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How to Forward Your Mail: Redirect Your Mail Effectively

Looking to redirect your mail during a move or extended travel? This article directly addresses how to establish a forwarding address, ensuring you maintain the flow of your important mail with ease. You’ll find precise steps for USPS forwarding and discover the best private services to meet your postal needs anywhere you go.

Key Takeaways

  • Mail forwarding services provide an essential means of redirecting mail during relocation, with options for both temporary and permanent moves to ensure the continuity of mail and package deliveries.
  • Setting up a forwarding address with USPS is straightforward and can be done in person or online.
  • There’s a wide variety of services available to meet different needs, and private mail forwarding services offering additional features like online mail management and virtual mailboxes.
  • International mail forwarding requires an understanding of customs regulations and may involve a range of shipping carriers, with potential issues like missed or delayed mail that can often be resolved through careful management and troubleshooting.

How Does Mail Forwarding Work?

A forwarding address acts as an intermediary destination for your mail during relocation. This service facilitates the continuous reception of your postal mail and packages at a new location, which is particularly useful during transitional periods.

Whether your relocation is temporary or permanent, this service redirects vital mail, including bills, subscriptions, and packages, to the right address.

For instance, the United States Postal Service (USPS) provides both free and premium forwarding services for specific mail types like First-Class Mail, Periodicals, and Priority Mail Services.

During transitional periods, a virtual mailbox can also be used to facilitate seamless mail and package delivery. Here’s how to forward mail to a new address.

  • Types of Forwarding Addresses
    • Forwarding addresses are typically categorized into two types: temporary and permanent:
      • A temporary change of address service allows mail to be rerouted from the original to a new address for a limited time, which is perfect for short-term relocations like a summer vacation or temporary job assignment.
      • A permanent change of address service is a notice to the postal service to reroute mail to a new address indefinitely. It’s ideal for individuals who do not anticipate moving again in the near future and wish to have their mail forwarded for up to 12 months.
    • Although both services can redirect mail for up to a year, permanent forwarding generally indicates a definitive relocation with no plans to return to the former address.
  • Who Needs a Forwarding Address?
    • You might be thinking, “Do I need a forwarding address?” Well, the answer is a resounding yes if you are, for example:
      • A student attending college away from home.
      • A military person during deployments or station changes.
      • An expatriate living abroad.
      • A remote worker or frequent traveler, including those who migrate seasonally, such as snowbirds.
    • Having a forwarding address ensures that you receive your mail regardless of your current location.
    • Mail forwarding services can also prove beneficial for small and home-based businesses, as well as startups.
      • They can leverage these services to preserve privacy, boost their professional image, and handle mail more efficiently without requiring extra office space.
    • Entrepreneurs and freelancers often establish a presence in a desired city or region using mail forwarding, while businesses with location changes or a mobile workforce use it to keep a consistent mailing address.

Setting Up a Forwarding Address with USPS

Now that you understand what a mail forwarding service is and who needs it, let’s dive into how you can set up a forwarding address with the United States Postal Service (USPS) and how to forward your mail.

Setting up a forwarding address with USPS can be done either at a local post office or through the USPS website, the latter being the easiest and most inexpensive way.

USPS proposes three distinct USPS mail forwarding services:

  • Temporary Change of Address.
  • Permanent Change of Address.
  • Premium Forwarding Service Residential.

They can forward First Class, Priority, or Express mail items, although some senders may block certain mail from being forwarded.

Mail forwarding with USPS includes the following details:

  • Initially set for six months and can be extended if necessary.
  • The minimum length for temporary moves is 15 days.
  • Setting up mail forwarding with USPS is free in-person with a small fee for online requests.
  • Additional fees apply for extended forwarding, with $1.10 charged for identity validation online.
  • Providing precise details on the change of address form is imperative, as inaccuracies can result in mail forwarding mishaps.
  • Online Registration for Mail Forwarding
    • Setting up a forwarding address online with USPS is simple and quick. To start, navigate to the Online Change-of-Address form on the USPS website under the ‘Quick Tools’ tab by clicking on ‘Change My Address’.
    • You’ll need to fill out the online form with information about who is moving, the duration of the move (temporary or permanent), and when USPS should start forwarding your mail.
      • The starting date must be within the next three months.
    • The form also allows you to specify individual family members or roommates who are moving to ensure only their mail is forwarded.
    • After filling out the form, supply a valid email and remit a minor identity validation fee of $1.10—an insignificant cost considering the convenience of online change of address management.
  • In-Person Registration for Mail Forwarding
    • If you prefer to handle matters in person, you can also set up a forwarding address at a USPS post office.
    • To do so, request a ‘Mover’s Guide’ at the post office, which includes PS Form 3575 and instructions.
    • This form must be filled out on site at the post office, as it cannot be printed at home.
    • To expedite processing, consider visiting your local post office a few days prior to your move to finalize the mail forwarding process.
    • After completing the PS Form 3575, submit it by handing it to a postal worker or dropping it in the mail slot at the post office.
    • The best part? Setting up a forwarding address in person at a USPS post office incurs no fees.

