When you are getting to ready to move, you remember all the big things -- hiring movers, packing, cleaning and other major portions of the moving process. But it's the smaller details of your move that may fall through the cracks. Have you given enough thought to changing your address? It's a small step that, if forgotten, will create a less-than-smooth move into your new home. And the process of turning in a change-of-address form can occasionally turn into a harrowing experience. Sometimes it's your fault. And sometimes it isn't.
"The United States Postal Service receives tens of millions of address change requests annually; 43.8 million were processed in 2009," says Sue Brennan of the U.S. Postal Service, "and while the vast majority are processed correctly and mail is forwarded seamlessly, inevitably there are some issues."
But there are things you can do to make the process of successfully changing your address a smooth one.
Brennan explains that any system where a customer puts pen to paper and then returns a card to a postmaster has its flaws. "Human error on the part of the postal service in entering the information or handwriting issues on the part of the customer-" are just two possible ways for the system to break down," she explains.
1. Be techno-savvy
Brennen suggests using the United States Postal Service's Official Change of Address
form found online. With this method, you don't risk that the problem between you and forwarded mail is your handwriting and the simple fact that your 1's look a lot like 7's.
2. Fill out the Change of Address form carefully
Make certain you have put in your whole address, including apartment numbers and full zip codes, watch out for spellings and don't forget to include North, South, East and West when necessary. It sounds crazy, but people in the throes of a big move can sometimes make a simple error, like misspelling a new street name, which can throw a spoke into the whole process of changing your address.
3. Notify your contacts
"You can make the Change of Address process faster and easier by notifying everyone who sends you mail of your new address and the date of your move two weeks before you move," Brennan advises. You should also look at your bills and fill out the change of address section that comes with your monthly statements.
4. Go a step further
There are a lot of ways to let people know you have moved -- and the more ways you go about it, the better the chance your mail will find you. Email, social networking sites and simple phone calls are all good ways to spread the word. But you can also make your own post cards and mail them to friends, family and business contacts. It's even available through the postal service - "You can customize them on usps.com," Brennen points out.
5. Who wants to know?
Other than business contacts, utility companies, family and friends, make sure you also notify any magazines to which you subscribe, your insurance carriers, banks, the DMV and any university or other affiliate, past or present, who might try to reach out to you down the road. Make sure you use this opportunity to cancel any catalogs or non-profit information that you don't read or want cluttering up your mailbox.
6. How long will your mail be forwarded?
For the first thirteen months, mail will be forwarded to your new address. After that, mail will be returned to sender with your new address included. After eighteen months, your mail will simply be returned to sender.
7. Why you should alert people to your change of address
Certain agreements with the Postal Service, as well as with other delivery services, may become void. For example, Express Mail will be expedited as usual, but the delivery agreement is void. Secondly, you only get 60 days of forwarded newspapers and magazines and then you shouldn't expect to get your weekly People
So while you may be slightly put out by the process of alerting people of your change of address, you'd be amazed how streamlined and precise the process is now. Back in the day, the change of address process required upwards of thirty postal employees, eight to twelve hours shifts and many tedious steps - a lot of room for errors to be made! "I began working with the Postal Service 21 years ago," says Brennan. "I can tell you now how far we've come."
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