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Complying with the USPS Move Update (NCOA) Requirement

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Need more detailed information on move update? CLICK for the latest USPS guide.
All Standard Class mail and all First Class presorted mail must meet "move update" requirements. This requirement does not apply to Periodical Class mail.

"Move update" refers to methods for making sure that the person or business you are mailing to is still at the address you have for them. When a person or business moves to a new address, they typically file a change-of-address notice with USPS. Those notices are compiled into a National Change of Address (NCOA) database. By checking your list against the NCOA database, you can tell if a person or business has moved, and correct their address (or delete the address, if you choose) before you address your mail.

This is not about "standardizing" addresses, nor is it about zip+4 codes. That's what CASS does.

It does not matter whether you "are sure" that all the addresses are up to date. You still have to comply with the requirements as described below.

First Class presort and Standard Mail in ALL mail categories (letters, flats, automated, nonbarcoded, nonprofit, etc.) must meet move update requirements. There are several ways to do this:




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"Current Resident" Method

The easiest and least expensive way is to simply add "OR CURRENT RESIDENT" or "OR CURRENT OCCUPANT" to your addresses. You can do this on the same line as the name, or as a separate line directly under the name. When you do this, USPS will deliver the piece of mail to the address shown, regardless of whether the person or business you've addressed it to is still at that address. Since USPS will not pay attention to the name, you are exempt from the move update requirement.

Similarly, mail that is addressed to "OCCUPANT" or something similar and which has no specific name in the address is also exempt from the move update requirement.

If you are using First Class presort, you should be aware that by putting "OR CURRENT RESIDENT" or "OR CURRENT OCCUPANT" on your mail, it will no longer be forwarded or returned to you if the person or business has moved. This is not an issue for Standard Class mailers, since Standard Class is never supposed to be forwarded or returned unless you pay extra for that service.

If you choose to use this method, you should check "N/A Alternative Address Format" as your move update method when you fill out the postage statement for your mailing.


Manual Corrections Method

If you don't want to use the "Current Resident" method, then the next least expensive method for small mailers is to track your own move information by requesting USPS address corrections every time you mail (or at least in one mailing every 95 days), and then updating your mailing list every time you receive an address correction.

You will be in compliance for your mailing if you have mailed to the same people before within the previous 95 days, you used one of the USPS address correction options, such as "Address Service Requested", when you mailed, and you updated your list with all the new addresses you received from USPS.

People or companies that you have added to your list within 95 days before a mailing are exempt from this requirement, if you received the address from someone who contacted you to request services or information or to make a purchase. A name that you purchased from a mailing list company, or found elsewhere (such as county tax records), without an actual contact, is NOT exempt from the move update requirement.

Several USPS address correction options can be used to meet the move update requirement. They include "Return Service Requested", "Change Service Requested", and "Address Service Requested". There are different costs and requirements for each option. Some options provide information in printed form while others are electronic. Here's a good summary of the address correction options from USPS.

Remember that for you to use one of these USPS options to meet the move update requirement, you must mail to each address at least once every 95 days so that your address correction information will be current enough, and you absolutely must update your mailing list with any move information that the USPS provides.


National Change of Address Matching Method

For larger mailing lists, and particularly for mailers who are already sending their list to a processing service for CASS certification, the easiest way to comply with the move update requirement is to have a processing service update your list using the National Change of Address (NCOA) database.

If you're paying for CASS, the addition of NCOA matching often costs very little more, and will save you the trouble of tracking corrections manually. If you're not already doing CASS, you might want to consider sending your list to a processing service for NCOA and also getting CASS, usually at little or no extra charge. Once your list is CASS certified, you can add barcodes to you mail and pay a slightly lower postage price (assuming your mail is of a normal shape and size). Some list processing services we have used are:
Note that, for move update purposes, each address (except those recently received from customers) must be checked at least every 95 days, which is more often than the 180-day CASS requirement. However, because mailing lists often change, most mailers using CASS re-certify their lists more often than the minimum requirement of once every 180 days anyway, so this may not be an issue.

There are several levels of NCOA checking available, typically at different costs. Your list processing service can review the options with you.

Unlike CASS, you cannot buy software to do your own NCOA checking in-house. The NCOA database is licensed to a limited number of processing services in order to maintain the privacy of those who submit change-of-address forms to USPS. While there are software products that claim to offer NCOA, they actually just connect you to a list processing service that has the NCOA database.


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