When I was figuring out how to handle my own mail, I was surprised that I couldn’t find any articles that gave a decent overview that goes beyond the very basics of the ins and outs of the USPS we all know and love. The world shall suffer no more! Below is an overview of my many answered questions and acquired wisdom from my research and experiences of moving over and over again. This will only cover forwarding directly with the USPS, although other options exist with the UPS Store and elsewhere.
The USPS offers these services for free on paper or for one dollar using their convenient online or phone services. It is for the most part very convenient, so there is no reason to have to use any other service. In fact, several other services online which advertise turning in your info to the USPS will actually hide hefty service fees of $20 or more which they will charge you after the fact if you aren’t watching your credit card. Others will outright steal your payment information and your identity. So make sure you work with the real deal!
If everyone who needs mail forwarding from one address has the same last name, you can do a family request and will only need one form. Otherwise, each individual with different last names will need their own individual request. Also know that forwarding will only be performed domestically.
To change your address for free, you will need ask for a Change of Address form at any post office. You can also refer to it as their Movers Guide since what you will get is the form inside a packet full of coupons. You can request these at any post office. They often will not have these available without asking for them at the counter because they also contain many useful coupons, so people would just take them for the coupons if they could. So expect to get in line for one if you need one. But to receive and fill out the form is free. You’ll need to drop it in the mail afterwards, and postage is free is well.
Online filing is the postal service’s favored method of request. In order to fill out the form online, visit the following genuine USPS website and follow the instructions in the wizard:
It will require that you pay one dollar both to verify your identity as well as for the convenience. Be aware that the system may initially accept your request and charge your card if your credit card information is correct and then deny it afterwards, for example if your request is attempting to add onto an existing request longer than the 12 month limit. You won’t get a refund of your money even if your request is denied in this way, so be careful not to put in several repeat requests if you get a denial.
Alternatively, you can call their automated line at 1-800-275-8777 and do the same thing and pay a dollar. But typing it yourself might make it less likely that there will be a mistake made.
It’s Mr. Zip!
It’s Mr. Zip! | Source
Be Warned: Not Everything Is Forwarded!
Only first class, priority, or express mail addressed to you will be forwarded, and only if the sender did not place any kind of request that would prevent it from being forwarded. It will be sent on a piece-by-piece basis. Most mail not forwarded you might not miss. It will likely be mostly advertisements and bulk mail that would otherwise just fill your mailboxes. Forwarding is actually a way to get rid of all that stuff, if only for a time. (If you want to use forwarding as a way to more permanently reduce your junk mail, NEVER do a permanent change of address – see below).
However, there is some mail you may miss, like other packages, so definitely know what to expect. The following is NOT forwarded:
Magazines and 2nd-class mail after 60 days
Other non-first class mail – For example, non-profit mail, presorted standard mail, bulk mail, etc
Mail not addressed to you – “Current resident,” etc
Mail with “Return Service Requested” or “Do Not Forward” **unless temporary change of address requested** – Mail with these requests, even if first class, will be returned to sender, since that is what these requests are requesting. Senders of this mail, often bank statements, some bills, etc, want to know that you are at the address they have, and if you are not, they want to know. So this mail will not be forwarded, and the post office will inform them of your forwarding address. However, if your change of address is temporary, this is forwarded, and no notice of the new temporary address is provided.
Mail with “Change Service Requested” – This mail will not be forwarded either. It will also not be returned. Mail will be disposed of (hopefully securely, but I don’t know), and the sender will be informed of your forwarding address.
Note that with other requested services, such as with “Address Service Requested,” mail is forwarded. Mail with that request will be forwarded, but the sender will also be informed of your forwarding address. Mail with “Forwarding Service Requested” will simply be forwarded and senders won’t receive your forwarded address unless your forwarding service ends and the USPS knows your new address.
Permanent Mail Forwarding
When you sign up for “permanent” mail forwarding, your mail is not forwarded permanently. It is merely an indication that you moved permanently. The USPS will forward your mail for one year after your request and will return your mail for 6 months afterwards. People or organizations who sent you mail at your old address will be informed of your new address if they paid for that service (ie, first class mail, “Return Service Requested,” etc).
Permanent change of address requests override temporary change of address requests. To otherwise undo a permanent change of address, you will need the confirmation number on either the confirmation email or letter you received after you first placed the request in order to edit it either online, on the phone, or in person at a post office. If you run into trouble, you may have to contact a USPS Consumer’s Affairs Office.
What most people don’t know about permanent mail forwarding is that anytime you do this, it is reported to the National Change of Address (NCOA) database. This information is kept for 48 months. Your information is shared with pretty much anyone who pays for this information as long as they had a previous address of yours. The USPS loses a lot of money by providing cheap, convenient services, and this is one way they make enough to stay afloat. This works by encouraging vendors to pay for sending you junk mail and also by not having to forward junk mailed to the wrong address. This is unfortunately not something you can opt-out of, so expect your address to be shared when you request a permanent change of address. However, if you set up temporary mail forwarding, which can also last 12 months just like permanent forwarding, you dodge this bullet.