Virtual Mail Basics

How Does Mail Forwarding Work?

How To Forward Your Mail

Bills, personal correspondence, and important documents are all part of our daily lives, making the need to manage postal mail effectively as relevant as ever.

Whether you’re planning an extended vacation, relocating for your dream job, or embarking on a new adventure, setting up mail forwarding is a key step to ensure your essential letters and packages reach you, regardless of your location. This service bridges the gap between your old and new addresses, keeping you connected to your critical mail.. 

What is mail forwarding?

Mail forwarding is a service offered by the USPS that temporarily reroutes mail and packages from one address to another, ensuring recipients consistently receive their mail despite changes in location.

Mail forwarding is the perfect solution for people who move often, businesses with multiple offices, and frequent travelers who want to receive their mail while they are away. 

Why do people forward their mail?

Keeping Connections Intact

Mail forwarding eliminates the risk of missing out on important communications by providing a consistent channel for all your mail to reach you.

It also ensures that mail accidentally sent to your old address arrives at your new address, giving you time to update your address with anyone you missed.

Professional Image

For businesses, especially ones without a physical office, a consistent address can provide an aura of stability and professionalism. Mail forwarding allows businesses to maintain this image by maintaining a consistent postal address for important communications, even when operating remotely.

Safety and Privacy

Receiving sensitive mail at a shared space can be risky. Mail forwarding ensures that mail is delivered to a secure location, maintaining personal and professional privacy.


For people who relocate frequently, mail forwarding eliminates the hassle of filing a change of address every time they move. Instead, they can temporarily forward and receive mail at a second location, without having to update their main address.

Privacy and Anonymity

Some people setup mail forwarding to maintain their privacy, using a separate mailing address to keep their actual location confidential. This is important for home based businesses who wish to keep their personal address private. 

What’s the Difference Between Mail Forwarding and a Change of Address?

Mail forwarding is a temporary service that redirects mail from your old address to a new or temporary one for a specified period, making sure you receive mail even if you’re moving temporarily or going on a long vacation.

A change of address, on the other hand, is a permanent update of your contact information with various entities, ensuring mail is sent directly to your new location. While mail forwarding reroutes mail without changing the address it’s sent to, a change of address informs senders to direct mail to the new location going forward. They are often used in conjunction, with mail forwarding acting as a temporary solution while updating the address with various parties.

How to Forward Your Mail Online with the USPS

  1. Click here to visit the Official USPS Change of Address® website.
  2. Choose “Individual,” “Family,” or “Business” relocation depending on the type of move you are making, then fill out the form with the necessary details.
  3. Confirm your identity: You can either receive a verification code or link through your mobile phone OR  you can visit a local Post Office and provide a photo ID to verify your identity in person.
  4. Pay the $1.10 identity verification fee, which is only required when verifying your identity online. 
  5. You’ll receive a confirmation code via email from USPS. Keep this handy, as you will need it if you need to make any changes to your request down the line.
  6. A welcome package containing promotional offers from USPS affiliates will be delivered to your updated address.
  7. Future mail is now forwarded to your new address piece by piece.

How to Forward Your Mail at Your Local Post Office

  1. Head to the nearest Post Office location with a valid photo ID.
  2. Request a free Mover’s Guide, which contains PS Form 3575.
  3. Fill out the form with your information and give it to a USPS employee. They will use your photo ID to verify your identity, then process your change of address request.

What Types of Mail Be Forwarded?

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) provides mail forwarding services for the following types of mail:

  1. First-Class Mail®: Includes postcards, letters, large envelopes (flats), and small packages. It gets forwarded for free to a new address for a specified period, usually 12 months.
  2. Priority Mail®: This mail class, which offers expedited service, can also be forwarded for free.
  3. Priority Mail Express®: The USPS’s fastest service for time-sensitive letters, documents, or merchandise; it’s also eligible for free forwarding.
  4. Periodicals: These are publications issued regularly, such as magazines and newsletters. They are usually forwarded for free but for a shorter duration compared to First-Class Mail® (typically 60 days).
  5. USPS Retail Ground® (formerly Standard Post): It’s also forwarded for free.
  6. Media Mail®: These items can be forwarded, but there might be additional costs. If forwarded, you’ll need to pay the cost difference between the Media Mail® rate and the Priority Mail® rate.
  7. Package Services: This includes other categories of mail like Bound Printed Matter, Library Mail, and Media Mail. They can be forwarded, but again, some might come with additional charges.

What Types of Mail Cannot Be Forwarded?

  1. USPS Marketing Mail®: Formerly known as Standard Mail, these are typically your bulk advertisements, catalogs, flyers, and other promotional materials. They are usually not forwarded, unless the sender has requested and paid for this service.
  2. Certain parcels: Packages sent with limited service categories may not be forwarded unless the sender specified that they can be.

If you’re planning on changing your address or need mail forwarded for an extended period, it’s always a good idea to check with the USPS or refer to their guidelines to understand all specifics and limitations related to mail forwarding.

How Long Does Mail Forwarding Last?

Standard mail forwarding remains active for 12 months from the date the request was originally filed. You can pay to extend mail forwarding for 6, 12, or 18 more months.

How Long Does It Take USPS Mail Forwarding to Start?

Upon submission, the USPS typically initiates mail forwarding within three days. However, to ensure seamless transition, it’s advisable to factor in a window of 7 to 14 days for all mail to consistently arrive at your new address. To guarantee that you start receiving your mail right from your move-in day, make sure to submit the forwarding request at least three days prior.

How Much Does USPS Mail Forwarding Cost?

