Mail Forwarding Services for Retirees in the Philippines

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If you’re planning to spend your retirement overseas you may want to hire a mail forwarding service in your home country to receive your mail and forward it to you at your overseas home.  There are a number of considerations.

  • You may want to keep your mail coming to a single USA address, especially if you are not sure if your overseas living experiment will be successful or if you are not sure where you will finally settle.
  • Some institutions and agencies will not open or continue an account for you if you have an overseas address.
  • You may not want sensitive financial information coming to the Philippines through the Philippine Postal Service.  If you’re fortunate enough to have substantial assets, it’s best to keep that information to yourself.  Internet-only access is another solution but one that is not always available.  For example, how can you receive your new plastic ATM or credit card?
  • Some seek to change their residency from a high-tax state to one with no income tax.

We have been using for seven years. We are very happy with them.  They provide you with a Miami street address.  You notify all correspondents of your new address and your mail starts flowing there. assigns a bar code to each piece of incoming mail.  They scan the outside of each letter.  At your request, they will send you an email notifying you of each new piece of mail arriving in your box. You log on to the website and review the items in your box.  You can see the scan of the front face of each envelope you have received.  That really helps figure out if something is junk or important.  You mark each to be retained in your box, to be discarded or to be forwarded to you anywhere in the world.  Under the plan I selected, the charge is $10.00 per month plus shipping.  If I want my mail forwarded to me in the Philippines,  they ship it to me via FedEx overnight and I get the shipment in about three days.  The service from FedEx has been better than DHL.  It costs me about $28.50 per shipment of one pound. Each additional pound is $5.95.  These rates are very good for FedEx/DHL international express shipments.  Sometimes I’ll include a book or some other item I especially want.  I’ll order from, have the item shipped to my address and they will express mail it to me with my next shipment.  I only have my mail sent to me every several months, so the monthly cost is reasonable. has recently introduced scanning as an additional option for items in your mailbox.  For $9.95 they will open a letter, scan it and email the scan as a PDF document.  This is a very useful option.  Many time you really don’t need the physical mail, you just need the information within it.  For example, I disputed a credit card charge.  My bank sent me a form which had to be filled out and returned within thirty days.  Rather than paying $28.50 to have it sent to me via FedEx, I had it scanned for $9.95.

FedEx really does deliver!

FedEx outside our gate.  Notice wired-on headlight, rusted out forks and impromptu front fender  — but still they did make the delivery.

When you select a mail forwarding service, do your best to find out how long it has been in business and how many customers it has.  It would be a nightmare to get all your mail going to a remailer and then have them go out of business.  When this happens, the US Postal Service may then return all your mail to the original sender as undeliverable.  Getting a new address and getting all your mail changed over to it will not be fun.  This is not a theoretical problem.  I was considering a Texas-based mail forwarding service but decided to go with  Later I learned that the Texas service had gone out of business.   We’re  going to stick with  It’s a well-organized, well-managed business and it meets our needs.

When shipping to the Philippines, we suggest you ask your shipper to avoid DHL. USABox had been using DHL as the shipper.  The problem is that DHL would unnecessarily route our shipment through Philippine customs in Manila, even though it was only documents.  That meant that we ended up paying a bunch of customs fees totaling P548.60 extra on a supposedly pre-paid shipment.  The Iloilo DHL office opened our package to confirm that the contents were documents.  They were, but it made no difference.  They insisted on payment.  Further, it was a bit disconcerting to have our mail, including investment account statements and bank statements rifled through in front of other customers.  When we contested these fees DHL threatened to declare our shipment to be “abandoned”. Since our forwarded mail included our 2008 tax documents, we had no choice but to pay the DHL fees.

Since then we’ve asked to use FedEx and have not had further problems.  Just be aware that you must not include anything of value with your mail.  If you do FedEx will insist on a customs declaration and your whole shipment will be handled by Philippine customs.  Once I included a free replacement USB cable sent to me by Barnes and Noble.   It ended up costing about $20 in extra customs fees.

