If you’re planning a move, your to-do list likely includes such tasks as creating a home inventory, packing boxes and renting a moving truck. But one thing that you don’t want to forget is ensuring that others know how to reach you.
The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) offers three basic options for getting mail at your new address.
1. You can fill out a change-of-address form so that first-class mail sent to your old address is forwarded to your new home. The free service lasts for 12 months. After that, any mail sent to your old address is returned to the sender, said Sue Brennan, a USPS spokeswoman.
2. You can sign up for Premium Forwarding Service, which lets you to get mail forwarded only temporarily. This is ideal for people who have dual residences so “if they live in Maine in the summer and Florida in the winter, their mail could follow them,” Brennan said. However, there’s a cost. You must pay $15 to enroll in the service and $17 each week your mail is forwarded to you.
3. You can use the USPS’ General Delivery Service if you move to a new town but don’t yet have a permanent address. With this service, people can reach you by sending mail addressed to you, followed by the words “General Delivery” and the name of the city and the state, and the nine-digit ZIP code of the main post office. For example, a letter could be addressed to Jane Doe, General Delivery, Your Town, Your State, 11111-1234, and Jane Doe would be able to pick it up at the post office for up to 30 days after its arrival.
Changing Your Address Permanently
To change your address permanently, you’ll have to fill out a change-of-address form. You can fill it out online, do it at your local post office, or download the form online and mail it to your local post office. The easiest way to do so is to fill out the form online, but you’ll have to use a credit or debit card; you’ll be charged a non-refundable $1 verification fee. According to the Postal Service, the fee is designed to protect you from fraud. The USPS matches the credit or debit card information with the address it has on file to make sure that you’re the one who’s changing an address, rather than an identity thief.
When filling out the form, you’ll be asked whether it’s a permanent or temporary move and when the mail should start being forwarded.
Don’t wait until the last minute. The USPS recommends that you fill out the form a at least seven to 10 days before you need for the mail to be forwarded. You also don’t want to fill out the forms too soon. The initial mail forwarding date should not be more than three months in the future.
You’ll also have to indicate whether you’re changing an address on behalf of an individual, a family or a business. If you receive mail under more than one name, such as a maiden name or an alias, you should complete the change-of-address process for each name. Members of a family who share the same last name need to fill out only one form.
Don’t Stop With the Postal Service
While it’s important to change your address with the Postal Service, that does not remove the need to alert all of your service providers, banks and credit card issuers about your move. Since your mail is forwarded only for a year, you run the risk of having your service providers lose track of you after the time expires unless you tell them where you are.
“It is important to maintain an updated physical address because your credit card issuer will need to periodically mail important account updates and information,” said Natalie Brown, a spokeswoman for Wells Fargo.
Some creditors and service providers have their own rules about when you must let them know of the address change. For example, Discover credit cardholders must contact the company within 15 days of moving, spokeswoman Katie Henry said.
Even if you use online banking and don’t get any financial statements in the mail, you still should alert your bank and credit card companies about your address change, said Sukhi Sahni, a spokeswoman for Capital One.