How Does Mail Forwarding Work?

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March 25, 2024

It’s not uncommon to misplace valuable possessions during a move, from cherished family heirlooms to essential documents like passports and birth certificates.

After all, while moving to a new home can be exciting, it can also be a whirlwind of overwhelming tasks and boxes. Unfortunately, there’s one aspect of relocating that often gets overlooked – your mail.

If occasional missing items aren’t uncommon, neither is a scenario wherein your vital documents, bills, and valuable packages pile up somewhere you no longer call home.

Here’s where the U.S. Postal Service’s (USPS) mail forwarding service comes to the rescue. It offers a simple yet effective solution, ensuring you can settle into your new home with peace of mind, knowing your mail will arrive at your current address.

This article delves into the Postal Service mail forwarding feature, available options and how they work. 

Do you require additional information on redirecting letters and packages from your old address to a new one? Talk to a Postal Service representative.

Use FindPostOffice.org’s USPS facility search tool to find your area’s nearest and most convenient post office locations.

What Is Mail Forwarding With USPS?

The concept of the United States Postal Service’s (USPS) mail forwarding option is straightforward. As its name implies, it’s a service that redirects mail piece by piece from one address to a different one.

Moving or Relocating

Whether moving permanently or taking an extended vacation at a different mailing address, the USPS Mail Forwarding Service lets you reroute your parcels. However, note that forwarding doesn’t happen automatically.

Mail forwarding will only begin once you submit a USPS change of address (COA) request. Depending on the scope of your rerouting needs, you may need to fill out one of two forms:

  • Temporary COA: If you’re only relocating for around 15 days to a year, submitting a temporary change of address form allows you to redirect First-Class Mail and periodicals.
  • Permanent COA: Filing a permanent change of address with USPS lets you reroute First-Class Mail and periodicals. It also provides your new address to business mailers via mailer endorsements.

Note that submitting a COA request only changes your address with the Postal Service. In other words, you must still update government agencies, like the IRS (Internal Revenue Service) and DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles), and private companies like banks and insurance providers.

What Are Available USPS Forwarding Options?

The U.S. Postal Service offers two mail-forwarding options: standard and premium. The regular option reroutes specific mail classes to the address you provided in your change of address request for up to 12 months.

On the other hand, the USPS Premium Forwarding Services (PFS) are options that give you more control and flexibility over when and where you receive mail and packages.

PFS-Residential makes use of the USPS Priority Mail network to forward important mail through weekly deliveries. On the other hand, PFS-Commercial lets you set the rerouting frequency and forward parcels to a P.O. box or business address.

Getting Started

Once you’ve decided to set up a mail forwarding solution, it’s essential to start the process efficiently. 

Whether you’re planning a permanent move, a temporary change of address, or want to manage your mail more effectively, here’s how to get started:

What Mail Is Forwarded?

With the standard service, USPS will send First-Class Mail, periodicals, Priority Mail, Priority Mail Express, and USPS Ground Advantage (previously USPS First-Class Package, USPS Parcel Select Ground, and USPS Retail Ground) mailpieces to your new address for free.

The regular mail-forwarding service also redirects Media Mail. However, you must cover the shipping cost of $3.92 up to $55.67, depending on the parcel’s weight. Unfortunately, Marketing Mail isn’t included in the mail forwarding list.

If you enroll in USPS’ Premium Forwarding Service, expect redirection for virtually all mail classes, including Bound Printed Matter, Media Mail, Library Mail, and Parcel Select items.

How to Change Your Address Online

The U.S. Postal Service allows you to submit a change of address form online. Here’s a step-by-step guide on accomplishing this task and receiving forwarded mailpieces at your new address:

  1. Visit the USPS change of address page.
  2. Select whether you’re moving as an individual, family, or business.
  3. Fill out the COA request.
  4. Complete the identity verification process via:
    1. Mobile verification, wherein you’ll receive a one-time passcode (OTP) or link
    2. A USPS facility offering in-person identity proofing

Fortunately, there are over 18,000 post offices nationwide that offer in-person identity-proofing services. Head to FindPostOffice.org to find your area’s nearest USPS facility so that you can complete the identity verification process.

  1. Pay the $1.10 identity verification fee using a debit or credit card.
  2. Wait for USPS to acknowledge your change of address request. You can monitor, modify, or cancel your COA order using a confirmation code USPS will send to your email.