For standard Change of Address (COA) requests, USPS will forward your First-Class Mail® at no additional cost. If you choose to complete the COA form online, a nominal one-time fee of $1.05 is charged, serving identity verification purposes. For those interested in the Premium Forwarding Service Residential® (PFS-Residential), USPS has an initial setup fee of $21.90, accompanied by a recurring weekly charge.

What is the Difference Between Standard Forwarding and the Premium Forwarding Service?

he United States Postal Service (USPS) offers two main types of mail forwarding services: Standard Forwarding and Premium Forwarding Service (PFS). Here’s a breakdown of the key differences between them:

Standard Forwarding

  1. Cost: Generally, there is no charge for standard mail forwarding. However, there might be fees for certain types of forwarded mail.
  2. Type of Service: Standard forwarding redirects each piece of mail individually to your new address.
  3. Duration: It can be set up for a minimum of 15 days and up to a maximum of 12 months.
  4. Mail Types Forwarded: Most types of mail, including First-Class Mail, are forwarded.
  5. Frequency: Mail is forwarded on a piece-by-piece basis as it arrives at your former address.
  6. Suitability: Ideal for relatively permanent moves or long-term travel.

Premium Forwarding Service (PFS)

  1. Cost: The Premium Forwarding Service is a paid service, charging a weekly fee in addition to a one-time enrollment fee.
  2. Type of Service: This service aggregates your mail and forwards it to you in a weekly shipment.
  3. Duration: PFS can be used for a minimum of 2 weeks up to a maximum of 1 year.
  4. Mail Types Forwarded: It includes all types of mail, not just First-Class.
  5. Frequency: Mail is collected, packaged, and then sent to you weekly via Priority Mail.
  6. Suitability: Best for those who need all their mail, including bulk and package items, sent to them regularly at a temporary address.

What Are the Pros and Cons of Mail Forwarding?


  • Convenience: Especially for frequent travelers or individuals who move often.
  • Privacy: Offers a secure way to receive sensitive documents.
  • Consistency: Provides a stable address for businesses.


  • Cost: Especially with premium private services.
  • Dependence: Relying on a third party can sometimes lead to delays.
  • Mail Type Restrictions: Not every type of mail may be eligible for forwarding with certain providers.

How To Cancel Mail Forwarding

Canceling mail forwarding with the United States Postal Service (USPS) is a straightforward process, and there are a couple of ways you can do it:


  1. Visit USPS Website: Go to the official USPS website.
  2. Access Your Account: Log into your USPS account. If you set up your mail forwarding online, you would have created an account at that time.
  3. Manage Forwarding: Find the option to manage or change your mail forwarding.
  4. Cancel the Service: Follow the prompts to cancel your mail forwarding. You will need to specify the date from which you wish the cancellation to be effective.

In Person

  1. Visit Your Local Post Office: Go to the post office where you originally set up your mail forwarding.
  2. Request Cancellation: Ask the postal clerk to cancel your mail forwarding. You may need to fill out a form.
  3. Provide Identification: Be prepared to show identification to verify your identity.

Over the Phone

  1. Call USPS: You can call the USPS customer service number.
  2. Provide Details: Be ready to provide your forwarding information, including the confirmation number if you have it.
  3. Request Cancellation: Ask the representative to cancel your mail forwarding.

Things to Remember

  • Effective Date: Decide when you want the cancellation to take effect.
  • Confirmation: Whether online, in-person, or over the phone, ensure you receive a confirmation of the cancellation.
  • Adjustments: If you’re canceling well in advance, you can specify a future date for the cancellation to take effect.

Canceling your mail forwarding is as important as setting it up, especially if your plans change unexpectedly. It ensures that your mail delivery resumes to your original address without any issues.

What Are the Alternatives to Mail Forwarding?

There are several alternatives to traditional mail forwarding, depending on the specific needs and challenges you’re trying to address. Here are some of the common alternatives:

  1. Virtual Mailbox: A virtual mailbox service is a great alternative to mail forwarding. Instead of forwarding your mail each time you relocate or travel, you do it once to a virtual address, where your mail will be scanned and uploaded to an online portal for remote viewing. A virtual mailbox makes your mail accessible online from any device, ensuring that you can check your mail wherever you go.
  2. Virtual Office: Virtual offices typically include a professional business address, mail handling, and sometimes additional services like access to office space, meeting rooms, and administrative support. While it may not work well for a frequent traveler, its a great option for small businesses.
  3. PO Box: The most popular alternative to mail forwarding, a Post Office Box (often abbreviated as PO Box) is a lockable mailbox located in a post office. While it doesn’t forward your mail, it does provide a separate mailing address where you can receive mail without changing your main address. Compare PO Box to a Virtual Mailbox
  4. Package Receiving Services: Some stores and businesses offer to receive packages on behalf of local residents, especially useful for people who live in areas where package theft is common or if they’re not home during delivery hours.
  5. Friend or Family Member: If you’re going away for a short period, you can ask a trusted friend or family member to collect your mail and either keep it for you or forward it to another address.
  6. Hold Mail Service: If you’re going on vacation or will be away from home for an extended period, many postal services offer a “hold mail” service. They’ll keep your mail at the local post office until you return and can collect it.
  7. Consolidate Mail: If you run a business and have multiple addresses, consider consolidating mail from various locations to one primary address using a commercial mail receiving agency.

Your choice from the above options will depend on your specific needs, whether you’re addressing a short-term or long-term situation, and your budget.

And there you have it! A comprehensive guide on mail forwarding. Whether you’re considering it for convenience, business, or travel, knowing your options can make the journey a lot smoother. Safe mailing!

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