Living or Working Overseas: Part 4 – Mail Forwarding Services for the Overseas Expat

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This series of posts is written by the Wandering US Expat, who’s lived in Australia and Panama.  And applied for cards from there!

Don’t let living abroad stop you from getting miles and points bonuses from credit cards!

It’s no secret that US banks lead the world in promotional point bonuses for new customers.  They give away lots of points to get a new customer in the hopes that you’ll remain, and spend, with them for years.  Lots of non-US folks wish they could get access to the same deals!

But many US citizens and ex-permanent residents, known as expats, often wonder whether they can still get credit cards if they leave or have already left the US.  Perhaps they’ve relocated for a job or have gone for an extended trip abroad.  Some expats have left permanently to start a new life.

The US Postal Service May Not Be the Best Way to Forward Your New Credit Cards to Your Overseas Address

Are you or someone you know in this category?

Figures are hard to determine because the US does not track expats who are traveling or living abroad.  But a recent report estimated the number to be living overseas at about 2 to 7 million.  There are millions more who leave, or “visit” outside the US for months at a time all year round.

This series will help folks living outside the US have Big Travel with Small Money!

“Living or Working Overseas” Series Index

Activate Your New Card

By now, you’ve established or re-established your credit while overseas.  You want to apply or have applied for cards and listed an address where someone can receive your mail.  But the next challenge could be easy or difficult, depending on where you now live, or are visiting long-term.

The person you’ve listed as your address is someone you trust.   Or at least I’d hope so because they’re getting your mail!  When a new card (or cards!) arrives, you will be eagerly waiting for your friend or relative to let you know so you can activate the card.

With the Help of a Friend You Can Activate Your Card Before You Get It in the Mail

Instead of waiting for your trusted friend or relative to mail you the card, you can activate it immediately.  That way you can begin using the card to meet the minimum spending requirement to get the sign-up bonus.

Ask for the

  • card number
  • 3 digit security code on the back of the card
  • expiration date
  • card activation instructions

Or your friend could take photos of the front and back of the card and send them to you by email or text message.

Now you can use it for purchases online or anywhere that doesn’t require the physical card such as Amazon payments.

And when your card is activated, if it gets lost in the mail from the US to your overseas address, the bank may assist you with a replacement card.  Some banks are willing to expedite by mail a replacement card to folks on an “extended” trip overseas, wherever they are.

Do You Need the Physical Card?

You don’t really need to have the card in your hand if you plan to meet the minimum spending requirement through online purchases.

But if you prefer to have the actual card, 1 way to do this is by timing your applications ~2 weeks before visiting the US.  This can save you the trouble of having your cards mailed to you.

Depending where you live, mail can be tough to get.  There are some places where mail service barely exists.

In that case, you can get the card when someone visits you.

Or your friend could mail it to you via US Postal Service, UPS, etc.  But this can be expensive.  There are much more economical and secure ways of sending things.

Mail Forwarding Services – Physically Receiving

If you’ve ever spent long periods abroad, or lived abroad, you’ve probably investigated ways to receive your mail.  This post is not intended to cover EVERY possible scenario for every foreign country where you might be, but to familiarize you with different ways you can get your mail.

Mail forwarders do the following:

  • clear your mail through customs
  • send items from a specific US address to a specific foreign address (like their office)
  • send 1 package or letter only for a 1-time fee
  • send multiple items per month for a bulk monthly fee

Most forwarders are country-specific, so they know all the ins-and-outs, rules, and ways to get mail from the US to a certain country.  And they know how to do it far cheaper than the big companies such as FedEx and UPS.

For example, consider Mailboxes Etc., a known US brand.  They have a service inexpensively forwarding mail overseas to places such as Panama, which is growing in popularity as a place where US retirees are moving.

FedEx Is Sometimes More Expensive Than Smaller Mail Forwarding Services

They have a monthly package which provides a US post office box in Miami.  All mail arriving at the PO box is immediately forwarded to 1 of several local offices within the foreign country for folks to pick up.  Packages bigger than a large type letter may generate a fee.

Once the letter or package arrives, the mail forwarding service will contact you.

There are lots of services like this around the world.

Mail Forwarding Services – With Online Management

You may find online mail management services to be more convenient than traditional mail forwarders.  One worth considering is is Earth Class Mail.

Besides being handy for businesses, they’re helpful for expats too.  The price is a bit more than traditional mail forwarders, but the extra services and convenience may be worth it for you.

With Earth Class Mail You Can See Scans of Every Envelope You’ve Received Then Decide Which Pieces to Forward to Your Overseas Address

You can check the current Earth Class Mail prices and packages.

Earth Class Mail will scan the outside of the envelopes you receive so you can view them in your online mailbox.  Then you can you filter through your items to see what has arrived.

You can choose to discard or forward mail.  However, if you need further information you can request they scan the contents of a letter so you can make a decision.

Another useful service is mail and parcel forwarding.  You may find this helpful for those really important items like your new credit cards!

One downside to Earth Class Mail is they only ship with USPS or FedEx which could cost more than other mail forwarders.

But if you want to quickly view your mail and want to choose what to send overseas, Earth Class Mail could be a good choice.

