Due to the Patriot Act of 2003, you absolutely need a physical address to bank, to vote, to file taxes. You absolutely can not use a service such as Traveling Mailbox, Earth Class, etc., street-based or not, in lieu of a physical address.
I faced this issue a few months back and, as you, found it incredibly confusing and confounding. Many people responded to inquiries about the matter with stories of their using a mail service in the past—or still using one they have had for years.
But, you will also find a new and growing number of folks having problems—instances of folks whose accounts were frozen suddenly and without warning if they are currently using a digital mailbox (street-based or not); other people who can’t seem to open a new account using digital mailbox.
In fact, you might also have noticed that while Traveling Mailbox used to promote their viability for this precise use case, they actually no longer do. The last I spoke with them, they didn’t outright admit it (likely because the reality is not great for their business model) but they also no longer offered to refund any fees if the bank didn’t accept them as a physical address, which they had in the past.
So, why is this just now starting to emerge? And why is there so much conflicting information? It’s because banks are having to start cracking this year as the “grandfather” period of them not having to confirm that all account holders have an actual physical addresses is coming to a close.
So, there are still folks who use services like Traveling Mailbox for their physical address and think all is fine and dandy. And there are still banks where you might be able to change your address without having to provide proof of residency. But it’s risky business—a gamble that your bank won’t just freeze your accounts at some point in the near future.
Here’s the good news—you absolutely can use a friend’s or family member’s address as your primary/physical/residential address. I double checked this as the friend whose address I use is a state’s attorney so he has to be absolutely legal in everything.
Here’s what I did:
Secure the required documentation for getting a new driver’s license at the new address. (This is not easy, in fact it is a horrible pit of despair but it can be done).
Get both a Driver’s License and State ID with the new address so you have two forms of ID.
Use said IDs as proof of your new physical address.
After registering your physical address, add a “mailing address” to as many accounts as you can to reduce the burden on your friends and streamline getting your physical mail. Note: some accounts don’t offer a mailing address and there’s no getting around that.
Answer carefully whenever registering international travel on your accounts as banks will cancel your account if they think/decide you are out of the country for longer than they feel comfortable—which is completely random and makes virtually no sense. I had two banks cancel my account because I couldn’t give them a precise date of return to the US.
Hope this helps.
Don’t give up international travel just because the US has regressed into a feudal society wherein you must be a landowner or have a landowner vouch for you in order to be a participating member of society! In fact, use it as a good reason to get out and explore how amazing it can be to live in countries that are actually free.