Note that the Postal Service will send a welcome kit, including its partners’ coupons, to your new address. When you receive this package, expect your mail to arrive. 

How to Change Your Address at the Post Office

If you need assistance from a Postal Service representative or prefer to verify your identity in person, USPS allows you to submit a COA request at local post offices. Here’s how you do that:

  1. Find your area’s nearest post office with in-person identity-proofing services using FindPostOffice.org’s locator tool. Remember that USPS won’t collect fees for in-person identity validation.
  2. Present a USPS-approved photo I.D. to the retail associate. Acceptable identification includes state-issued driver’s licenses and U.S. passports. You may also use a mortgage contract or vehicle insurance policy as a secondary form of identification.
  3. Request a free Mover’s Guide packet containing the COA form (PS Form 3575) and discount coupons for USPS services from the retail associate.
  4. Complete the change of address form and wait for the Postal Service to process your request.

Extended Mail Forwarding

Whether you opt for USPS’ standard or premium mail-forwarding option, the maximum service duration will be 12 months. Fortunately, the U.S. Postal Service allows you to extend parcel rerouting in six-month increments, up to 18 months.

You can include an extension when you submit a change of address form or edit your request using the confirmation code on the USPS website. However, once you request an extension, you won’t be able to cancel it or request a refund.

Premium Forwarding Services

As mentioned, the U.S. Postal Service provides a premium variant of its mail-forwarding service. These additional services include PFS-Residential and PFS-Commercial.

Both PFS-Residential and PFS-Commercial provide a temporary mail rerouting solution. The former is designed for residential customers, while the latter is for business applicants.

How Premium Forwarding Works

USPS Premium Forwarding Services work similarly to the standard forwarding option by redirecting mailpieces from a previous address to a new one. Their distinction lies in the rerouting process.

Regular mail forwarding sends your mail piece by piece as it comes. In contrast, the Postal Service’s premium options collect and pack your parcels at a local post office.

Depending on your chosen premium service, rerouting of the stored items occurs once a week, at your preferred frequency, or immediately via Priority Mail Express.  

Enroll for Premium Forwarding Online

Enrolling for Premium Forwarding Service-Residential includes the following steps:

  1. Cancel your active forwarding service or change of address requests.
  2. Visit the PFS-Residential enrollment page.
  3. Complete the PFS-Residential application form and pay the associated fees.

For PFS-Commercial, the process is relatively the same. However, you must meet some requirements to enroll in this USPS Premium Forwarding Service. These prerequisites include:

  • A valid business mail address
  • A USPS Business Customer Gateway account
  • A PostalOne! Permit
  • A USPS Enterprise Payment System (EPS) account
  • An Electronic Verification System (eVS) account

Enroll In Person at the Post Office

You can enroll at a local post office for USPS’ premium mail-forwarding services. Doing so allows you to receive personal and tailored assistance from the Postal Service’s retail associates. Here are the steps: 

  1. Visit your P.O. box’s post office location. You can find this specific post office location by visiting FindPostOffice.org and using the USPS facility finder tool.
  2. Present a primary photo I.D. and a secondary I.D. to the Post Service representative.
  3. Follow the retail associate’s instructions and pay the associated fees.

The Upsides and Downsides of USPS Mail Forwarding

Mail forwarding with USPS offers several advantages, making it a valuable service for when you’re moving. These benefits include the following:

  • Enhanced privacy: One benefit of mail forwarding is that it safeguards your privacy. Strangers won’t have access to your mail because they won’t be left at your old address, ensuring your personal and confidential information remains secure.
  • Cost-effective: USPS mail forwarding is remarkably cost-effective. Setting up the standard service costs nearly nothing, making it affordable for anyone looking to maintain a consistent mailing address.
  • Convenient sign-up: Enrolling for mail forwarding is a breeze. You can initiate the process online, from the comfort of your home, or visit your local post office for in-person assistance.
  • Family change of address: If your whole family is moving with you, you can all sign up for mail forwarding under a single account. This means everyone sharing your last name can have their mail redirected to the new location, offering a streamlined solution for everyone.
  • Flexible forwarding periods: USPS provides flexibility in choosing the duration of your mail forwarding service. You can opt for a minimum period of 15 days to a maximum of 12 months, catering to your specific needs.

