There’s not a lot to getting your mail forwarded with the United States Postal Service, right?
Well, not exactly.
While it’s understandable to think that the USPS would make it easy to forward your mail to a new address, the truth of the matter is there are a lot more logistical hoops you’re likely going to have to jump through to get the results you are looking for.
And even then your mail forwarding arrangement may not be permanent!
In this detailed guide we highlight (almost) everything you need to know about how to forward your mail as painlessly as possible these days.
We also go over how long you can forward your mail for, when your mail forwarding “kicks in”, and how much this process costs as well as of other details you’ll want to be aware of, too.
Let’s jump in.
What Kind of Mail Forwarding Options are Available?
To start things off, you are going to have three different mail forwarding options to pick from when you begin this process with the USPS:
- A temporary change of address (TCOA)
- A permanent change of address (PCOA)
- And a premium forwarding service residential service (PFS Residential)
Temporary change of address is going to allow for a “piece by piece” forwarding of your mail (generally all of your first-class mail, newspapers, magazines, etc.) over a set duration of time. USPS mail sent via marketing services or package services will (generally) not get forwarded when this is the direction you choose to go with.
After a set amount of time has passed (between 15 days and 364 days) your mail will no longer be forwarded but will instead be sent to the previous address on record. This is a great option for folks that will be travelling for extended amounts of time or living somewhere else temporarily.
Permanent change of address forwarding options are going to basically transform your mailing address on record completely, forwarding absolutely everything that you would have had sent to your old address over to your new one.
Even though this is called a “permanent change”, mail sent to your previous address on record will only be forwarded for up to 12 months. After that, the USPS assuming that you’ll change your address information with services and providers that need the info within that timeframe.
Finally, you’ll be able to go with the Premium Forwarding Service Residential Service, providing a weekly drop off of all of your mail (via Priority Mail) – though this will incur an extra fee.
The services can also be extended for up to 12 months (sometimes longer than that), though again you’ll have to pay extra for this privilege.
Aside from those three forwarding choices, you can also break things down to it even more granular level like this:
- Individual Forwarding – Take advantage of this service if you only want to forward the mail from one individual at an address as opposed to everyone
- Family Forwarding – If you’d like to have all mail for a single-family at an address (everyone with the same last name, basically) forwarded to a new address
- Business Forwarding – Businesses are encouraged to take advantage of this kind of forwarding, making sure that every piece of mail that would have been sent to an old place of business gets redirected to the new one
If you are having a tough time figuring out which kind of change of address or mail forwarding service you should take advantage of, pop down to your local USPS office and asked them to help you out.
They’ll be able to point you in the right direction for sure!
How Long Does Mail Forwarding Last?
As we mentioned just a moment ago, you have a couple of different options are available that determine just how long your new mail forwarding schedule is going to unfold for.
Temporary mail forwarding from the USPS requires you to schedule a date for your forwarding to stop between 15 and 364 days from the day you request your mail to be forwarded.
Permanent mail forwarding services will give you up to 12 months of mail forwarding from your old address to your new one, giving you a bit of a buffer zone to make sure that everyone you need to have your new address has the information.
The good thing about changing your address and leveraging mail forwarding through the USPS is that they (generally) update you about when your mail forwarding is set to end. You’ll usually get a postcard in your mailbox a week or two ahead of the mail forwarding ending to let you know that it’s coming to a close.
From there you can extend the program (when possible) or can let it lapse automatically.
Does Mail Forwarding Expire?
Mail forwarding can last for up to 12 months, if you select a permanent change of address. This will give you enough time to update your friends & family, but also services you have signed up for & federal agencies.
If you select a temporary change of address, the USPS will forward your mail for up to 6 months as an initial forwarding period. That period can be extended up to 1 year, upon request.
Can You Extend Mail Forwarding Past One Year?
Mail forwarding will last for up to 1 year, if you have selected a permanent change of address. There are no extensions available beyond the first year. Exceptions may be made by the USPS for larger USPS customers who receive a lot of mail.
If you have completed a temporary change of address with the USPS, your mail will be forwarded for up to 6 months. An extension is available, beyond the 6 months, for temporary change of addresses.
When Does Mail Forwarding “Kick In”?
As far as when mail starts to get forwarded to your new address is concerned, it generally takes about 3 to 4 business days (sometimes between 7 and 10 business days) for your mail forwarding to fully kick into gear.
All new mail sent after the forwarding directions have been uploaded to the USPS database will be rerouted. The odds are pretty good that a couple of pieces of mail already in the system enroute to your old address will either be sent to your old address (and hopefully either returned to sender or redirected on) or held up by postal workers at your local post office.
If you haven’t seen any mail being forwarded to your new address between 10 and 14 days after you initiated the forwarding process it’s a good idea to reach out to the USPS customer service department (or visit your local post office) for more information.