If you do include items of value, ask that ship via U.S. Postal Service International Priority or Airmail.   Mail (not FedEx, not DHL) seems to be processed through local not Manila customs and the expenses are much less.

U.S. Telephone Service

When you live in the Philippines, or elsewhere overseas, you may wish to maintain a telephone number in the U.S.  For example, because I use my U.S. credit card overseas they sometimes call me with a “fraud inquiry” to find out if I authorized a particular charge.  There are many other circumstances where you may wish to have a permanent U.S. phone number so that people can reach you by phone or fax no matter where you may be in the world.

There are a number of options for maintaining a U.S. phone number.  Vonage, Skype and other VOIP vendors offer such numbers.  I have had a Skype U.S. number, but now use Maxemail ( because it’s cheap and reliable.   I found the Skype answering system to be unreliable and besides, more expensive.  Especially annoying was that it would constantly “lose” our personalized message and so play a generic one.  Callers are reassured if they hear a personalized message in your own voice.  Getting a computer-generated generic message can raise more questions.

With Maxemail, you can choose a number in a specific city (that costs more) or you can accept whatever number they assign you.  With the proliferation of cell phones, having a number in the area code where you live has become pretty irrelevant.  I use the “Lite” versions of Maxemail which costs $24.95 per year.

Once you have your account with Maxemail, you can record a personal message  in your voice which will be played when someone calls your number.  Callers will be given the option of leaving a voice message or sending a fax.  The messages they leave are saved and immediately sent to your e-mail address.  There will be an e-mail in your inbox with an attached audio recording of the telephone voice message.  You can choose which audio format works best for you.  I use Windows Media Player.

If you receive a fax, it will be converted into a PDF file and sent to your e-mail address.  You can also send faxes (at a small extra charge) using the Maxemail service.  Supported file types include: .doc, .xls, .txt, .pdf, .tif, .html, .htm, .gif, .jpg and others.  I almost always use PDF.

We don’t have any interest in Maxemail, except that it works well for us.

Google Voice.  Technology moves on.  Before you move to the Philippines, establish a Google Voice account.  That will give you some of the benefits of for free.  You’ll be able to have a have a U.S. phone number.  Friends and family can call you in the Philippines via Google Voice, but will be charged low U.S. long distance rates.  For example, we have an area code 518 Google Voice number.  Callers from the U.S. pay for a call to that area code.  Callers can leave voice mail.  You can call Philippine phone numbers for eleven U.S. cents per minute, a good rate.  It’s weird that you can call a Philippine phone using Google Voice for less than using a Philippine cellphone.

Google Voice calls from the Philippines to the U.S. are currently FREE so we hardly use Skype to make such calls.  You don’t have to have a Google Voice account to make these free calls to the U.S.  If you use the Chrome web browser, you can download a Google phone/chat plug in that allows you to make the free calls.  The Chrome web browser is excellent. probably the most secure browser available and certainly better than Microsoft’s Internet Explorer which has been plagued with security problems.

Signing up for Google Voice from the Philippines is tricky.  You have to provide a U.S. phone number.  A Philippine phone number will not work.  Google will then call this number to confirm your account.  If you don’t have such a number and/or can’t answer Google’s call, set-up will fail.   We urge you to set up Google Voice while you are still in the U.S.  Having a Skype In or MagicJack U.S. number is a workaround.

Magic Jack.  Magic Jack is a hardware and software phone solution favored by many expats.  It too gives you a U.S. phone number and cheap calling overseas.  One big advantage is that Magic Jack allows you to pug in and use a regular land line phone as opposed to making and receiving calls through your computer.  We have not used Magic Jack but is a solution well worth exploring.

