Created: 1995. Updated: 19 October, 2001


U.S. Post Office Change of Address Information

(How to Get Rid of Junk Mail, Spam, and Telemarketers)

If you fill out a permanent change of address, you will have absolutely no control over who is given your new address.
Whereas the permanent address change stays in affect for 12 months it actually remains in the system for 18 months. Any mail sent to the old address during months 13-18 is automatically returned to the sender with the new address label. Printed above the new address are the words, "Forwarding time expired."
The Temporary Change of Address is more useful than you may realize. It also forwards mail for just about 12 months; actually 364 days. To play it safe, don't time it that close. Instead, select 11 months or 11 1/2 months. Here's where the Temporary Address Change is much better: Your mail will be forwarded to you; no address corrections will be sent to the sender - at all (unless by court order).
With the permanent change, a person may think they are escaping 'junk mail' but that's not necessarily so. It depends on the postage and the endorsement. Here are some examples of 3rd class mail - better known as 'bulk mail', 'non-profit mail', or 'junk mail'.
Endorsement Disposition
Plain 3rd Class Thrown Out
Return Requested Mail is not sent to you. Sender is paying return postage at regular rate to get mail back with forwarding label showing new address.
Address Correction Requested Mail is not sent to you. Sender is paying to find out your new address. Mail is photo copied. Mail is thrown away. Photo copy is sent to sender showing old and new address with postage due. (approximately $ .45)
Please Forward - Address Correction Requested Mail with forwarding label is photo copied. Mail is sent to you at your new address. Photo copy is sent to sender showing old and new address with postage due. (approximately $ .45)

Again, the Temporary Address Change yields better results. In the first case, plain 3rd class, both permanent and temporary will be thrown out with no forwarding and no address correction. However, in each of the other examples, if the mover has filed a temporary change of address card, the sender will still have to pay postage due on the address correction. But the address correction label will say, "Person Is Temporarily Away. No Address On File".
Obviously, there really is an address on file. How else could this person be receiving their mail that is actually being forwarded? There is one caveat with this system; that is with 2nd class mail - circulars (magazines and newsletters). Second class mail is forwarded to both temporary and permanent address changes three times only. If you receive something weekly - TV Guide, for instance, it will be forwarded for three weeks, others three months, three quarters).
After the third forward, the USPS sends a Form 3457 to the Publisher which is a Change of Address Notice. If you have a temporary change of address, a form 3457 will never be generated. After the third forward, your magazines or newsletters will just be thrown out. So, it's important to pay just as much attention to who one does want to notify as to who one doesn't want to notify.
The best personal system is to use the Temporary Address Change whenever you move, knowing that anything you want will be forwarded at least until the Temporary Forward expires (with the exception of 2nd class mail, which will be forwarded three times only). You can then let businesses, publishers and others know of your new address.
Be sure to read this excellent article on junk mail and The Illegal U.S. Postal Service National Change of Address Program by Michael Worsham.

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Thanks to Melinda for the information on this page. Copyright 1995-2003 Fred Elbel. This material may be freely used and distributed only for non-commercial purposes, with credit. Trademarks and copyrighted items remain the property of the owner.