Complying with the USPS Move Update (NCOA) Requirement

Scott HochbergScott Hochberg



It costs USPS millions of dollars to handle mail that is addressed to people or organizations that have moved. To reduce this expense, USPS requires most bulk mailers to make sure they have an up-to-date address for each recipient. This requirement is called the "Move Update" requirement. There are a bunch of different ways to comply with this requirement. Some are free.
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You need to know:

Here's more detail on each option (plus some unusual ones):

red dotUsing the "Or Current Resident" exemption.

red dotAddresses that customers recently gave you.

red dotUsing Address Change Service.

red dotChecking the NCOA database.

red dotClaiming your list is 99% accurate.

red dotWhen the law prohibits address updates.

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Using "Or Current Resident" in your addresses

Here's an easy way to comply the move update requirement. You can give USPS permission to leave the mail at the address on the piece even if the person or company has moved.

You do this by adding "OR CURRENT RESIDENT" (or similar wording) under the person's name or company's name in the address. Like:
JOHN SMITH
OR CURRENT RESIDENT
123 MAIN STREET
ANYWHERE TX 76543
JOHN SMITH
SMITH COMPANY
OR CURRENT OCCUPANT
123 MAIN STREET
ANYWHERE TX 76543

This also works if you are just mailing to "POSTAL CUSTOMER" (or similar wording) without using any person's name or company's name.
POSTAL CUSTOMER
123 MAIN STREET
ANYWHERE TX 76543
If you are using Presorted First Class, be aware that if you put "OR CURRENT RESIDENT", or a similar line, on your mail, your mail will not be forwarded or returned to you if the person or business has moved, as it otherwise would be.

If you use this method, you should check "n/a Alternative Address Format" as your move update method when you fill out the postage statement.

move update na box

You may not want to use something like "Or Current Resident", perhaps because it looks too impersonal, then you must meet the Move Update requirement by one of the following methods.
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Use addresses customers recently gave you
to meet the USPS move update requirement

Your mailing complies with the move update requirement automatically if a person gives you his or her address, and you mail to that person within 95 days. USPS assumes that if the recipient just gave you the address, it's very likely the address is still good. But be careful:
If you use this method, you should check "Alternative Method" as your move update method when you fill out the postage statement, and then print "Directly Acquired" somewhere near the check box.
move update directly acquired marking

Use Address Change Service
to meet the USPS move update requirement

If you are mailing to your list at least once every 95 days, your mailings can comply with the move update requirement by using one of the USPS address correction options, such as "Address Service Requested", on your mailings and updating your list with all the address changes you receive.

This works for all address correction options except "Forwarding Service Requested", since that option does not provide you with the new address. For a good summary of the various address correction services and options, look at the USPS Guide to Move Update.

But note this important restriction:

This method only complies with the move update requirement for your current mailing if you used address correction on a previous mailing to the same addresses within the past 95 days. This method does
not
comply with the move update requirement if it's the first time you are mailing to an address. That's because "Address Correction Requested" doesn't give you an updated address until
after
USPS tries to deliver the piece that you're mailing.

So, the first time you mail to your list (or the first time in the past 95 days), you must use another method to comply. If the addresses meet the "directly acquired" method, then you're ok. Or, you can use NCOA matching. Either way, if you then use an address correction option on your mailing, you'll be good for all subsequent mailings within 95 days, and each mailing with address correction extends compliance for another 95 days forward.

If your mailing complies because you used an address correction method on a previous mailing, you should check one of three boxes on your postage statement, depending on which USPS address correction option you used.

Check "Ancillary Service Endorsement" if you are requested hardcopy address correction notices.
move update ancillary service endorsement box

Check "ACS" if you used traditional keylines or full-service barcodes.
move update acs box

Check "OneCode ACS" if you used the USPS OneCode service.
move update oneCode box



Use National Change of Address (NCOA) matching
to meet the USPS move update requirement

Your mailing complies with the move update requirement if you have a list processing service check your list against the USPS National Change of Address (NCOA) data base, using a service typically called NCOA18. This will tell you if anyone on your list has filed a change of address notice with USPS within the past 18 months, and will give you the new address, if available.

This is the easiest option for most mailers, if you don't want to do "or current resident".

List processing companies typically charge around $4/1000 addresses, with a $45 minimum charge, to run NCOA18 on your list. Here are some list processing companies that our customers use for this service: Note that NCOA18 service includes CASS certification of your list, so you don't have to purchase both if also need CASS certification (which you do for barcoded mailings of letters or flats).

If you use this method, you should check "NCOALink" as your move update method when you fill out the postage statement.
move update ncoa box
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I know my addresses are correct.
Can't I just certify that to USPS somehow?

Yes, there is a way to do that, but it's only practical for very large mailing lists.

USPS will check your list against their National Change of Address (NCOA) data base on request. If USPS finds that less than 1% of your addresses need updating, they will let you use the list for one year without further checking.

But, USPS charges a minimum of $120 to check your list, so the other methods usually would cost you a lot less, unless your list is very large. And, if you add or change more than 1% of the addresses during the year, you have to start the process over. So this is not a good option for most small mailers.

For details of this process, contact the move update department at the USPS National Customer Support Center, at 800-238-3150, and ask about the "99% accurate" move update method.

If you use this method, you should check "Alternative Method" as your move update method when you fill out the postage statement.

move update alternative method box

On rare occasions, a law might prohibit you from changing an address without permission from the recipient. For example, some banking regulations and voter registration laws prohibit making address changes without specific permission.

USPS allows an exception to the move update requirement in such cases, but requires the mailer to run the list through NCOA and then contact each addressee that shows a changed address.

The mailer must apply for the exception and receive permission from USPS. For details of this process and to apply for the exception, contact the move update department at the USPS National Customer Support Center, at 800-238-3150, and ask about the "legal restraint" move update method.

If you use this method, you should check "Alternative Method" as your move update method when you fill out the postage statement.

move update alternative method box

Need more detailed information on the move update requirement?

Get the latest USPS Move Update Guide.