Mail Forwarding When You Move

Being that I recently moved to a new place, I had to deal with mail forwarding. This was a pretty new world for me, and I ended up making a couple mistakes. There is really just not enough information online as to how it all works and what you need to know, so I will hopefully be able to help enlighten you with my experience. This is based on how it works in the United States, though, rather than other countries (which may or may not be the same or similar). Also note that I am sharing this experience from the perspective of someone who moved to a new residence permanently, not temporarily.

How Mail is Forwarded

When mail is sent to a post office, it is scanned through a system that helps organize it based on where it is going. What is scanned is the address label. Now, this is completely automated, and it means that the system is somewhat limited on what it can do. Items that have printed address labels are easy enough, but when people write out the name and address, it can have problems understanding what it says (which makes sense, considering even us humans sometimes run in to problems trying to figure out what a letter says). As such, not everything that is sent to you is going to be forwarded. What is not, however, can be forwarded by your previous residence.

From my experience, pretty much everything has made it to me. I have already changed my address on most things that matter, though, so I am not sure how many things would have gotten caught up in the filter and not been forwarded to me. I do usually trust computers and feel that they should be pretty accurate. Whether it is in this case or not I can not say for certain, but I can say that as far as I am aware I am not missing anything.

Preparing Ahead of Time

A very big problem I made was waiting until the last day before announcing that I was moving to the post office. Now, my reason for this was a bit different than some people's. In my case it was because I had no idea when the current owners were going to be out (we had some things in our contract while they looked for another house, being that I already had a place to stay). But in any case, waiting until the last minute is a horrible idea, because it takes the system a bit of time to actually start processing it. When I originally dropped off my address change form, I was told that the next day I would already cease to receive mail at my old address and that it would be forwarded and I would start getting it around a week later. Well, this did not happen. My mail was still going to my old address over a week later, and my first forwarded piece of mail was around 10 days after I had filed for the address change.

This may or may not be a problem for you, but keep it in mind. Expect that you will need to file around a week ahead of your move. Or, since you can choose the date that your address change starts on, it may be possible to file even earlier and just have them set it to forward starting on the proper day. I am not sure if it was getting in to the system that took so long or something else, but it is better to be safe than sorry; especially if you have some important mail coming in.

The Costs of It

Oddly enough it is absolutely free. If you want to do it in person, that is. If you want to do it online, it will cost $1 that is claimed to be part of an “identity verification.” Whether or not this is what it is really for I have no idea, but when I went to the post office it had no cost. You will probably see a message, though, that says you will get a coupon book for moving stuff if you file it online. You will get the same thing for doing it in person, so this is not really needed. Really, it ends up just being a matter of convenience. If you are going by the post office anyways, you can take care of it when you stop. If you are not, it may be cheaper (on gas and time) to simply do it online. Both seem to work the same way other than the cost anyways.


Moving my mail from one address to another via forwarding was a lot easier than I thought. I am not happy about being fed incorrect information by the post office, but past that my experience has been pretty great. Of course, doing mail forwarding is not an alternative to telling people about the new address, so I have also change it through all of that. I just set up the forwarding in case I get mail from places where I either do not know who to contact to let them know or things that were already in the mail when I left. In any case, the moral of the story is to file it prior to moving, regardless as to if you know what date you will be leaving exactly. You can always change the date if you need to, so this is not a problem. Just keep up on top of it and everything should go smooth!


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