Private Mail Forwarding Services

While USPS offers a reliable mail forwarding service, there are also a plethora of private mail forwarding services available that provide additional features not found in the USPS mail forwarding service, such as:

  • Online mail management.
  • Package storage.
  • A virtual mailbox.
  • On-demand digital copies of mail.
  • The ability to manage mail online and through an app.

These extended mail forwarding services enhance the mail forwarding experience, making it easy to request mail forwarding when needed.

Private mail forwarding services offer the following benefits:

  • Flexibility to redirect mail to different addresses as needed.
  • Utilization of services across all carriers.
  • Options suitable for individuals away for extended periods, such as digital nomads or small businesses.

Prices for private mail forwarding services generally start at around $10 per month and can vary based on the volume of mail and additional requested services.

Nonetheless, caution is advised when choosing a private mail forwarding service. Be wary of third-party websites that charge for mail forwarding but lack affiliation with official postal services.

  • Top Mail Forwarding Providers
    • Now that you’re familiar with the concept of private mail forwarding services, you might be wondering which are the best providers in the market.
    • These services offer a range of options for managing, receiving, and forwarding mail for both individuals and businesses.
    • Some services also provide additional features including:
      • Repacking.
      • Personal shopper assistance.
      • Fax reception.
      • RV mail.
      • Automated check deposit.
      • Unlimited cloud storage.
    • Providers such as Anytime Mailbox, PostScan Mail, Traveling Mailbox, Earth Class Mail, and iPostal1 offer diverse plans and pricing to suit different budgetary requirements, making them some of the top mail forwarding providers in the industry.
  • Comparing Costs and Features
    • To find a mail forwarding service that best suits your needs, make sure to compare costs and features.
    • Mail forwarding service plans vary in cost, starting as low as $4.98 monthly with Anytime Mailbox to a range of $9.99 to $69.99 monthly with other service providers.
    • Private mail forwarding services offer the following features, or combinations of these features:
      • Quick mail scanning.
      • Free mail storage for a certain period (e.g. up to 30 days).
      • Fast delivery times.
      • International operational capabilities.
      • Unlimited cloud storage.
      • In-person mail pickup at various locations.

Managing Your Forwarded Mail

Effective management of your forwarded mail is essential, regardless of whether you’re using USPS or a private mail forwarding service. This includes organizing scanned documents into digital folders that mirror the structure of physical files for easy access and retrieval.

Some service providers offer features like opening and scanning mail, emailing clients, and combining shipments, with options for digital archiving and added insurance.

A few services provide 24/7 online access to postal mail with instant notifications for new deliveries, and some services offer basic plans starting at $15 per month with free mail shredding and online mailbox services.

It’s important to follow up with senders if vital forwarded mail hasn’t been received within a reasonable time. This proactive management ensures that crucial mail is not overlooked.

  • Staying Organized
    • Maintaining organization is critical for efficient management of your forwarded mail.
    • Maintaining a record of tracking IDs or numbers is essential to staying updated on the status of all forwarded mail and packages.
    • An effective email management system should be capable of capturing, archiving, and organizing crucial documents from forwarded mail.
    • To make this process easier, you could organize emails and documents into three primary categories:
      • New or urgent items go into the Inbox Bucket
      • Ongoing tasks into the Work-in-Progress Bucket
      • Documents for long-term storage into the Records Bucket.
    • You can automate the categorization and retention of emails to ensure critical items are saved and less important messages are disposed of appropriately.
  • Dealing with Unwanted Mail
    • Despite utilizing high-quality mail forwarding services, you may still receive unwanted mail.
    • Recycling discarded mail can be part of an eco-friendly practice offered by some private mail forwarding services.
    • To reduce the amount of unwanted mail, use the forwarding period to unsubscribe from mailing lists.
    • Private mail forwarding services may offer selective forwarding to help manage unwanted mail by discarding items you don’t wish to receive.
    • It’s illegal to open or dispose of mail that isn’t addressed to you, highlighting the importance of lawful handling of such items, especially when you forward mail.
    • For misaddressed mail, you should cross out the barcode, write “Not at this Address: Return to Sender,” and place it back in the mailbox.
    • For persistent receipt of someone else’s mail, it can be reported to the local post office or dealt with using a Change of Address form with a notice that the person has moved with no forwarding address.

International Mail Forwarding

While domestic mail forwarding is fairly simple, international mail forwarding demands a deeper understanding of customs regulations, shipping carriers, and the constraints of USPS’s Change-of-Address process. For international relocations, a Change-of-Address (COA) request must be filed at the local post office before moving, as it can’t be submitted online.

Private services are available to provide mail forwarding/redirection options for both businesses and individuals, including plans specific to changing business locations.