They’ll be able to help you figure out exactly what’s going on and should be able to get things moving for you if there’s some sort of hangup.
How Much Does Mail Forwarding Cost?
As long as you visit the post office to fill out the Change of Address form (Post Service Form 3575) in person – the form necessary to start mail forwarding, even just temporarily – you won’t have to pay a penny to leverage these services.
If you decide to go online and fill out this same form (PS Form 3575) you’ll be able to go through the process anytime day or night, even outside of business hours. But you’ll also have to pay an extra fee.
A $1.05 fee is the current price for changing your address and taking advantage of mail forwarding online (at least as of January 2021, anyway).
The premium mail forwarding service we mentioned earlier – PFS Residential – has its own mail forwarding schedule of fees that you want to investigate further.
The overall cost to have mail forwarded through this program with the USPS is going to be contingent on a bunch of different factors, all of them totally unique to your specific situation.
Your overall out of pocket cost will also be dependent on the duration of time you’d like to have your mail forwarded through PFS Residential services, too.
All of that is best discussed with postal employees at your local post office.
They’ll be able to help you find the right solutions for your needs (and your budget).
How Can I Confirm That Mail Forwarding is in Place?
The easiest way to confirm that mail forwarding has gone into effect and is working the way you hoped it would is to check your mailbox at your new address and see if mail is arriving!
All mail that has been forwarded is going to include your old address as well as a sticker (usually yellow) somewhere on the envelope that says the mail was forwarded onto the new address.
You’ll start to see these kinds of envelopes begin piling up in your new mailbox about a week or two after you started the forwarding process, but sometimes even faster than that.
If you aren’t seeing these kinds of mail pieces pileup in your mailbox, though, it doesn’t necessarily mean that mail forwarding hasn’t begun.
Sometimes the post office just needs a little more time to get things in order (especially nowadays, with the post office so inundated with mail pieces).
Try to give it about two weeks to see what happens and then reach out to your local post office for help if that didn’t work.
You can also jump online and sign into your USPS account to see what your current mail forwarding status and mailing address information is. As long as that is updated you shouldn’t have to worry about mail not finding its way to your new address (on a permanent or temporary basis).
Why Hasn’t My Mail Been Forwarded?
There are a couple of reasons that mail isn’t being forwarded to your new address, including (but definitely not limited to):
- Internal errors – The USPS is not completely infallible. Like anything else, the system has potential for bugs, hiccups, and errors that simply do not allow for your change of address information to go through. The best way to combat this is to reach out to the post office directly if your mail isn’t being forwarded.
- Invalid mailing address – Believe it or not, this happens a whole lot more often than most people expect.” To set up a new temporary or permanent address change, punching what they think is their new mailing address into the system, only to discover that it isn’t valid.
- Not enough time has passed – We cannot emphasize this enough, you really have to wait at least two weeks to verify that your mail forwarding request has been successfully implemented. It’s probably not going to take that long for everyone, but you should wait at least that long to see what happens before you reach out to customer support.
Who Should I Call If Mail Forwarding Isn’t Working Right?
There are a couple of different options available if you need to reach out to someone because you’re having problems with mail forwarding from the USPS.
The first thing you can do (and definitely the easiest) is simply visit your local post office – even if it isn’t the post office you originated this request with – to see how they can help.
Most of the time these postal employees are going to be able to jump into the USPS system and clear up your issue in just a few moments.
In the rare circumstances that they need to contact someone higher up at USPS they’ll know exactly who to reach out to and how, moving things along pretty quickly as well.
Outside of your local post office hours, though, you’ll want to contact the USPS Customer Service line directly at 1-800-275-8777. You can also call 1-800-344-7779 if the first line is busy.
Some people have also had a lot of luck jumping online, logging into their own USPS account, and then sending over and email through the contact form.
That’s probably going to be a slow road to get the answers you are looking for, but it may be something that works in your specific situation.
US Global Mail – A Smarter Way to Forward Your Mail
Of course, if you’d like to eliminate the headache and hassle of having to deal with mail forwarding addresses completely – on a permanent basis – you’ll want to check out everything US Global Mail has to offer.
With US Global Mail and their virtual mailbox service you’ll get a 100% legitimate physical street address as your mailing address, a permanent address that you can use no matter where you live in the US (or overseas).
Best of all, that mailing address never has to change even if you move around every year, every month, or every week!
You’ll be in the driver seat of how you take advantage of your virtual mailbox account, having mail sent to that physical street address so that it can be digitally scanned, digitally archived, or forwarded to any other mailing address on the planet – all at 80% off of traditional retail shipping costs.
On top of that, US Global Mail offers package acceptance from all of the major shipping organizations (something the USPS does not provide with their PO Box service), check depositing solutions, and much more!
To learn more about all that US Global Mail has to offer and to check out the services they provide, check out their website today. You can also contact customer service at your earliest convenience to have them answer your questions directly!