Monday, 10 July 2017

How to Complete a Postal Change of Address

Forwarding mail with the USPS Change of Address Form
If you’re moving, one of the tasks you’ll need to complete is a USPS change of address form. You can do this temporarily (like if you’re moving to college for the semester), or permanently if you’re changing homes. Changing your address means that your mail will be forwarded to your new address. While it’s a good idea to get in touch with those who regularly send you mail and update your address with them, for the contacts you can’t reach or just aren’t aware of, rest assured that your mail can still follow you to your new address. Let’s look at your options for changing your address with the USPS, how to forward mail to a new address, what mail will forward, and what mail won’t forward.

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Options for USPS forwarding
The USPS recommends changing your address 2 weeks before you want your mail forwarded since it can take 7-10 postal business days to begin receiving mail at your new address. According to the USPS, you can make the Change of Address (COA) process faster and easier by notifying everyone who sends you mail about your new address and the date of your move at least two weeks before you move.  Many bills and statements have an area for address change notification to easily update your contact information with the company. Check out this post titled Who Needs Your New Address for a checklist on who you should contact directly when you change your address.

When you’re ready to change your address, there are two choices: regular forward mail, and the USPS Premium Forwarding Service®.

Regular mail forwarding is the cheaper alternative, but not all your mail will be forwarded (more on that later). Regular forwarding service is free if you do a Change of Address form at your local post office or $1.05 if you complete the form online. You can choose a temporary change to have your mail forwarded for 15 days or longer, or select a permanent COA to have your mail forwarded up to one year. With regular change of address, your mail will be sent piece by piece to your new address.

Premium Forwarding involves an enrollment fee plus a weekly fee. With this service, your mail is held, packaged, and sent to you weekly. You can use this service from 2 weeks up to 1 year, though keep in mind that it's not available for PO Boxes. The enrollment fee for the Premium Forward Service is $18 at your local post office or $16.50 online, and the weekly cost is $18 each week you use the service thereafter.

How to Forward Mail to Your New Address
You can either forward mail over the phone, in person at your local post office, or online. You will choose from individual, family, or business forwarding.

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Individual. This means that you are the only one moving. Select “Individual” and repeat the change of address process for each person in the household if:
You receive mail by more than one name (maiden name, married name, or nickname)
Some members of your family with the same last name are moving but others are staying.
Some members of your family are moving but they have different last names.
Family. This means that everyone in your household has the same last name and is moving to the same new address. If someone with the same last name is staying at the old address, then select the “Individual” option. The USPS states that in all cases, family members with different last names or those family members moving to different addresses must prepare separate forms.

Business. This means that your business is moving. An individual change of address from a business addresses is not acceptable. Only a duly authorized representative of the business may forward business mail.
Change of address over the phone
Call 1-800-275-8777 to initiate the mail forwarding. You’ll need to provide a credit card since a $1 verification fee will be charged.

To forward mail at the post office

If you go to the post office, bring 2 forms of ID (at least 1 photo ID) and evidence of residence at the primary address. Acceptable forms of ID include:

Driver’s license or state ID card
Military, government, university or corporate ID
Passport, alien registration card, or certificate of naturalization
To prove residence, you can bring:

Current lease, mortgage, or deed of trust
Voter or vehicle registration card
Home or vehicle insurance policy
If you plan on selecting the Premium Forwarding Service, you also need to bring a form of payment (cash, check, credit card, or debit card). Payment for the entire period of service is due at the time of application.

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Filing a USPS Change of Address online
Visit the USPS website to go through their online process to forward your mail and pay the fees ($1.05 for regular mail forwarding, $16.50 for premium forwarding). If you forward your mail online, you'll also need a valid email address to get a confirmation email.

Confirmation of your change of address
When your COA is activated, you are sent up to three confirmations:

The first confirmation is a Validation Letter sent to your old address to help guard against fraudulent change of addresses. The validation letter will not mention your new mail forwarding address.

The second confirmation is a Confirmation Notification Letter. If you did an online Change of Address, the confirmation code will appear on both the email and on the physical confirmation notification letter. If you changed your address by mail or by phone, the confirmation code will appear only on the confirmation notification letter.

The third confirmation comes with permanent forwarding – a Welcome Kit. It has helpful information for new residents, a community guide, special offers, and coupons related to your new address. You can find the confirmation code on the left side of the confirmation letter attached to the Welcome Kit.
If more than 10 postal business days have passed since your COA was activated and you haven’t received any forwarded mail, call the USPS.

What mail will get forwarded?
Most classes of mail will be forwarded after your change of address is completed. A common question is “Will certified mail get forwarded?”  And the answer is yes! See what types of mail will be forwarded for each type of service.

For regular mail forwarding with the USPS:
First-Class Mail®, Priority Mail®, and Express Mail® will be forwarded for up to 12 months at no charge.
Newspapers and magazines will be forwarded for 60 days at no charge
Package services (bound printed matter, media mail, and library mail) will be forwarded locally up to 12 months at no cost. For forwarding outside the local area, you will pay a fee upon delivery.
Special services including certified mail, collect on delivery (COD), delivery confirmation, insured, registered, or signature confirmation or special handling mail will be forwarded without additional fees to domestic addresses.
For USPS Premium Mail Forwarding Service:
Priority Mail Express® items will be rerouted to your new address.
Priority Mail® pieces will be either held and sent with your residential package or rerouted to you (whichever is faster).
First-Class Mail® will either be included in your residential package or rerouted separately (depending on size).
Standard Mail® pieces will be included in your residential package if they fit, or they will be shipped postage due upon delivery at the 1-pound Parcel Select® Nonpresort Rate.
Mail that will not forward
Not everything gets forwarded to you after completing a change of address form.

