How to Have the Post Office Temporarily Forward Your Mail

Full Mailbox Overflowing with Mail

Amana Images Inc / Getty Images

If you're going out of town for a while, it is wise to consider altering your mail delivery. It's best to avoid having your mail pile up at home while you are away. This can be a red flag to thieves and could also risk losing important mail. If you don't actually need the mail while you are gone, consider having a trustworthy neighbor bring in your mail or have your post office hold your mail for the time you are gone. If neither of these options work and you need the mail forwarded to you, the United States Postal Service has two options to forward the mail to a temporary address.

When to Put Your Mail Delivery on Hold

The minimum amount of time for mail forwarding is two weeks. If you plan to be away for less than two weeks, put your mail on hold. This will stop your mail from being delivered for your designated amount of time. When the hold is up, the mail can either be delivered to your home or you can retrieve it from your local post office.

United States Postal Service Options

Either service can be completed in person at a post office or online. When you register for either option, you will be given a confirmation number. Make sure to retain this number, as it will be needed if you cancel or update your mail forwarding preferences. The two mail forwarding options have different details and costs.

Standard Mail Forwarding

The regular mail forwarding feature is the most cost-efficient option, with minimal fees.

  • Duration: If the move or address change is temporary, you can use this service for as little as two weeks or as long as 1 year. After the first 6 months, you can extend for another 6 months.
  • How you can enroll: You can enroll either in person at your local post office or online.
  • Cost: Free if you enroll at a post office. There is a $1 charge if you enroll online, which is billed via a credit card. 
  • How it works: Each piece of mail gets forwarded separately (on a piece-by-piece basis). Packages will not be forwarded and magazines are only forwarded for 60 days. 

Premium Mail Forwarding

The costlier service includes weekly mail shipments and requires a credit card.

  • Duration: This is a temporary service that can be used for a minimum of 2 weeks up to a maximum of 1 year. The premium forwarding service option is not currently available for addresses with a PO (Post Office) box.
  • How you can enroll: There is an enrollment fee of $20.10 if it is done in a retail post office location or $18.45 if you enroll online.
  • Cost: In addition to the enrollment fee, there is a weekly fee of $20.10 for each week of service. The weekly fee must be paid via credit card.
  • How it works: The forwarded mail is packaged every Wednesday and sent to your forwarding address via priority mail service. Each week, you will receive an email notification to your account with the tracking number for that week's shipment. If there is no mail to be shipped, you'll also receive a notification. Depending on the distance, the weekly package will arrive in 1 to 3 business days.  
  • Additional details: Any priority mail and express items are immediately rerouted directly to the forwarding address. Priority mail items are either rerouted or included in the weekly package, whichever is faster. Any first class mail items that may not fit in the weekly package are sent separately with no additional cost.

How to Cancel or Change It

When you create a temporary mail forwarding for a short-term move or a vacation, you must specify an end date on the form. The service will automatically end on this date and your mail delivery at your original address will resume. If you need to change or cancel the mail forwarding service, you can do this online. You'll simply need your forwarding zip code and the confirmation number you initially received. This form can be used to change dates or convert a temporary address change to a permanent one.