APO and FPO Ebay Sales and Shipping Explained

It's neither more difficult nor more expensive to serve APO and FPO customers

APO and FPO parcels go to U.S. military persons stationed around the world, but for sellers and shippers, behave and cost the same as domestic U.S. mail. Image: Ryan D. McLearnon / U.S. Navy

Sellers on eBay are free to choose to whom they'll sell their wares, and for U.S. sellers in particular, the norm has often become a willingness to sell to the "lower 48" but to exclude international shipments, states outside the lower 48, and APO and FPO addresses.

Some sellers may not even know what "APO" and "FPO" mean, apart from a vague awareness that they have something to do with government and must cause problems of some kind if so many other sellers are unwilling to ship to them.

What APO and FPO Mean

APO and FPO addresses, in fact, are the addresses of U.S. military personnel stationed around the world.

APO addresses are associated with the U.S. Army ("Army Post Office") while FPO addresses are associated with the U.S. Navy ("Fleet Post Office") and generally don't contain street addresses, but rather box numbers.

Generally speaking, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) is the way to get a package delivered to APO and FPO addresses.

How Much Hassle it Really Is

With such an unofficial stigma attached to shipments to APO and FPO addresses, it's tempting to imagine (for those that have never shipped to them) that they create extra hassles of some sort.

There are one or two additional constraints involved in shipping to APO and FPO addresses, but in general terms, there's little to no additional hassle of any kind involved. In most cases, shipping to an APO or FPO is no more difficult than, and involves no more cost than, shipping to any other domestic address.

If you're already shipping using USPS, there's really no reason not to ship to APO and FPO addresses. If you don't already ship via USPS, eBay makes it easy to do, giving you the ability to create pre-printed, automatically-tracked shipping labels directly from your PayPal balance for any sales that you make.

How to Create and Address an APO or FPO Shipment

If you're already using pre-printed eBay shipping labels, there's nothing additional that you have to do when it comes to packing your shipment, addressing your package, and paying for shipping. Simply use the address that eBay and/or PayPal provide for your buyer, the one that is automatically added to the label. Shipping costs will usually be either the same or similar to domestic rates for all common kinds of USPS packaging since APO and FPO addresses are still considered domestic addresses.

If you need to address the package yourself, follow these guidelines:

  • Put the box number where you would normally put a "street address"

  • Put the word "APO" where you would normally put the "city"

  • Put the two-letter code following "APO" or "FPO" where you would normally put the two-letter "state" code

  • Put the ZIP code just where you would normally put any other ZIP code

After addressing your package and paying for shipping, there's one other wrinkle that must me attended to before your package is on its way to an APO and FPO address—a customs form is likely to be required since your package will, in fact, be traveling internationally in many cases.

This adds no cost to your shipment and only takes a moment to do.

Use United States Post Office form 2976 to describe the contents of your package. You can avoid having to make a trip to the post office, and include the package in your regular pickups or dropoffs without additional waiting or interaction, by using and printing the online version of the customs form at the USPS website.

It's Your Gain

Given that shipping to APO and FPO addresses is so much easier and more painless than many sellers imagine, the fact is that you only stand to gain by opening your sales to APO and FPO customers—and with so many other sellers refusing to deal with them, you also gain a foothold into an often underserved market where you'll have far less competition from other sellers.