Unfortunately, like any service, USPS’ mail forwarding solutions come with a few limitations, including:

  • Delayed start: One drawback of USPS mail forwarding is that it doesn’t immediately begin after you submit a COA request.

According to USPS, although its mail forwarding service typically kicks in within three business days, giving up to two weeks of allowance is best.

  • Limited to specific mail classes: USPS standard mail forwarding covers various mail items, including First-Class Mail and Priority Mail. However, it doesn’t redirect Marketing Mail.

While USPS’ premium solutions allow you to forward almost all mail classes, they come with additional costs that warrant extra consideration, especially if you don’t receive high-volume mail regularly.

  • Address remains unchanged: The U.S. Postal Service will supply your new address to business mailers. Unfortunately, it doesn’t officially change your address with service providers.

In short, you must manually update your address with government agencies and other organizations.

  • Enrollment fees: The standard mail-forwarding service is almost free, only requiring you to pay  $1.10 when you sign up online.

However, the USPS Premium Forwarding Services require additional charges, such as the enrollment fee, weekly shipment fee, and postage cost (PFS-Commercial).

Who Is Mail Forwarding Good For?

Whether you need a more stable location to receive your mail, are relocating to a new home, or want to improve your customers’ experience, mail forwarding is beneficial for various situations.

However, determining the value of a mail-forwarding service depends on the number of mailpieces you receive and need the U.S. Postal Service to reroute to the correct address.

Do You Receive a Lot of Mail?

USPS’ standard mail forwarding solution may be worth getting regardless of how much mail arrives at your doorstep, as it’s virtually free. Conversely, enrolling in the USPS Premium Forwarding Services requires more thought.

If You Don’t:

Applying for a premium forwarding option like PFS-Residential may not be worth it if you only receive mail and packages occasionally, as doing so comes with extra costs.

Instead, consider a virtual mailbox. This digital tool lets you open, scan, and read your mail any time you want using your computer or mobile device.

Depending on the virtual mailbox provider, you may even get a permanent U.S. mailing address, which you can use in your COA request. Doing so allows the service to access your mail, eliminating the need for package pick-ups.

If You Do:

If you’re running a business, such as an eCommerce retail store, or you simply receive an extensive amount of mailpieces, USPS Premium Forwarding Services are worth considering.

Why? A premium mail-forwarding service offers greater flexibility, convenience, and level of customization that you won’t receive with a regular forwarding option – benefits that make the extra cost worth it.

Mail Forwarding to a New P.O. Box

Although mail forwarding is an extremely useful feature, it’s not your only choice to reroute mail to a different location. One of these alternatives is renting a P.O. (post office) box.

A P.O. box is a container inside a post office that serves as a substitute residential, business, or street address, allowing you to receive deliveries from other mail carriers, including FedEx (Federal Express) and UPS (United Parcel Service).

Other Places to Change Your Address

You can reroute your packages by contacting your mailers directly. As mentioned, USPS mail forwarding only changes your address within the Postal Service’s system.

If you don’t receive a high volume of parcels regularly, contacting the government agencies you get mail from and your service providers, such as your favorite online store, utility companies, and your bank, is best.

How Much Does It Cost to Forward Mail With the USPS?

The U.S. Postal Service offers standard and premium mail forwarding options, each with its own pricing structure. Understanding the cost of a specific rerouting solution is vital when determining whether getting one or another is worth the trouble.

Standard Mail Forwarding Cost

Fortunately, outside of the $1.10 online identity verification fee, USPS’ regular forwarding service is free. However, you must cover the postage cost to reroute Media Mail, which can cost $3.92 up to $55.67 per item, depending on weight.

Premium Mail Forwarding Cost

The cost of USPS Premium Forwarding Services varies depending on your chosen PFS type. Here’s USPS’ October 2023 pricing:

Premium Forwarding Service-Residential
Online Enrollment Fee$23.40
Post Office Enrollment Fee$25.45
Weekly Shipment Fee$25.45
Premium Forwarding Service-Commercial
Online Enrollment Fee (Annual)$23.40
Sacks Shipment FeeBased on weight and destination
Priority Mail (Half Tray)$28.40
Priority Mail (Full Tray)$51.90
Priority Mail Express (Half Tray)$65.15
Priority Mail Express (Full Tray)$129.10

Related Mail Services

If you don’t think USPS’ mail-forwarding solutions are right for you, don’t worry. The Postal Services offers other convenient tools and services to help you manage your mail, even while you’re away.