Comments (11) Write a comment

  1. To Bob and Carol,
    Have used a Magic Jack (MJ) for 5 years and swear by it.
    One must have Internet and even a slow DSL package works great. The MJ one time cost is about $20. The lowest price I have seen in the Philippines is 2150PhP which includes the first year “user” fee. Look on
    Calls to US and Canadian land line and cell numbers are free, subject to an annual “user” fee of $20. Costs to land lines in many European and other countries can run as low as 1-$cent per minute. World wide rates are shown on the net. The quality of service is great. In case there is a bad line just hang up and dial again.
    One gets a number in he US (or Canada) and when “dialed” from any phone, anywhere in the world, it rings on the hand set connected to the MJ or on the computer speakers.
    There is choice of what number one gets at the initial MJ setup.
    If you have a relative say in Boston, you can choose a number with an area code in that area so that your relative can dial your MJ number for free and get it to ring at your MJ, where-ever its located, as long as it is connected to a computer with an Internet connection. There are other features as well, together with a lot of bad comment on the net about the MJ.
    All I can say I have used it for over 5 years and it has worked great for me.
    When there is a bad line, its not he fault of the MJ as far as I know. Get a cheap extra regular phone and leave it connected to the MJ and leave the computer, or laptop, on all the time, while the monitor, as the highest power consumer, can be off. That phone is then connected to your MJ number and you have a regular dial tone when you pick up the handset.

    Just email or use someone’s MJ to call me at my MJ
    781-314-6831. (781) my choice for an area code in the Boston area so my friend can can call me from his land line for free.

    Cheers, Hans & Zen


    • Hans and Zen,

      Thanks very much for taking the time to share you experiences with MagicJack. I too have read the negative MJ reviews but I also have friends who swear by their MagicJacks. I have relied on Google Voice and Skype but I do see the real advantage of MagicJack. We live in a place where a land line is not available so I sometimes have to use Google Voice or Skype to make local landline calls. I note that MagicJack is 14.5 cents per minute to Philippine land lines. Skype (no subscription) rate is 19.8 cents. Google Voice is 11 cents per minute but the quality is not always good. Being able to plug in a landline is great, especially for us. We’ll have to give it a try.

      Thanks again,



  2. Bob

    What a great article. With our impending move to Roxas in less than 90 days, this information is just on time.



  3. Greetings!

    I guess I have been lucky with PhilPost. About the worst that has happened is occasionally having to “bribe” the post master to release a package.


  4. Pingback: Mail Forwarding Services for Retirees in the Philippines | Philippines or Bust

  5. I use Vonage for US calls it cost a bit more, but there si no blockage from the local telco,


  6. Hello. As far as US phone numbers go, my wife (Filipina) and I (American) have been using yahoo voice for a few years now. You pay 2.95 usd per year and get to choose which area code you would like your number in. This gives you an option if your family only has local pay plans. You can also choose which email address to send voice mail messages to (pre-recorded from Yahoo) and an email gets sent that you can play back on your computer.


  7. Pingback: Philippine Postal Service – be careful at

  8. Pingback: International shipping from Iloilo City at

  9. I’ve been using
    They provide a US Address and then delivery internationally via air mail. They don’t charge a “per shipment” fee, just the international shipping according to size/weight of the box. That’s it, no hidden fees and great website technology too.


  10. I love my solution at They are really best for packages, and believe me, they can save you a TON on shipping. The secret is to shop at more than one website before having your packages (and mail, if you want) sent to your overseas address.

    I’m wrapping up (no pun intended) my holiday shopping soon, and then eagerly awaiting a shipment with everything at one time. It’s kinda like Christmas for me, just because there’s so much neat stuff in one box!

    I’ve bought valuable collectibles on eBay and I’ve never had a problem with anything getting broken. The one time my shipment did get lost by the carrier, myus filed a claim for me! I got my money back quickly from DHL.

    From goIloilo: We’ve looked at the myus website. Here are comments and questions.

    1. We use http://www.usabox mostly to receive mail, only occasionally packages. myusa seems more geared to shopping and delivery of packages.
    2. In order to get mail delivery you have to choose the premium membership level which costs more than charges.
    3. We can’t tell from the website if you can see scans of incoming mail as you can on
    4. We note that the primary carrier used is DHL. We get poor service from where we live in the Philippines. FedEx is much better.

    We’re always looking for the best options for expats (including ourselves!) so if you can clarify these issues, it will be appreciated.

    Bob and Carol


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