount of mail.

    US Global Mail charges $3 per scanned item. So it looks like US Global Mail may be more costly if you receive more than 7 pieces of mail per month that you want to have scanned. I do receive that much mail and so Earth Class Mail makes more sense for me. They also have a mail forwarding service and can consolidate items into one shipment. All your scanned contents remain there for you to review at any time in the future. And they have a check deposit service.

    • Hi Jonah, thanks suggesting the additional mailbox option in the U.S. Deciding on which mailbox service in the U.S. to use really depends on an individual’s needs. For example, I want a physical mailing address in a certain city in the U.S. so a UPS mailbox works best for me.

    • Hi Terry, unfortunately the Mail Boxes Etc. e-box service is one-way service for sending things to Colombia. I haven’t had to send letters or packages to the U.S. from Colombia over the past three years so I haven’t needed to look into the best way to send things to the U.S. Only once I had to send something urgently to the U.S. and I used FedEx.

  2. Hi Jeff,

    Thank you very much for the enlightening comments that you have made here. I also live and work in Colombia, but in Bogota. I have been trying to solve the problem of having my mail forwarded from a UPS box that I currently have in Maine. I need an American address for business reasons. I have forwarded my mail once in the 3 months that I have been living here. I used DHL services here to have that mail sent directly from my UPS box and it cost about $77 for a small amount of mail. I do not want to keep doing it this way.

    I think that the way that you have your mail sent is probably the best way. This might seem like a silly question but is it possible to eliminate your UPS box altogether and just use the Miami address for all of your correspondence? In my case, I am no longer physically picking up my mail in the US. Is it possible to use the Miami address as a physical address for all of your mail including packages from the US, bills that you may have, and other credit card expenses?

    • Hi Daniel,

      Unfortunately you can’t use the Miami address provided with the Mail Boxes Etc. service as they don’t consolidate items and forward each item to Colombia as it is received. The Miami address is just a mail forwarding service. I do send packages I buy on Amazon to Miami but not regular mail.

      I changed from my UPS mailbox to a mailbox at US Global Mail in Houston as my primary US address for bills and credit cards and other things as it is cheaper plus provides online scans of items I receive. I use my mailbox at US Global Mail to consolidate items and then send a package to my Miami address when I have enough items to warrant sending to Colombia.

      • Hi Jeff,

        Thank you for getting back to me so quickly and answering the UPS question. Fortunately, my UPS box is only $12.50 a month in Scarborough, Maine, so I don’t believe that I need US Global Mail just now, but I will keep that in mind for the future. I will just have UPS consolidate my mail in Maine and send it to the Miami address like you are doing. I think that when I buy larger items from Amazon.com that I will have them directly forwarded to the Miami address and then sent to Bogota from there.

        Thanks again for the information.

        Daniel

  3. Hi Jeff,

    I just found this post (actually this whole website!) and have a quick question for you: my boyfriend is from and still lives in Medellin. I’ve tried sending two small packages to him through registered USPS mail, and neither have reached him. Could I use this service to send letters and small packages to him until I move in January 2017? The only other option I’ve found is services like UPS and FedEx, both of which charged incredible amounts of money to deliver a letter.

    Thanks so much for your posts!

    • Hi Nicole,

      I have heard from other expats that USPS mail to Colombia is very unreliable – it may never show up. If you want reliable delivery FedEx is the most reliable. I tried DHL and UPS and had problems so I wouldn’t use them. Or you can get your boyfriend to sign up for a mailbox at Mail Boxes Etc. and then you can send letters or packages to an address in Miami that will show up in Medellín reliably for lower cost than FedEx. I haven’t had a problem in well over 3 years of using Mail Boxes Etc. and sending many package of things bought on Amazon plus many smaller packages with my regular mail,

  4. Hi Jeff, thanks for this informative article. I noticed you said your two Amazon Prime packages were 14,288 pesos and 19,484 for shipping including IVA/VAT.

    My first question is, are there any other/additional customs duties assessed, depending on the item? And second, do those prices (which you said appeared to be based on the invoice), tell you roughly what percentage of tax is assessed for imported goods into Colombia? Ot does it vary widely depending on the product? E.g., books may or may not be taxed, while importing clothes might be one tax rate, alcohol another (higher?), laptops and cameras etc yet another tax rate and smartphones another still? I wonder if the duties are listed somewhere.

    That’s good that UPS in the States will consolidate for you, unlike the mailing service in Miami; thanks for pointing that out.

    Getting all your mail for $39/month and being able to shop on the big online stores in the US for not too much extra shipping is a small price to pay living abroad. This is a very workable solution. Thanks again.

    • The taxes/duties charged depend on the item. There are not additional duties, what I listed was the total for shipping/tax/duties. Some things aren’t taxed and some are. Unfortunately I haven’t seen a list anywhere that details the taxes/duties. Amazon packages I have received with multiple items only have one tax rate listed on the bill from Mail Boxes Etc, there is no tax breakout by item. Since there is no breakout it is difficult to know what is taxed but I have noticed the taxes/duties appear to be higher for cosmetics I have purchased for my Colombian wife.

      Note that you can no longer ship cellphones to Colombia. It’s a new law put in place last year to help prevent stolen cellphones from being shipped to Colombia from other countries. So you have to buy cellphones in Colombia or another country and bring with you.

