No one wants to return home to an overflowing mailbox, or worse, to have their mail stolen while they're away. Whether a person leaves home for a few weeks, several months or moves to a new home altogether, the United States Postal Service (USPS) offers a mail forwarding system that is quick and easy to set up, and also simple to cancel when returning home from a vacation or after permanently relocating.
Three Types of Mail Forwarding
After returning home from vacation, knowing how to stop the mail forwarding service will prevent a resident from missing a package or letter. When setting up the service, the person forwarding their mail should specify an end date, as plans can sometimes change. While the post office will forward most mail, there are some things it won't forward.
The USPS has three ways to forward mail and change an address. They are:
- Temporary Change of Address Order (CAO): This option allows for free piece-by-piece forwarding of most first-class mail and periodicals for a specified time, but not Marketing Mail or Package Services Mail. The customer must pay for shipping from their post office to their forwarded address for Media Mail and Retail Ground Service. This order does not update state or personal records automatically; postal service customers must update their voter information, DMV record and banking information independently.
- Permanent Change of Address (COA): This option allows for piece-by-piece forwarding of most first-class mail for 12 months and periodicals for 60 days, but not Marketing Mail or Package Services Mail. The USPS also provides the customer's new address to businesses upon request through mailers.
- Premium Forwarding Service Residential Service (PFS-Residential Service): This forwarding option provides the customer with a weekly shipment of all mail to a residence for up to a year for a fee. This service is in addition to the CAO or COA options.
How to Cancel Mail Forwarding Online
Canceling mail forwarding online is a convenient option. A vacationer can perform this task from virtually anywhere, as long as they have an internet connection. To cancel, they must visit the USPS website and enter their new ZIP code and the confirmation code they received after setting up the USPS mail forwarding order and click "submit." From there, they can edit their changes accordingly.
Mail can take a few business days to stop going to the forwarding address and return to the customer's permanent address.
Customers cannot make more than two changes in a day, one of which may be address-related. If they go over that number of changes, they will receive an error message that reads: "You have exceeded the amount of changes that you can make within the same day. Please try again in 48 hours." However, they may cancel more than twice if they exceed two allowable changes. Call 800-ASK-USPS or visit a local post office with any questions on making multiple address changes.
Canceling Mail Forwarding in Person
Those who wish to cancel their mail forwarding service can also do so by visiting their local post office. They must bring two forms of ID and evidence that they live at the primary address, such as a utility bill or bank statement.
Customers who lose their confirmation code must talk to a postal clerk in person about the changes they wish to make. The postal clerk will ask for as much information as the customer can offer about their forwarding order and ask for ID. The clerk will then complete a PS Form 3546, also known as Official Change/Correction to Mail Forwarding Change of Address Order, using the customer's information.
The post office uses this form internally to modify faulty or fraudulent forwarding and change of address orders or when editing orders through normal means is not possible. This form must be filled out on site by a postal clerk or other post office employee.
Disputing a USPS Change of Address Order
If a customer receives a change of address confirmation but has no plans to move, they can dispute this order with the post office. To do this, they must go to the USPS official website and, under the tab "Get Started," choose the prompt asking: "Received a Change-of-Address confirmation but not moving?" From there, customers file an online dispute.
Customers must enter a change of address key, a series of numbers printed on the validation letter and their forwarding ZIP code. This flags the change-of-address order for further investigation and help the USPS determine a course of action.
Extended Mail Forwarding Options and Cancellation
Extended Mail Forwarding allows customers to continue forwarding their mail for up to 18 months in increments of six months at a time. The USPS adds this time to the initial forwarding period, which is 12 months. The classes of mail that a customer can forward with this service are first-class mail, first-class package service and priority mail service.
There is a fee for Extended Mail Forwarding. The price points for each increment are:
- Six months: $19.95.
- 12 months: $29.95.
- 18 months: $39.95.
A customer who signs up for just six or 12 months can purchase additional extensions, provided they do not exceed 18 months overall. However, customers cannot cancel extended forwarding. Once it starts, the mail will go to the address they requested for the chosen duration; this service is nonrefundable. Also, if the expiration of the initial change of address request has taken place, a customer cannot sign up for Extended Mail Forwarding.
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.