USPS Hold Mail Service

One worthy alternative is the USPS Hold Mail service. In a nutshell, it lets you direct incoming mail items to a local post office for holding for up to 30 days. It also allows you to delegate someone else to pick up your mail, adding convenience.

Stop or Forward Mail for the Deceased

If your deceased loved one receives mail at their registered address, USPS also allows you to redirect them to a different location, such as to you. The Postal Service can also help you remove your loved one’s name from advertising lists.

For additional information on how to stop or forward mail addressed to the deceased, visit your local post office. Quickly find your area’s nearest and most convenient Postal Service retail stores with FindPostOffice.org’s USPS facility locator tool.

FAQs

  1. Which USPS mail forwarding form should I use?

Ultimately, the mail forwarding solution you should choose depends on your specific rerouting needs. For instance, submitting a temporary COA and getting the standard service should be sufficient if you only want to redirect mail while on vacation.

However, if you want to forward high-volume mail as a business to a different business address or P.O. box, consider the USPS Premium Forwarding Service-Commercial option discussed in this article.

  1. How long does it take for USPS to begin forwarding mail?

After you submit your change of address request, it usually takes around three business days before you stop receiving mail at a previous address. Still, you can indicate your preferred start date when filling out the COA form.

  1. How long does USPS forward mail?

How long mail forwarding lasts depends on the mail class. For instance, USPS will forward First-Class Mail, Ground Advantage, Priority Mail, and Priority Mail Express items for up to 12 months. However, it will only reroute periodicals for 60 days.

  1. How do I know if my USPS mail forwarding request is successful?

You’ll know if your mail forwarding service is active when you receive a welcome kit or a customer notification letter (CNL) at your new address. These items usually arrive within five business days of your COA start date.

  1. What do I do if I fail to receive my mail?

You’re not receiving forwarded mail at your new address for various reasons, such as hiccups during delivery. Regardless, your first step should be to wait, as it may be because not enough time has passed yet. USPS recommends you give a two-week allowance.

However, if you still haven’t received any mail after the two-week wait, you must contact the USPS customer service hotline at 1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-275-8777). 

Alternatively, visit your local post office. Narrow the list of over 31,000 post office locations to just those in your immediate area using FindPostOffice.org’s USPS facility locator.

  1. Does USPS allow for a mail forwarding extension?

The U.S. Postal Service’s standard and premium rerouting solutions only last a year. Fortunately, you can request an extension of six-month increments if you still need USPS’ forwarding service.

  1. Does USPS allow a mail forwarding extension beyond a year?

You can extend your mail forwarding option to 6, 12, and 18 months. Note that an 18-month Extended Mail Forwarding solution will cost you, as of October 2023, $39.95.

  1. How do I extend USPS mail forwarding?

You can indicate a forwarding extension when you submit your change of address form. 

However, if you didn’t, USPS would still allow you to edit your COA request using the confirmation code they gave you when they processed your application.

  1. Which mail can be forwarded for free?

The U.S. Postal Service will reroute First-Class Mail, Priority Mail, Priority Mail Express, Ground Advantage, and periodicals to your new mailing address at no additional cost when you sign up for its forwarding service.

  1. What type of mail will not be forwarded?

You cannot redirect Marketing Mail to a different location if you enrolled in the standard forwarding option. 

Meanwhile, if you’re using a USPS Premium Forwarding Service like PFS-Residential, mailpieces heading to military, diplomatic, and Guam addresses won’t be forwarded. 

  1. Does USPS mail forwarding include packages?

Since USPS’ mail forwarding services redirect Priority Mail, Priority Mail Express, and USPS Ground Advantage items, it reroutes packages.

According to the Postal Service, a package or parcel measures at least 3” high, 6” long, ¼” thick, and weighs under 70lbs. In other words, a mail item that’s not a postcard, letter, or a flat (large envelope).

  1. How will the Postal Service know the date of my move?

When you submit a change of address (COA) request, you can inform USPS when to forward your mail to your new address. Whether you’re moving on the same date is irrelevant, as USPS mail forwarding is optional. 