      • Thanks for your reply Jeff, and your experiences give a good guideline. It seems taxes aren’t too bad there. I’ll note cosmetics being higher; my girlfriend also prefers to buy them from the US. Otherwise, your Amazon shipments seem taxed at reasonable levels.

        Good to note about the cell phone policy, but it seems like smartphones in Colombia aren’t terribly priced. I just checked mac-center and it seems the entry level 16GB iPhone, which is $649 + tax in the US (usually a total of $700-725 depending on the sales tax jurisdiction), would in Colombia only be around $730, based on today’s exchange rates. I don’t know if there is additional sales tax, but that’s a very small price premium to pay for buying electronics in Colombia vs in the US. This is in stark contrast to Ecuador, where I live now, and the same phone is $1300. So there’s little need to bring one in or little inconvenience that you can’t ship it in.

        Thanks again.

        • I noticed that cellphones and electronics were much more expensive in Ecuador when I was there. Colombia has a bunch of free trade agreements and you can find cellphones and other electronics for similar prices to the U.S. or only a bit more expensive. In fact I bought an iMac, MacBook Pro and iPad in Colombia for cheaper than listed on Apple’s website. There is currently no tax on lower end computers and tablets in Colombia.

          • Now *that* is truly amazing–cheaper than the regular Apple prices in the US? I can’t tell you how glorious that sounds because yes, Ecuador is really about 40-100% higher than US prices in electronics depending on the product (phones highest and Macbooks around 70% higher). For a lot of reasons, not only for the prices of electronics, but many things, the more I read about Medellin, the more I’m eager to get there.

          • You can sometimes find cheaper Mac and iPads in Colombia than on the Apple website when there is a big move in the exchange rate when the peso becomes weaker I have noticed the stores don’t adjust the prices immediately. So I was able to take advantage of that. Normally the prices in Colombia for lower end Macs and iPads are close to what is in the US due to there being no taxes.

            Also the Falabella stores in Colombia sometimes have sales of Apple products, I bought an iMac on sale at Falabella and looked on the Apple website where the exact same model was selling for more.

          • Jeff,
            Thanks for the follow-up. While I doubt I’ll be fortunate enough to take similar advantage of currency fluctuations (hard to imagine the COP weakening much more than it has), I’ll be relived to stock up on electronics soon after arriving. Re Falabella, after reading your article on tablets and computers, I saved their website to a folder I’ve filled with other helpful shopping information you’ve written, and will certainly keep an eye out for sales, so thanks for that. I’ll be in the market for new smartphones when I get there.

  5. Do you maintain US residency for your bank credit cards? Do you maintain a US bank account? I was wanting to use UPS or US Global Mail to maintain my US residency so that I can keep my US bank accounts. Is that feasible?

    • I don’t maintain a US physical address. I sill have banking, retirement, investment and credit card accounts in the US. All were fine with changing my mailing address to the US Global Mail service. After several years two of my accounts have asked for a physical address in the US and I gave them my father’s physical address no problem with still the US Global Mail address as my mailing address. I have received credit cards and ATM cards no problem at US Global Mail. All my statements are online.

      I understand renewing a drivers license will be a challenge though without a physical address.

  6. Does it provide you an real mailbox? If I receive mail at mailbox can they forward it (and charge a fee) to me if I’m not in Colombia?

    BTW- is there a UPS in Medellin? cant find on the web

    • Yes Mailbox Etc. uses a real mailbox but you don’t have a key. I’m not sure if they provide forwarding services as I haven’t needed this – you’ll have to ask.

      No there isn’t UPS in Medellín that I’m aware of but there is FedEx.

    • Deprisa doesn’t offer mailbox rentals that I’m aware of. They don’t have mailbox services listed on their website. Mailboxes are more of a U.S. phenomenon.

  7. Hi Jeff!

    I’m getting a package of essentials shipped to me from the UK – I’m not home often and have no idea where I can get the parcel sent to. Do you know of any pick up points in Medellin?

    Thank you!!!

  8. I have used http://www.virtualpostmail.com since 2010 when I moved to Barcelona for two years.
    They do scanning and forwarding. They’ll consolidate multiple packages. They’ll also deposit checks you receive into your US Bank account. So if you have any income from sources that won’t use PayPal or Direct Deposit, you can get you money sent there.

    I will be moving there later this year. I have a retirement visa that needs to be renewed annually and gives me right to residency. But once I get there, I will need a cedula to open a Colombian Bank Account. What in detail are the steps required to obtain the cedula?

    When I lived in Barcelona, I hired a gestor to help me deal with the Spanish government and any forms that needed to be completed in Spanish. Are there similar services in Medellin that don’t charge gringo prices?

    • Hi Norm,

      The process to obtain a cedula was previously covered on this site: http://medellinliving.com/cedula/. The process has changed a bit since that was written. You now need to make an appointment with Migración Colombia to register your visa and apply for a cedula. This appointment can be done online or via the phone at 018000510454. After you have successfully received your Colombia Visa you will have a maximum of 15 days to register your visa with Migración Colombia to get a Cedula de Extranjeria

      The current cost of a cedula is 183,000 pesos, which can be paid for using a credit card at the Migración Colombia office.

  9. Hello Jeff, nice article. I see that the Mail box etc. website that you’ve provided is in all Spanish. My Spanish is not that good yet, so will I need to know Spanish in order to set-up service there. Not even sure if this is the best route to go being that I don’t receive mail every month, just every now and then. And mostly I just want a way to receive Amazon and other online orders reliably when in Medellin.