What is a Forwarding Address? Everything You Need to Know

Moving comes with a long list of stressors, but one thing you’ll definitely want to get sorted out before you’re off to your new home is setting up a mail-forwarding address.  Not only do you want to make sure you’re getting your important mail, but you also don’t want your mail ending up in the hands of strangers occupying your old home. 

So, to make sure your mail gets to your new home, here’s everything you need to know about setting up a mail forwarding address.

In This Article

What is a Forwarding Address?
How Long Does Mail Forwarding Last?
How to Set Up Mail Forwarding
Other Mail Forwarding Options 

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What is A Forwarding Address? 

A mail forwarding address is exactly what it sounds like, an address you provide USPS so they reroute any mail sent to your old address to your new address.  You can also do this for a temporary move, rather than placing a long-term service hold on your mail.  

While setting up a mail forwarding address is something you absolutely should do when moving, be sure to update your address with any essential contacts such as your bank, the DMV, the IRS, and any other services that send important documents/packages (and yes, that includes your monthly package subscriptions and magazines).  

This is important because mail forwarding is a short-term service that can only be extended for a certain period of time.  Also, note that mail forwarding is a service provided by USPS, so only mail being handled by USPS will be forwarded.

How Long Does Mail Forwarding Last?

If you’re planning on setting up mail forwarding for a move, there are a few things you should know about how long the service will last.  The base amount of time for a temporary or permanent move is 12 months.  That’s also the longest you can use mail forwarding for a temporary change of address.  If your move is permanent, however, you can actually pay to extend the service up to an additional 18 months (for a total of 30 months).  

Here’s a breakdown of how much you have to pay based on the amount of time you want your mail forwarded:

  • First 12 months: Free if you set it up in person at a USPS Post Office or $1.10 online.
  • Additional 6 months (Total of 18 months): $19.95
  • Additional 12 months (Total of 24 months): $29.95
  • Additional 18 months (Total of 30 months): $39.95

Note: If you only sign up for 6 or 12 months at first, you can purchase additional 6-month extensions at a cost of $19.95 for each extension, but cannot exceed 18 additional months (30 total months).

How to Set Up Mail Forwarding

To set up mail forwarding you will need to either go to your local Post Office, or navigate to the USPS website.  If you plan on making the trip in person, be sure to have an acceptable photo ID.  You should also know that USPS says that mail forwarding can begin as soon as 3 days after your request is submitted, but it is recommended you submit the request 2 weeks before your move.

Set Up Mail Forwarding Online

  • Step 1: Go to the USPS Change of Address website (found here).
  • Step 2: Select “Individual,” “Family,” or “Business” move, and then complete the presented form.
  • Step 3: Verify your identity by opting to receive a verification link or code on your mobile device, or go to the Post Office with an acceptable photo ID to complete the request in person.
  • Step 4: Pay the $1.10 identity verification fee (if completed online, there is no fee in person).
  • Step 5: Check your email inbox for a confirmation code.  You’ll need this code to make any modifications to your request.

And just like that, any mail sent through USPS to your old address will be forwarded to your new location.

Set Up Mail Forwarding In Person

  • Step 1: Go to your local Post Office and make sure to have an acceptable photo ID (a list of acceptable IDs can be found here).
  • Step 2: Request a Mover’s Guide packet from a retail associate.
  • Step 3: Fill out Form 3575 inside the Mover’s Guide packet, and return the form to a retail associate.
  • Step 4: The retail associate will then use your photo ID to verify your identity.

After that, USPS will process your request for mail forwarding, and your mail will be forwarded to your new address.

Mail Forwarding for Temporary Move

If your move is temporary and you only need your mail to be forwarded for a time period between 15 days to 1 year, you will need to submit a temporary change of address request with USPS.  The standard length of this service is 15 days to 6 months, but can be extended for an additional 6 months, making the service available for a maximum of 1 year.

To do this, follow the steps for mail forwarding, and choose “yes” when asked, “Are you planning on returning to your old address in six months or less?”

Extending Mail Forwarding

To request an extended period of mail forwarding (length and cost were covered above), you will either need to make the request when initially filling out your forwarding request, or you can add it later by editing your request using your confirmation code (link to edit request here). 

Premium Mail Forwarding

Aside from USPS’s standard mail forwarding, they also offer Premium Forwarding Service (PFS) options for residential and business customers.  This service is likely unnecessary for most, but it does provide a few additional benefits.  For residential customers, all of your forwarded mail will be delivered once a week via Priority Mail (or immediately forwarded if faster). 

This service does come with premium fees.  You will have to pay $23.40 to enroll online (or $25.45 in person), and then an additional $25.45 weekly. This service is only provided for temporary address changes (minimum 2 weeks, maximum 1 year), and is aimed at people who plan to spend certain periods of time at a different location (such as a winter vacation home, etc.).


Other Mail Forwarding Options 

When looking at setting up a mail forwarding address, there’s a good chance you’ll come across a number of services that claim to provide private mail forwarding.  While some might be legitimate, USPS warns that they are not affiliated with any other service, and thus are unable to help should anything go wrong.  So, unless you are absolutely certain you know what you’re doing, it is always best to set up mail forwarding directly through USPS.

Whether you plan on moving temporarily or permanently, setting up a mail forwarding address with USPS is the best way to ensure you get all of your mail.  Luckily it’s super easy to set up, and it will be one less thing you have to worry about as you load up your boxes and get ready for your move.

Using Spokeo to Verify a Forwarding Address

If you’re on the other end of the mail and are trying to send something to someone who just moved, but aren’t sure which address is right, consider using a service like Spokeo. With Spokeo you’ll be able to find the latest address information, so you can send mail without worrying about where (or with whom) it might end up. 

There are a few ways you can use Spokeo if you suspect someone has moved or is using a forwarding address. 

  • Using the People Search tool, you can type in the name of the person’s address you’re attempting to verify. Using the results, you’ll be able to see a history of all addresses associated with that person available in public records. 
  • Using the Reverse Address Search tool, you can type in the last address you have on file for the person you’re looking to contact. From there, you can see if any new names have been associated with the address in public records in an attempt to verify if the person you’re looking for still lives here. 


USPS: Mover’s Guide

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