First thing’s first, what exactly is Postcrossing? And what is PenPal? On the face of it, both Postcrossing and PenPal are online platforms which help match members across the world with other pen pal members in real life. So the next question on your lips might be…
What is a pen pal?
A pen pal or penfriend refers to someone a bit like a friend who you exchange letters or postcards with. You’ve probably never met and typically, a pen pal resides in another country. Most likely, your pen pal is a stranger and your relationship is maintained exclusively or almost exclusively via snail mail.
Reasons people have pen pals include hobbies like:
- Practising a foreign language
- Learning about other cultures
- Making new friends
- Practicing literacy – for instance as a school child
What is Postcrossing?
Postcrossing.com is a postcard swapping project that allows anyone to send and also receive postcards from different places in the world. You can send postcards to different postcrossers (AKA members) all around the world.
How Does Postcrossing Work?
The idea behind Postcrossing is simple but the process is relatively complex: for each postcard you send, you will receive one back from a random postcrosser from somewhere in the world. An account is free, but each member must of pay for the postcard or letter and the postage fees to mail them.
This is the Postcrossing process:
- The first thing that you have to do is to make a request to enable you to send a postcard.
- The site then emails you the address of a random member and a postcard ID (e.g. US-967). The postcard ID is made to uniquely identify that specific postcard in the system.
- You then write and send the postcard including the postcard ID and a stamp.
- Once your postcard arrives, the member registers it with the postcard ID, making you eligible to receive a postcard from a new member.
What are the disadvantages of Postcrossing?
1. Direct swaps not encouraged
While it is possible to swap postcards with the same PenPal, it may only occur once. These kinds of exchanges are not part of the officially recognized happenings on the website.
2. Limit on how many postcards may travel at once
The number of postcards that can be registered as ‘traveling’ at any single time starts at just five. The more postcards you send, the higher it goes, stoping at 100.
3. No address security
Your address will be given out to another random Postcrossing member.
What is PenPal?
Rather than helping people to collect postcards, PenPal aims to foster new relationships and friendships all over the world. The focus is on friendly and honest communication, as the building blocks of a genuine friendship – especially one which spans miles!
The community platform makes matching, sending and receiving postcards via snail mail ultra easy, safe and cheap – to ensure accessibility for everyone. It’s absolutely free to create an account and while PenPals always receive real printed postcards in the mail, the process of sending postcards takes place entirely online. Once you’ve finished designing your personalizable postcard (or used one of the many designs), the platform uses MyPostcard to print and deliver your postcards to your pen pal.
So how does PenPal work?
- Create your free account and fill out your profile.
- Request a PenPal – either by requesting a match, which is based on your interests, or by searching for someone directly. You’ll have access to your new PenPal’s public profile, so you can get to know a little about them. This does NOT include their address. Because your personal address is never shared and remains securely hidden behind a username.
- Say hello! Write your postcard, upload a photo and click send. (PenPal prints and mails your postcard.)
- Your PenPal receives your postcard and is over the moon! They mark it as received to check out your profile. The start of a beautiful friendship is in sight!
- And now it’s your turn to keep the relationship going. Better keep an eye on that mailbox!
The advantages of PenPal
1. Direct exchange for true pen pals
PenPal encourages you to really build a lasting and genuine friendship with your pen friends. Recently, the platform built in a chat function at the request of the community, so that members can choose how they interact. Postcards meanwhile allow you to send 3000 characters’ worth of your thoughts!
2. Complete security
With PenPal, your name, address and privacy are completely secure and private behind your chosen username. When someone sends you a postcard, they only see your username, which is then assigned to your private address in the backend of the platform. Other PenPals can see your location on the map, but only as close as your nearest city!
3. Convenience and Affordability
The PenPal experience takes place entirely online until the moment your postcards arrives in the post. What does this mean for you? Essentially, it means that you no longer have to search for a pen, the right postcard, a stamp or the post office. That’s because PenPal uses the MyPostcard service to do all this for you. The price of a postcard includes free shipping at the cheap price of $1.95 – to anywhere in the world.
Postcrossing Vs PenPal: So which platform is right for you?
If you’re a stickler for pen on paper, Postcrossing is the service that allows you to write postcards to pen pals the traditional way. However, if you’re looking to make new connections and build genuine friendships with individuals over time via snail mail – then PenPal is without doubt the right platform for you.