USPS NCOA Requirement

Photography by Chris Woods

In return for the discount postage rates it offers for First Class Presort and Standard Mail services, the USPS requires that both of these types of mail meet its Move Update standards. This is also called the NCOA processing requirement.

USPS NCOA processingThe Postal Service maintains a sizable registry of people and organizations who have recently moved; and it compiles this info in its National Change of Address (NCOA) database. Mailings that meet the Move Update standard must be checked against the NCOA database, and updated for any address changes.

This is good for mailers, since it helps ensure that addresses are up-to-date. And it’s good for the Post Office, since it minimizes the expense of handling all those bad addresses.

The downside to the NCOA requirement is that it costs money. And for a small mailer with a small list, an NCOA processing fee can seem just plain silly.

Luckily, the USPS provides two ways to avoid the NCOA requirement:

Add “Or Current Resident” to all your addresses

Since you’re letting the Post Office know that you’d like the mail delivered to the addresses regardless of who lives there, the USPS will waive the NCOA requirement.

To receive the waiver, you can add the line “Or Current Resident” (or “Or Current Occupant”) under the name line on each of your address labels.

Add an Ancillary Service Endorsement on your mailing piece

There are a few special postal instructions called ancillary service endorsements which you can print in the addressing area, and which instruct the Post Office what to do if the mailing piece is mailed to someone who has moved.

Here are a few of the common ancillary endorsements:

  • Forwarding Service Requested
  • Return Service Requested
  • Address Service Requested

A full description of the USPS ancillary service endorsements is in Service Guide 507, a PDF file at the USPS site.

With an ancillary service endorsement, the USPS will waive the NCOA processing requirement. But be aware: you will be on the hook to pay the Post Office for subsequent postal fees that may result, depending on the ancillary service endorsement you select.

It’s worth noting that First-Class Presorted mail actually includes forwarding, or mail return, as part of its service. So, for First-Class Presort mail at least, adding “Forwarding Service Requested” would result in exactly the same level of cost and service without the endorsement.  In this case, it makes sense to use this endorsement to avoid the NCOA requirement.

By the way, if you decide to use an ancillary address, be sure to add a return address to your layout. (A return address is usually optional, otherwise.)

The Move Update Standard

So, to summarize, the USPS’s Move Update standard requires mailings to be either 1) processed for NCOA (usually for a fee), 2) have the “Or Current Resident” line added to the address (for no fee), or 3) have an Ancillary Service Endorsement added to the layout of the mailing piece (subject to postal fees, depending on the endorsement).

It may not be pretty, but the standard is the best way for the Post Office to deal with the 40 million people per year who have to go and change their address.


Another attempt to help explain a complex world by the folks at magnetbyMail, your source for postcards, magnets and mailing.