For regular mail forwarding, Standard Mail® (unless requested by the mailer) will not be forwarded. That includes:

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Credit card applications
Items specified “do not forward”
Items addressed to “current resident”
With premium forwarding, standard post and package services mail (bound printed matter, media mail, and library mail) will NOT be included in the residential package or rerouted. Instead, they will be shipped postage due upon delivery under the same price they were originally sent.

How The Post Office Sells Your Address

Have you ever wondered how junk mail follows you so easily when you move to a new address? How do credit card companies, catalogs, charities seeking money and everyone else all know when you have moved across town or across the country entirely?

Whenever you fill out a change of address form with the United States Postal Service, the USPS adds your new details into a database of 160 million previous address changes over the past four years. The USPS has deals with data brokers to sell this data to anyone who pays, provided they have your old address. That means data firms cannot buy the address of Leroy Jones in Cincinnati, but can obtain his new address if they know where he used to live, which they usually do anyway.

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It’s all there in the fine print when you sign up for a change of address: "We do not disclose your personal information to anyone, except in accordance with the Privacy Act.” Then it lists a number of exceptions including “to mailers, if already in possession of your name and old mailing address, as an address correction service.”

The Postal Service set up its current National Change of Address program, sometimes abbreviated as NCOA, in 1986. Until 2002, the USPS licensed to just 22 companies. After complaints about privacy violations, they reformatted the data to assure only those with the former address could obtain the new information, according to spokesman Roy Betts. That change allowed the postal service to distribute the address changes more widely. Today they license to about 500 companies, he said.

“Either weekly or monthly we distribute an updated file of change-of-address data to the licensed companies,” Betts said. “Mailers submit their address lists directly to these commercial data processors who update the information and return to the mailer.”

A full license with four years of data costs $190,000.  The post office also sells cheaper licenses with 18 months of data.  The Postal Service makes about $8 million a year licensing its change of address data, according to James Wilson, the USPS manager of address management. But the program results in big savings by avoiding additional cost of forwarding mail. "The ability to update customer address information through NCOALink has been previously estimated to save the USPS and the postal rate payer in excess of $1 billion annually," he said, referring to what they call undeliverable-as-addressed mail. " This amount does not include the savings to the mailing industry for wasted postage, production costs, and lost customers."

The Postal Service lost nearly $16 billion in fiscal year 2012, then another $3.1 billion in the first half of fiscal 2013.


When the Direct Marketing Association holds its annual convention, the USPS sets up a large stand to pitch the service in a giant hall alongside the country’s biggest data brokers. Last fall, that’s where I met Bob Eide, an affable direct mail specialist who has been with the postal service since 1973. He told me about a fifth of the U.S. population moves every year, and that the sale of new addresses to data brokers saves the postal service money by reducing the amount of mail they have to forward to new addresses.

Among those buying full licenses are some of the country’s most prominent data brokers including Acxiom ACXM -1.08%, Epsilon, FICO, Harte Hanks, InfoUSA, Merkle and KBM Group. Licensees in turn sell that data to direct marketers. Prices vary; a few I looked at charge around $1,000 to update one million address records. Other companies incorporate the information into their comprehensive dossiers on almost all Americans (one leader in the field, Acxiom, recently said it would allow consumers to see their individual dossiers for the first time from the end of the summer).

If you want to forward your mail, the USPS does not offer an option to opt out of sharing the data, or even paying for the privilege of opting out. Members of Congress have from time to time proposed creating an opt-out option, but to date such initiatives have failed. Some continue to lobby for the idea.

“There's nothing terrible about NCOA, but people should be given a choice,” says Bob Gellman, a privacy expert who worked for many years as a Congressional subcommittee staff member. “New movers are fodder for data brokers, who sell mailing lists to marketers and who also maintain lifetime files on every household in America.  NCOA is a prime source of this information.”

“USPS justifies the program on the grounds that they don't ‘sell’ the list but license its use. That is a subterfuge.  Supposedly, you only get a new address if you have the old address already.  Because data brokers have every household in America in their files, the information goes from NCOA to the data brokers, who flag every change and resell lists of new movers to anyone. “

There is, however, a loophole that keeps data brokers from accessing your updated address. When you fill out the online form to change an address, you can indicate a temporary change that provides six months of forwarding that can then be extended for another six months.  That information, unlike the changes marked as permanent, is not included in the master list sold to data brokers.

Even if you do not file a change of address with the post office, data brokers often learn that you have moved when you update your magazine subscriptions, deed registrations, phone connections, credit card details or have transitions with other companies. Then they include you into a list of ‘new movers.’ Data brokers such as Experian sell such lists to doctors and dentists, lawn maintenance services, furniture and appliance dealers and others who want to lure the business of the new kid in town.

"Given that a customer has the option to submit a change-of-address or to make alternative arrangements to have their mail forwarded, along with the option of submitting a temporary change-of-address, we believe providing an opt-out from allowing the updating of outdated address information yields minimum benefits while it can result in significant cost increases," said Wilson of the USPS. "Also, since customer address information is routinely compiled and disseminated by a whole host of channels outside of the USPS change-of-address program, adding an opt-out option to the USPS change-of-address program significantly burdens the mailing industry with little effect on preventing the disclosure of customer information by these other means."

usps change of address