Bottom Line

You can use a mail forwarding service to ship your new credit cards to you from the US.  But if you have a trusted friend, you can activate your new cards right away!  This would give you more time to complete the minimum spending requirement to get the sign-up bonuses.

In the next post of this series I’ll go over the most cost effective ways to pay your US credit card bills while you’re abroad.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Neither the responses below nor the editorial content on this page are provided or commissioned by the bank advertisers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertisers. Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of the bank advertisers. It is not the bank advertisers’ responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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19 responses to “Living or Working Overseas: Part 4 – Mail Forwarding Services for the Overseas Expat

  1. The cheapest way to forward your credit cards is to apply for a “free” mail forwarding service with the United States Postal Service. They will forward your mail internationally for free. It can be done up to 12 months and then renewed again with a little gap.

  2. Anyone using these services should know: some banks are on to some of the mail forwarders. In other words, when you apply, you won’t get instant approval and they’ll want you to call. When you do call to confirm your address with them, they’ll let you know that they know that the address on your app is a mail forwarder, and it becomes a deal breaker. Plus, once your mail forwarder is on the list, it’s poisoned; i.e., it’s not coming off the list and until you change it you’ll never get approved for any card from banks (Citi, in my case) that figure out the real nature of your address. This just started in 2013 with Citi. I hope the rest of the banks don’t follow suit (Chase would be a real loss, for instance) but I would be more surprised if they didn’t than if they did.

  3. I’ve used Earth Class mail for quite some time. Good service. A benefit is often you can put “Suite 123” instead of “PO Box 123” to avoid the prohibition some services have on sending things to a PO Box.

  4. @Steve: with the one I use (USABox), they offer a street address anyway, with a “#XXXX” after the address. No PO Box. I have tried “Unit XXXX”, “Apt XXXX” etc and none work with Citi anymore. It’s the Patriot Act.

  5. I have been using mailbox services for 6 years now. Started with Earth Class mail but changed to Mailboxforwarding.com after ECM almost doubled their rates. Haven’t faced any issues so far with banks or anybody else.

  6. This is one of the main problems I am having. I used to have a trustworthy person to receive my cards, read me the details so I could activate them and make the spends online and forward them to me. That person is no longer able to do this for me. I thought about the mail forwarders so I am glad to get the warning from BillyBob that banks are on to them. I have been able to get Chase and Amex send me replacement cards to Australia but I haven’t tried applying for any new cards using my Aussie address. Has anyone who is an established customer with a bank tried applying for a card and having it sent directly overseas?

  7. I have been using http://USA2Me.com. BillyBob’s warning is the first I’ve heard of that. I have been using this address for 5+ years with all the US credit card providers with no problems.

  8. @Daraius you should also add that many banks will send you the credit card for free internationally. You apply with an american address and then when you think the application is processed just call them and say you are travelling and want to use the credit card, many will express you the credit card within less than a week for free to an international address.

  9. same here doing earthclassmail for 7 years. now quite a bit more expensive but still worth … Just have to do more CC …

  10. Pingback: Car Rental Insurance Reductions For US and Non-US Licensed Drivers | Million Mile Secrets

  11. Pingback: Living or Working Overseas Series: Part 3 – Establish or Re-establish Credit While Overseas | Million Mile Secrets

  12. I know ppl who have used USGlobalmail.com to get all their letters and packages. They can even see what they have received on a daily basis through their virtual mailbox. You can try it for yourself and see if it works for you.

  13. What information can you provide in aiding me to set up a forwarding address that appears as a residence?

    My temporary overseas traveling address is in Panama where I wish to receive periodic correspondence from Veterans Administration regarding my health as a veteran.

    What are the fees for this service to forward regular mail? Are fees rated by the month or by the number of pieces of mail per month?

    Regards,
    T. Cole

  14. Heather O'Conner

    I’ve used US GLobal Mail (https://www.usglobalmail.com/) for years now as we are a serial expat family! Never had issues getting credit cards, medicines and other items i need from the US. Possibly becasue I can use a Appt# NNN with my address.

  15. Heather O'Conner

    @T.Cole- here’s the info on how you can see your mail and also sign up for the service: https://www.usglobalmail.com/discover/virtual-mailbox-tour/

  16. I am an expat having lived and worked across asia most of my career; Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Taiwan. During much of this time my wife and I have used a service called American eBox which provides various service levels with differing benefits. Last year we upgraded to the Platinum level, which reduced our costs and offers a cashback. Its worked out well for my wife who orders a lot of stuff from Amazon, Macy’s, and other merchants.

    They offer many hidden incentives to reduce your shipping cost and generally our shipping cost in negligible due to discounts and incentives offered. I’m only offering my opinion, having used various services over time, but if you do sign up, feel free to mention my name. http://www.americanebox.com

  17. I have been using Traveling Mailbox for over two years now while my wife and I travel the Country. It has been great. They scan all of my mail so I can see the envelopes and the contents and the prices are very reasonably. I have even needed them to mail something for me before and they have done that as well. The biggest kicker is their customer service. Its fantastic. I always get prompt responses to my emails and when you call, they actually pick up the phone. Not many companies offer this type of customer service anymore. Their website is https://travelingmailbox.com

  18. You can have US address for such a situation that will be used as your State’s address. All your mail will be received and forwarded from this address. There are services that provide such services to get you over with such concern.