One of the biggest problems I’ve faced in living overseas is being sure I’m able to get my mail from the United States. After spending a lot of time and effort researching the various re-mailing or mail forwarding services, I’ve settled on USA2Me.
Panama doesn’t have household delivery of mail. Instead, people get a PO Box at the main post office in their town, and visit once a week or so to get their mail. Even using a PO Box, the service is unreliable and it’s common to have mail simply disappear.
The situation in the Philippines is similar, and I know from experience that most third world countries have the same issues.
Here in Panama I’ve been using Mailboxes, Etc. This service assigns a PO Box address and a physical address in Miami, Florida, allowing me to send packages and normal mail to those addresses, that are then forwarded to a local MailBoxes, Etc, storefront here in Panama City. There are several locations available, so it’s not too difficult to go and pick up mail.
The Philippines does have a MailBoxes, Etc branch in Manila. But, if you’ve ever dealt with Manila traffic, you’ll know it’s not fun to travel across the city on a daily or even weekly basis. If you don’t live near that branch, you’re going to spend a lot of time picking up mail. If you live outside Manila, its obviously not an efficient solution.
As I mentioned at the start, I’ve decided USA2Me has the best value for my needs. USA2Me is an expat mail forwarder with several attractive pricing options. For me, the Just Mail plan seems to be best.
The Just Mail plan costs $19.90 a month (at the time of this writing), and includes one free shipment of mail, up to 4 pounds, per month. This is sent to you at any location in the Philippines (or other covered country) by UPS, FedEx, Global Express, etc. The only caveat to this is that those 4 pounds of forwarded mail must fit into a single USPS Global Priority flat rate envelope (9.5″ x 12.5″). Anything that doesn’t fit will be sent as a second delivery, and extra deliveries are charged $15.95 for the first pound, and $9.95 for each pound thereafter.
(Quick Edit: After a few brief discussions with customer service at USA2ME, I’ve found that when using the Just Mail plan, your mail is forwarded using the US Post Office in the US, and then it is handed off to the local mail service in the destination country. I wanted to avoid using the Philippine postal service, in favor of a courier (e.g. FedEx, UPS, DHL), so the Just Mail plan is not appropriate. I’ll be using the Gold plan, which still gives a no-cost shipment of 4 lbs, with a monthly fee of $44.00.)
The only downside to the Just mail plan is that is does not allow you to send packages from online purchases, at attractive rates. If you plan to order from Amazon.com and similar online stores, and need to receive those packages in the Philippines, you should carefully choose a different plan, based on how much weight you need to ship on a monthly basis.
For example, USA2Me has the Bronze plan. There is no monthly fee, but there is also no free shipment included. You pay $29.95 for the first pound, but only $3.95 per pound after that. That’s using Express shipments, also. The Silver plan is very similar, with a lower first pound and additional pounds costs. The Silver plan charges a $10.00 monthly fee.
The big differences come in when you look at the Gold and Platinum plans.
USA2Me really shines when you expect to receive a few packages a month, along with your regular mail. For example, with the Platinum Plan, you pay a monthly fee of $44.00, and get one free shipment every month, totaling 4 pounds. This can be electronics, books, bulk documents, it really doesn’t matter (as long as it’s legal!). Additional shipments in any given month are much cheaper, at $23.95 for the first pound, and only $3.85 per pound thereafter.
Let’s say you normally get three magazines and 10 letters each month, and you buy a 2 lb book at Amazon.com. Using Amazon’s free shipping, you’ll only pay for the shipping from USA2Me to your home in the Philippines (or wherever you are). Those items will all weigh in at under 4 lbs, so all you pay for your shipping and mail forwarding is the $44 a month service fee.
What about junk mail? Who wants to get bulk advertisements shipped overseas? USA2Me makes it easy. They take a picture of every item you receive, and you can view those whenever you want on their web site. You can select items for “junk” and they will securely shred and dispose of those junk mail items. No more paying for unwanted Sears Catalogs or JC Whitney auto parts guides!
They will also repack your shipments to make more fit into a single box, and reduce the overall weight, to save you money. See the web site for more details.
The costs included in this review are based on the current costs for expat mail forwarding to the Philippines, as displayed on their website. The service covers MANY countries.