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Preparing to move to a new address? Forwarding mail to your new place is critical.
- Change your address with the postal service
- Alert government agencies and utilities
- Check your old address for unforwarded mail
Overlook this task and you may not get payments or bill notices in time. You might miss out on magazines and other subscriptions. Cards and letters could end up MIA.
Snail mail is still important
“There are so many stressful activities taking place at once during a move. The last thing you want to worry about is mail or bills going missing. There are too many important notifications that you can’t afford to miss,” says Jenna Weinerman, head of marketing with Updater.
Thankfully, this process isn’t hard. Find out what’s involved. Take action well ahead of your move date. And avoid the postal blues.
Forwarding mail: step 1
First, change your address with the USPS. You can change your address online. Do this directly via the USPS.com website. Note that the USPS will charge your credit or debit card $1 as an identity verification fee to prevent fraud. Don’t fall for other online sites that promise to change your address but charge a higher fee.
Alternatively, you can visit your nearest post office. Ask for a Mover’s Guide packet and complete a change of address (COA) paper form (PS Form 3575). Drop it into a letter mail slot or hand it to a worker at the post office.
USPS will stop delivering mail to your former address on the COA start date you indicate on the online or paper form. You can expect mail to begin arriving within seven to 10 postal business days after the COA start date.
You’ll need to complete a separate COA form for every person moving with you. Be sure to choose the “individual” option on the form. Does every member of your family moving with you share the same last name? Then the COA form only needs to be completed once using the “family” option.
If you filed your COA form online, you can check its status online.
You’ll also need to let Uncle Sam’s agencies know about your change of address. Plan to separately contact the:
- Internal Revenue Service (IRS) if you expect a tax refund or other mail.
- Social Security Administration (SSA) if you are enrolled in Medicare or get Social Security retirement, survivors, or disability benefits.
- Department of Motor Vehicles in your state to update your address on your driver’s license or motor vehicle registration.
- Election office in your state to update your address on your voter registration record and be assigned a new polling place if necessary.
- Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) if you’re a veteran who gets benefit payments or wants to update your records.
Letting the government and USPS know of your COA won’t solve all your future mail matters. A bit more effort is also involved.
“Mail forwarding with the USPS only goes so far. It simply forwards mail from address A to address B. The company that sent mail to your address A is actually not notified that you moved. They still don’t know about address B,” Weinerman notes.
“You need to update your address with them directly. This can involve contacting dozens of businesses one by one to inform them of your mailing address and to transfer service.”
These businesses can include:
- Electric, natural gas, telephone, cellular, cable, streaming services, and other utilities
- Banks, lenders, credit unions, credit cards and other financial bodies you have accounts with
- Health, auto, life, homeowner’s and other insurers
- Newspapers, magazines and clubs you subscribe to or have memberships with
- Professionals like your doctor, dentist, attorney, and veterinarian.
Forwarding mail with a temporary address
Maybe you’ll be briefly staying somewhere else before a permanent move. In this case, ask for a temporary COA using the same USPS online form. You can request mail forwarding for as long as one year or as brief as 15 days.
Plan on being away for three to 30 days after the move? The USPS can hold your mail at your local post office until you get back. You can request that your mail be held as early as the next scheduled delivery day or up to a month ahead of time. Confirm that this service is available for your address first.
Perhaps you have urgent mail that you need to be delivered quickly after the move. If so, enroll in USPS’ Premium Forwarding Service. They’ll hold your mail, package it and ship it to you via Priority Mail every week. The fee is $18.45 to enroll online and $20.10 for each extra week you keep it active.
Forwarding mail not always 100 percent effective
Note that the USPS doesn’t forward all mail the same way.
“Be sure to read USPS policies on mail forwarding exceptions,” Weinerman says. For instance, magazines and second class mail will not be forwarded after two months. And if you received incorrectly addressed mail or mail without your actual name on it, this mail will not be forwarded.
Lastly, after the move, you may want to return to your last address to check for mail that got left behind.
“I wouldn’t suggest going back to your old home often. You don’t want to intrude,” she adds. “But you may be worth reaching out or visiting if you notice that something specific hasn’t arrived. Contact the new owner or tenant ahead of time and see if the mail arrived.”