How to Change Your Address and Forward Your Mail

Kurt Manwaring
Researcher & Writer
Read More
Published on October 12, 2021
6 min read

At a glance

Moving is a busy time. With all you have going on, it can be easy to forget something as simple as changing your address and forwarding your mail.

Unfortunately, if you skip that step, you can end up in a world of trouble ranging from not getting your Amazon packages to falling behind on your mortgage payments.

There are plenty of companies that’ll charge up to $40 to take care of this step for you, but we’ve put together a simple guide that shows you how to change your address and forward your mail for no more than $1.05.

We'll answer the following questions:


How do you forward your mail when you move?

Want to make sure all your mail arrives at your new home? There are two ways you can change your address and forward your mail with USPS when you move:

  1. Online
  2. In person

The main differences boil down to cost and convenience: online changes take less than five minutes (but cost about $1), whereas in-person changes are free, but require you to drive to your nearest post office and wait in line for a teller.

That’s especially tricky if you’re moving during the COVID-19 outbreak.

How much does it cost to change your address?

The cost to change your address with USPS ranges from free (in-person changes) to a small fee of $1.05 (online changes).

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Fees to change your address

Forms needed
Cost
Takes effect

Online

Official USPS Change of Address form

$1.05

7–10 postal business days after start date

In person

Mover’s Guide (available in lobby)

$0

7–10 postal business days after start date

Data current as of 4/27/20. Offers and availability may vary and are subject to change.

The Postal Service says the purpose of its online fee is to verify your identity. USPS accepts all major credit cards and debit cards (excluding prepaid and gift cards):

  • Visa
  • Mastercard
  • American Express
  • Discover
Heads Up
Watch out for scammers

It should never cost you more than $1.05 to change your address with the post office. Beware of third-party mail forwarding services that ask for upwards of $40 to do it for you.

How do you fill out the change of address form?

Have you ever tried to order a pizza online and been baffled by how hard it is to do something that’s so easy over the phone? Changing your address with the post office can feel a bit like that.

Not to worry. We’re here to walk you step-by-step through what you need to know.

Select the individual, family, or business change of address form

The first thing you’ll do when changing your address with the Postal Service is to indicate whether the update is for an individual, family, or business:

  • Individual. Select this option if you’re the only one who requested a change of address or if your household members have different last names.
  • Family. Select this option if you want to change the address for everyone in your household—and everyone has the same last name.
  • Business. Select this option if you’re going to change the address for your business.

Enter your contact information

Enter the requested information—your name, phone number, and email address—so the Postal Service can contact you and verify your identity.

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The ultimate moving checklist

The Postal Service gives you a 10-point checklist for moving. Move.org has gone 61 steps further. Check out our ultimate moving checklist!

Select permanent or temporary move

A change of address isn’t just for people who are moving and never coming back. It’s also for snowbirds, college students, and seasonal workers who plan to return home in less than one year.

If you are coming back after more than 12 months, select “permanent.” Technically, mail forwarding service lasts 6 months, but the Postal Service allows you to extend for an additional 6-month period (or a total of 12 months).

Permanent vs. temporary change of address form
Permanent
Temporary

Moving for less than 12 months

No
Icon Yes  DarkYes

Moving for more than 12 months

Icon Yes  DarkYes
No

Moving permanently

Icon Yes  DarkYes
No

If you select “temporary,” you’ll be asked for the date you’d like to discontinue mail forwarding. Enter the date, and you won’t have to spend the time to fill out another change of address form when you move back.

Enter your change-of-address date

Indicate when you’d like your mail to start arriving at your new address. Just be aware the post office considers this a “move effective date,” and that it can take anywhere from three days to two weeks after that for your mail to actually start arriving.

Provide your addresses

Enter the addresses you’re moving to and from (including zip codes). If the address is a PO Box, the PO Box number goes in the street address field.

Note: You cannot submit a change of address form if you have a private mailbox from a third-party company like The UPS Store.

Confirm your request (online only)

The Postal Service will send you an email confirmation code once you have entered all the requested information and paid the $1.05 identity verification fee.

The confirmation code is what you’ll use later if you need to modify or cancel your request.

Who else do you contact to change your address?

The Postal Service will forward mail to your new address for a limited time, but you also need to change your address with companies that send you mail and provide services at your old address:

  • Animal care (veterinarian, pet microchip registry, animal daycare)
  • Financial services (banks, credit cards, loan companies)
  • Government agencies (DMV, IRS, Social Security Administration)
  • Insurance (health, auto, home)
  • Home security
  • Memberships and subscriptions (Costco, gyms, magazines, cable)
  • Online services (Amazon, Netflix, Venmo, TV streaming)
  • Utilities (gas, electricity, internet)
Megaphone
Don’t forget your internet!

