tagged earth class mail, mail forwarding, po box, tech tips, united states and virtual office
This is a review of Earth Class Mail.
Click here to visit the Earth Class Mail website.
Update 08/04/09: Earth Class Mail is going to a totally monthly subscription service. The base prices are now $19.95 & $39.95 per month. Scans are now charged per mail piece and are offered in B&W or Color. So depending on how much we scan, we should be paying around the same amount as the old plan.
Earth Class Mail is now also offering check depositing for $34.95 a month for the Professional plan, which also includes a bunch of new features like character recognition for scans and legal proof of receipt.
Earth Class Mail also has a brand new interface with easier access to all it’s features
One question that keeps coming up when people find out we traveled for a year is “How do you get your mail?” Initially, this was a big concern for us. When we went on vacation before, we would have a neighbor come by and pick it up for us or have it temporarily held at the post office until we came back.
This time, neither of these options were going to work for us. Being out of the country for an entire year, we knew there would be important mail that we needed to see. Bank statements, IRS tax information, investment notices, birthday cards from long lost aunts. We really needed someone to open and sort our mail for us.
We briefly considered having our mail forwarded to our parents. But we thought of the amount of mail we got in 1 day. Not just the important stuff, but the junk mail, the catalogs, the magazines. We multiplied that by 365. Did we really didn’t want to dump all of that on them? Plus, even though they may be able to tell us when something important arrived, we wouldn’t be in any one place long enough for them to send it to us. Having them try and figure out the scanner to upload copies over their dial up connection? Forget about it.
Luckily Christine found Earth Class Mail. Earth Class Mail is a brilliant solution for the problem of what to do with your mail while traveling. In a nutshell, they set up a virtual address for you which is a PO Box in one of 20 different cities. You have all of your mail forwarded there. They scan the front and back of each item and send you an email when you have new mail. You login to their site and browse through scanned images of your mail and decide which items you want to read. They open them, and scan the contents into a pdf file. You can then either archive it for when you get back, or have it shipped somewhere. You can also have it shredded or recycled. Here’s an example of the interface.
So how did it work for us?
On the road it was a life saver. The need for access to physical mail really is sometimes necessary. When tax time came around and we were in the middle of Africa, we just had all of our forms and year end statements forwarded to our accountant. When we needed to see the receipts our property management company was sending us for managing renters in our house, we just logged in and downloaded the pdfs. When we were called for jury duty, we were able to respond that we couldn’t attend rather than get in trouble. We even got to see birthday cards from our relatives. It really couldn’t have been any easier.
One complaint I do have is that when we signed up in July of 2007, they were promising a check depositing service. It took until sometime in 2008, but they do have one in place now,
Unfortunately, it is only for business use, not individuals. The Earth Class Mail check depositing service is currently available for Professional account users for an additional fee of $34.95/month. This would have come in handy for me, since I was doing freelance work and receiving checks. Having the the ability to have them direct deposited into my bank account would have been the icing on the cake. Not a deal breaker, though. I just had the checks shipped to my folk’s house to deposit. You still have to pay the shipping, but still better than having them sit at the post office for a year.
What about security? After all, strangers are opening your mail with credit card numbers and SSNs. Take a look here. On their website, Earth Class Mail goes into great detail about all of the security measures they have in place to prevent identity theft, including no recording equipment or even a pencil in the mail room. So far we haven’t had any issues. To make myself feel better, when I see something that I know I don’t need opened that has sensitive info in it, like your Social Security statement, I don’t have it scanned and just archive it for a later shipment.
I read other reviews that complained about the price. I admit, things do add up, but I personally don’t mind paying for convenience. The pricing structure is a bit confusing. Basically, the advertised price is for 2 years, paid up front. I think most travelers only need a year, so that makes it a few dollars more a month. We went with the “Value Plus” plan which is $22.95/month for 1 year. That gives us 5 recipients and 100 pieces of mail a month. You get get the cheaper plan, but keep in mind this only includes 1 recipient and 35 pieces of mail a month. This might work for an individual, but not for a couple, like us
Our plan includes 100 pages scanned per month, which has been fine. We’ve never gone over it. But just know that you can’t scan tons of stuff, or entire magazines or you will be charged $.20/page extra. I’ve read some people complain about that not being clear, so watch out There’s also a $25 setup fee and something new that’s a bit annoying, a monthly storage fee for items archived more than 1 month. This is a recent addition for 2009. I guess they are running out of storage space. We trash a lot of mail now, but while we were traveling, we archived anything that seemed remotely important and didn’t have it shipped until we got back. Storing 200 pieces of mail would have been another $10 a month, so if you get lots of mail and plan or archiving it for a while, factor the storage cost in too.
We actually like Earth Class Mail so much that we’ve been back in the US for 6 months now and we are still using it. I personally love being paperless. I no longer have filing cabinets full of paperwork that I keep “just in case”. I just have anything I want to keep scanned and save the pdfs on my computer. It takes a bit of time to get used to the security of not having a paper copy somewhere, but I am all for it now. My favorite part though, is that the pile of junk mail has gone to zero. I was surprised at how much mail I just shred or recycle. It’s like a delete key for your postal mail. No more credit card offers and catalogs all over the coffee table.
This is just one of the cool tech things that made our lives easier traveling around the world. I’ll review some more of them later.
If you are thinking about trying Earth Class Mail, you can click the link below and get the first month free.
Earth Class Mail: Sign up for your First Month Free!