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How To Forward Mail (2024)

Author Image Written by Shane Sentelle Updated 03/11/2024

One of the most critical steps when moving is forwarding your mail to your new address. While professional moving providers can handle transporting your belongings, it’s up to you to make sure subscriptions, letters, and packages get to the right place. In this article, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know about forwarding mail with the U.S. Postal Service, including pricing, options, and frequently asked questions.

What Is Mail Forwarding?

Mail forwarding is a service the United States Postal Service (USPS) offers that allows individuals to redirect their mail from a previous address to a new address.

When you set up mail forwarding, the USPS will reroute your mail from your old address to your new permanent or temporary address for a specified amount of time. Once you submit an official change-of-address form, the USPS will forward your mail to your new address within two weeks.

How To Set Up Mail Forwarding With USPS

Follow these steps to set up mail forwarding with the USPS online:

Go to the USPS website
Click on the “Change My Address” link under the “Quick Tools” section.
Read the notes and click the “Get Started” button.
Fill out the required information and click “Next.”
Review your move information. Click “Edit” to make changes or click “Next” to continue.
Select the appropriate billing address and click “Next.”
Enter your debit or credit card information to pay the mail forwarding fee, then click “Check Out with Credit or Debit Card.”
Select which (if any) offers you would like emailed to you, then click “Next.”
Copy the confirmation code at the top of the page and wait for a confirmation email.

Alternatively, you can complete PS Form 3575 (Mail Forwarding Change of Address Order) at your local post office. Regardless of the method you choose, be ready to provide information about who is moving, the type of move, your current contact information, your old address, your forwarding address, and when you would like mail forwarding to start.

Forwarding your mail does not automatically update your voter registration or change your address with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). You must complete those tasks separately. 

The USPS will forward most mail for 12 months. This includes First-Class Mail, Priority Mail, Priority Mail Express, and first-class packages. USPS Retail Ground, Library Mail, Bound Printed Matter, and Media Mail can only be forwarded to domestic addresses. Periodicals will only be forwarded for 60 days, and Marketing Mail will only be forwarded if the sender provides forwarding instructions.

When To Set Up Mail Forwarding

Set up mail forwarding as soon as possible to ensure your postal mail arrives at your new address promptly. You can request mail forwarding up to three months in advance. Since processing can take seven to 10 business days, it’s best to set up mail forwarding at least two weeks before your move-in date.

If you forget to set up mail forwarding before moving, don’t worry. You can still submit a change-of-address form after you’ve moved. The USPS allows you to backdate your request by selecting a start date up to 30 days in the past.

Cost of Mail Forwarding

The cost of mail forwarding varies depending on the service you choose. The cost for standard mail forwarding is $1.10. This fee applies regardless of whether you file a temporary or permanent change of address, but it’s small enough that it won’t affect your moving budget.

If you’d like more flexibility and control over mail forwarding, consider upgrading to the USPS’s Premium Forwarding Service (PFS). This service allows you to have your mail forwarded on a weekly basis for a fee of $25.45 per week. In addition to this weekly fee, you must pay a nonrefundable enrollment fee of $23.40 if you enroll online—or $25.45 if you enroll at your local post office.

What Happens to Forwarded Mail

During mail forwarding, the USPS reroutes your mail from your old address to your new address. It typically takes seven to 10 business days for your forwarded mail to arrive at your new address, especially for long-distance moves. However, the amount of time it takes depends on the volume of mail being forwarded and the distance between your old and new addresses. It may take as few as three business days for local moves.

If your forwarded mail is lost or misdirected, the USPS may be able to recover the mail and resend it to your new address. However, some mail may still be misdelivered or undeliverable. The USPS cannot guarantee that all of your mail will be forwarded successfully, especially if you have not updated your mailing address with important subscriptions or service providers.

Keep track of any important mail and follow up with senders if you haven’t received a forwarded piece of mail within two to three weeks.

Alternatives to Mail Forwarding

While filing a change of address with the USPS is a popular and convenient forwarding option for those planning an extended trip or a long distance move requiring interstate movers, you do have other options.

A virtual mailbox service allows you to view and manage your mail online from anywhere in the world. Most virtual mailboxes include mail scanning and mail forwarding services and can accept packages from FedEx and other carriers.

If you move or travel frequently, consider renting a P.O. box at your local post office rather than forwarding mail to a temporary address. This option can also be useful if you prefer to keep your personal address private.

You can ask a trusted friend or family member to collect your mail for you. This is a good option if you will be gone for a short period of time and have someone you trust to take care of your mail.

If you plan to be away for an extended period of time, you may be able to suspend mail delivery temporarily. Note that not all post offices offer this service.

How To Cancel Mail Forwarding

If you need to cancel your mail forwarding service at any point, here are the steps to take:

  1. Go to the USPS website and click on the “Change My Address” link under the “Quick Tools” section.
  2. Click on the “View, Edit, Cancel or Dispute” link.
  3. Enter your confirmation code and new ZIP code, then click “Get Started.”
  4. Click on the “Cancel My Order” button, select your reason for canceling, and click “Cancel My Order” again.

Be sure to cancel mail forwarding once you no longer need the service so your mail arrives at the correct address.

Should I Use a Private Mail-Forwarding Service?

There are several third-party websites that offer private mail-forwarding services. These organizations are not affiliated with the USPS and provide pricing options for individuals and businesses. Business owners may choose to use private mail-forwarding, especially if they need an office building address or additional administrative support.

The USPS warns customers that some private mail-forwarding services are scams. If you decide to use one, ensure it’s a reputable company by checking online reviews and its Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating.

Our Conclusion

Mail forwarding with the USPS is a convenient and reliable way to ensure your mail arrives at your new home. Remember to update your mailing address with any banks, credit card companies, subscriptions, and service providers. Consider using a virtual mailbox or P.O. box if you need a more comprehensive mail management solution. If you have any further questions about mail forwarding, check out the USPS FAQ page.

FAQ About Forwarding Mail

Can I forward mail internationally?

Yes, you can forward mail internationally. To forward mail internationally through the USPS, you must submit your request in person rather than online. International mail forwarding may be more expensive than domestic mail forwarding and may take longer.

What do private mail-forwarding companies do?

Private mail-forwarding companies offer a similar service to the USPS. They provide a virtual address where you can receive mail that is scanned and uploaded to an online platform. You can then choose to have the mail forwarded to your physical address, or you can view and manage it online.

Are there risks to forwarding my mail?

There are risks associated with forwarding your mail, particularly if you do so through a private company rather than the USPS. Identity theft, mail theft, and misdirected mail are a few potential risks.

Can I forward mail for someone else?

Yes, you can forward mail for someone else if you have explicit permission, such as a notarized letter or power of attorney. The USPS requires you to certify that you are “the person, executor, guardian, authorized officer, or agent of the person for whom mail would be forwarded.” Otherwise, you may be subject to a fine or jail time.

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