Some providers offer international mail and parcel forwarding from the UK, Japan, Germany, and Turkey to over 190 countries, with flexibility in choosing courier services for shipment.

International Change-of-Address (COA) requests require in-person submission, which can sometimes be a significant limitation compared to domestic COA processes.

  • Customs and Regulations
    • For international mail forwarding, a comprehensive understanding of customs and regulations is vital.
    • International mail forwarding laws and regulations can vary significantly between countries, and understanding these legal aspects is essential for privacy protection, fraud prevention, and efficient delivery.
    • Non-compliance may lead to fines, confiscation, or legal action.
    • Goods that are imported through mail forwarding may incur taxes or duties as dictated by the destination country’s regulations.
    • Each country has specific lists of prohibited items that are not allowed to be imported or exported, and adherence to these lists is mandatory to avoid penalties.
    • Mail forwarding services must ensure compliance with the postal guidelines and customs regulations of the destination country, including managing any necessary customs paperwork.
  • Shipping Carriers
    • There are various shipping carriers that offer international mail forwarding services.
    • USPS offers a variety of international mailing options, such as Global Express Guaranteed, Priority Mail Express International, and Priority Mail International.
    • For more economical international shipping options, you can also onsider the following services:
      • USPS First-Class Package International Service.
      • USPS First-Class Mail International.
      • USPS Airmail M-Bags for large printed materials.
      • FedEx international mail forwarding services.
      • DHL international mail forwarding services.
      • Royal Mail international mail forwarding services.
    • These services provide comprehensive international operational capabilities, fast delivery times, and customs brokerage.

Troubleshooting Common Forwarding Issues

While mail forwarding is largely convenient, it’s not unusual to face some challenges in the process.

Users may experience a sudden cessation of all mail delivery to their new address, or the misdirection of important documents, which continue to arrive at the former residence rather than the updated forwarding address.

Remember, these problems can be rectified with a bit of troubleshooting. This can involve tracking packages, contacting senders, and understanding USPS forwarding limitations.

  • Missed or Delayed Mail
    • Missed or delayed mail can be frustrating. It can happen if USPS employees who normally handle the mail are on vacation and their replacements are not familiar with the forwarding instructions, including instructions on certain types of mail such as:
      • Presorted standard.
      • Bulk.
      • Non-profit.
      • Items marked with ‘Change Service Requested’ or ‘Return Service Requested’.
    • Not being able to receive mail properly is often due to issues with forwarding settings, which can result in missing mail.
    • Using tracking software from couriers allows individuals to monitor detailed delivery stages of forwarded packages.
    • When a forwarded package is misdelivered, you can take the following steps to recover the shipment:
  1. Open a case with the local post office.
  2. Contact the sender and inform them of the situation.
  3. If a cooperative agreement can’t be reached with the unintended recipient, you can request postal staff to retrieve the misdelivered package.

  • Incorrect Address Information
    • Incorrect address information can cause mail forwarding failures, making it crucial to provide accurate details on change of address forms.
    • A common cause of missed or delayed mail is an error like a typo in the address when filling out a change of address form.
    • To ensure mail is forwarded correctly, it’s vital to complete the change of address form with completely accurate information.

If mail forwarding is not functioning correctly, contacting the local Post Office or a US Postal Inspector can aid in resolving issues stemming from an incorrect address.


  • In conclusion, setting up a mail forwarding service, whether it’s through USPS or a private provider, is a vital step in ensuring a smooth transition when moving or forwarding mail for any reason.
  • Understanding the differences between temporary and permanent forwarding addresses, and the benefits of these services for various individuals and businesses, can help you make an informed decision.
  • While there may be some challenges along the way, with a bit of organization and understanding of the process, you can ensure your mail reaches you, wherever you may be.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can you forward mail for free through the USPS?

  • Yes. First-Class mail and periodicals are forwarded for free by USPS. Priority Mail Express, Priority Mail, and USPS Ground Advantage items are also forwarded for free.
  • Media Mail items are also forwarded, but the cost for shipping from the local Post Office to the new address must be paid.

How do you check if there’s a forwarding address?

  • To check if there’s a forwarding address, pay attention to missing mail and package tracking updates. Then, contact your local post office to confirm your mail has been forwarded.

Should I provide a forwarding address?

  • Yes. It’s important to provide a forwarding address to your landlord within a few days of moving out to ensure the safe return of your security deposit and any important correspondence. Failure to do so may result in complications with receiving your mail and deposit.

What’s the difference between a temporary and a permanent forwarding address?

  • A temporary forwarding address reroutes mail for a limited time, while a permanent forwarding address reroutes mail indefinitely to a new address. Choose the option that aligns with your relocation needs.

Are there alternatives to USPS for mail forwarding?

  • Yes. Private mail forwarding services provide additional features like online mail management and a virtual mailbox, and are a good alternative to USPS for mail forwarding.