When you change your address, you also need to notify your internet service provider and transfer your internet contract. Alternatively, if you’re tired of your old provider or it isn’t available in your new area, now is the perfect time to find a new ISP. Check out our list of ISPs we recommend to find the best internet service for your new home.


Are there alternatives to changing your address?

A full change of address isn’t always your best option. The Postal Service has two options that are better suited for people going on short vacations or moving for only part of the year:

  • The post office can hold your mail for up to 30 days.
  • The post office can forward your mail for up to 12 months.

Can the post office hold my mail?

Yes. If you will be gone for a month or less, you can arrange for the post office to hold your mail (rather than change your address and forward your mail). You can schedule a mail holding period via the USPS Hold Mail website or at your local post office.

What is premium forwarding?

The post office offers a premium mail forwarding service for an initial fee of up to $21.90 plus $21.90 for each week of service. The service allows you to temporarily forward your mail without having to change your address.

Premium forwarding vs. change of address

Change of address
Premium mail forwarding

Initial fee

Up to $1.05

Up to $21.90

Recurring costs

$0

$21.90 per week

Frequency of delivery

Daily

Weekly

Mail service

First-Class

Priority Mail

Data current as of 4/28/20. Offers and availability may vary and are subject to change.

Why pay more than $80 per month to get your mail delivered only once per week?

We asked the staff at our local post office. They told us this service is most often used by snowbirds who don’t know the exact date of their return and who are worried they’ll forget to change their address at the end of their stay.

For those who have a firm move-back date, the standard change of address form allows you to identify a “discontinue forwarding” date at no charge.

While it can feel inconvenient to plan your return date at the time you fill out the change of address form, it’s totally worth it. Six months of premium forwarding will set you back more than $650.

Price Tag
Discounts

Move.org does more than save you hundreds of dollars forwarding your mail. We also hunt down discounts to help you save money. Learn more about this year’s best moving discounts.


Recap

Changing your address is fast and cheap—so don’t get sucked in by scammers who charge upwards of $40 to do it for you. You can change your address with the Postal Service in less than five minutes online for a fee of $1.05—or wait in line and do it for free at your local post office.

You also have the option to hold your mail or temporarily forward your mail while retaining your original address.


Change-of-address FAQ

Do I have to pay for postage after changing my address?

Just because you change your address with the post office doesn’t mean everything is taken care of. The post office will forward your mail, but you are responsible for the postage if the mail arrives via select shipping services:

  1. First-Class Mail ($0.55 starting price)
  2. Media Mail ($2.80 starting price)
  3. USPS Retail Ground ($7.50 starting price)

How long will my mail be forwarded?

Your mail will be forwarded for up to 12 months, depending on the type of mail service.

USPS mail forwarding timelines

Type of mail
Length of mail forwarding

First-Class Mail, Priority Mail, and Priority Mail Express

12 months

Packages

12 months

Newspapers and magazines

60 days

Junk mail

Not forwarded

What happens if I don’t change my address?

If you don’t change your address, the post office picks up your mail when it starts to accumulate and will hold it for up to 10 calendar days. If you don’t collect your mail within that time period, the post office returns it to the senders.

The smaller your mailbox, the sooner those 10 days will expire.

What does COA mean?

COA means “change of address” and is an acronym frequently used by the Postal Service.

Where can I find the local post office at my new address?

You can find your local post office on the official USPS website. Simply enter your city, state, and zip code to see a list of post offices in your area.

What does USPS stand for?

USPS stands for United States Postal Service. Type in “post office,” “USPS,” or “postal service USPS” in a Google search, and you’ll see the same governmental agency show up: the USPS (or United States Postal Service).

What does PO Box stand for?

PO Box stands for Post Office Box—a lockable box inside a post office lobby where you can have your mail delivered for a fee. If you change your post office box number, you’ll need to fill out a change-of-address form to continue getting your mail.


Kurt Manwaring
Written by
Kurt Manwaring
Kurt Manwaring brings nearly a decade’s worth of research experience as a business consultant to the Move.org team. He specializes in taking complicated issues (like moving) and presenting them in a way that everyone can understand. His writing has been featured in hundreds of publications, including USA Today, Martha Stewart Living, Country Living, Good Housekeeping, Heavy, Slate, and Yahoo! Lifestyle. He brings a BS in sociology and an MPA (masters of public administration) to the Move team. He would love to hear about your moving experiences and questions at kurt@move.org.