  1. What happens if I don’t apply for USPS mail forwarding?

If you don’t submit a change of address or a mail forwarding request, USPS will continue to deliver your mail and packages to your old address, which can lead to cases of lost or stolen mail.

  1. Who else should I notify when moving to a new address?

There are several people and organizations you’ll want to contact and inform about your address change. These entities, such as government agencies, online retailers, and financial institutions, send essential documents, bills, and valuable items.

  1. How do I cancel USPS mail forwarding?

Log into your USPS.com account and cancel your COA request using the confirmation code. Unfortunately, you cannot cancel or get a refund on Extended Mail Forwarding.

  1. Can I forward mail from multiple addresses with USPS?

As mentioned, when filling out your change of address request, you must select who’s moving. This step also involves selecting how many addresses are involved in the move. In other words, you can reroute mail from several addresses.

  1. What’s included in premium residential mail forwarding?

You can forward virtually all mail classes with PFS-Residential. However, this premium forwarding option is only available to domestic addresses. Therefore, don’t expect USPS to reroute mail to an overseas address.

Additionally, the PFS-Residential isn’t available for Army Post Office (APO), Fleet Post Office (FPO), Diplomatic Post Office (DPO), or Guam addresses.

  1. Is hiring a mail-forwarding service worth it?

Whether it’s worth hiring a private mail forwarding service provider depends on its service’s features and the cost.

Otherwise, you’re better off enrolling in USPS’ standard rerouting solution – free if you apply at a post office. Fortunately, finding a post office near you is straightforward with FindPostOffice.org’s USPS facility locator.

  1. What happens when mail forwarding ends?

When your mail forwarding option’s service duration ends, the U.S. Postal Service will return the parcel to the sender. Sometimes, USPS may inform the original mailer of your new address.

  1. What if I’m just moving somewhere temporarily?

Consider submitting a temporary COA request if you’re relocating to a temporary address. Doing so informs USPS to forward your mailpieces to this provisional location. Alternatively, you can use other USPS services like USPS Hold Mail.

  1. How do I set up a new P.O. box?

The Postal Service lets you apply for a P.O. box online or at a post office. In either case, you must complete a P.O. box application (PS Form 1093), present identification, and pay the rental fee.

For more information on setting up a P.O. box, visit your local post office. Use FindPostOffice.org’s USPS facility finder tool to locate your area’s nearest and most convenient post office locations.

References

  1. Change of Address – The Basics
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/Change-of-Address-The-Basics
  2. Standard Forward Mail & Change of Address
    https://www.usps.com/manage/forward.htm
  3. Mail Forwarding Options
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/Mail-Forwarding-Options
  4. Premium Forwarding Services
    https://www.usps.com/manage/forward-premium.htm
  5. Priority Mail
    https://www.usps.com/ship/priority-mail.htm
  6. USPS Ground Advantage™
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/USPS-Ground-Advantage
  7. USPS Price List
    https://pe.usps.com/text/dmm300/notice123.htm
  8. Premium Forwarding Service – Residential®
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/Premium-Forwarding-Service-Residential
  9. USPS® In-Person Identity Proofing
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/USPS-In-Person-Identity-Proofing
  10. Acceptable Forms of Identification
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/Acceptable-Form-of-Identification
  11. How Can I Have my Mail Forwarded for an Extended Period of Time?
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/How-Can-I-Have-my-Mail
  12. Extended Mail Forwarding
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/Extended-Mail-Forwarding
  13. Forward Your Mail With The USPS® When You Move
    https://www.mymove.com/moving/paperwork/forward-mail/
  14. Manage Your Business Mail
    https://www.usps.com/business/manage-mail.htm
  15. Virtual Mailbox: Manage your paper mail virtually
    https://www.usglobalmail.com/virtual-mailbox/
  16. USPS Hold Mail® – The Basics
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/USPS-Hold-Mail-The-Basics
  17. Mail Addressed to the Deceased
    https://www.usps.com/manage/mail-for-deceased.htm
  18. Sizes for Parcels
    https://pe.usps.com/businessmail101?ViewName=Parcels
  19. USPS Change of Address: How Does Mail Forwarding Work?
    https://www.movingwaldo.com/us/moving-tips-us/usps
  20. Mail Forwarding: A Complete Guide And How To Do It
    https://www.forbes.com/home-improvement/moving-services/
  21. PO Box™ – The Basics
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/PO-Box-The-Basics