NCOA Process

The United States Postal Service NCOA process starts by compiling addresses in to a database of “move updates” and “undeliverable” addresses. The purpose of the database is to reduce the amount of mail sent that has invalid addresses.

When a customer moves from one mailing address to another and wants the Postal Service to forward their mail, they notify the post office of the permanent or temporary change-of-address (COA) by using Form 3575, Official Mail Forwarding Change-of-Address Order. These forms start the NCOA process as input for the National Change of Address (NCOA) database of the USPS. Similarly, postal personnel on behalf of customers who have and moved, file forms Left No Forwarding Address (MLNA), or closed a P.O. Box with No Forwarding Order (BCNO) to also create records entering the NCOA database.

Without this database, this kind of mail travels all the way through the postal system to the delivering post office where it is then determined the intended addressee is not there. This creates waste and extra cost for the USPS processing and transporting the mail. Moreover, the waste to mailers in postage, printing and processing expense is even greater. The USPS indicates nearly 40 million people change their address every year and some 5% of all mail sent is undeliverable. So it’s vital that mailers update their lists with the National Change of Address (NCOA) database with NCOALink.

National Change-of-Address Linkage System (NCOALink) is an address correction service provided to mailers through companies like NCOA-EASY.COM. Updated change-of-address information for the entire country is provided every week by the Postal Service. What NCOA-EASY.COM does is match your mailing list through the USPS NCOALink and identify move matches and undeliverables.

It should be noted that not all moves are captured by the NCOA database. In many cases, consumers notify their credit card companies, magazine publishers and other mailers of their new address directly. NCOA-EASY.COM provides enhanced services identifying 48 moves and other movers outside the NCOALink using other sources on special order. But it’s always best to start with the USPS NCOA.

Why NCOALink update your mailing list regularly

The USPS established a Move Update standard as a means of reducing the number of mail pieces in a mailing that require forwarding or return by the periodic matching of a mailer’s address records with change-of-address orders received and maintained by the Postal Service. Mailers can qualify for presorted or automation prices for First-Class Mail or USPS Marketing Mail by demonstrating that they have updated their mailing list within 95 days before a mailing date. Substantially lower postage rates are available for these automation qualified lists and mailings.

The Move Update standard is met when an address used on a mail piece in a mailing for any class of mail is updated with NCOALink database and the same address is used in a commercial First-Class Mail or USPS Marketing Mail mailing within 95 days after the address has been updated. Except for mail bearing an alternative address format, addresses used on all pieces claiming USPS Marketing Mail prices are required to meet the Move Update standard. The above applies for existing customers and mailing lists.

New Customers added to your list

When a customer requests goods, services, or information and is added to your list as a result or verifies the current address information, this directly acquired or confirmed address does not require immediate Move Update processing. You may mail to this address for the subsequent 95 days after it is obtained. After 95 days, the address must be processed via a Move Update method along with the rest of the addresses in your list. “Directly acquired” is defined as an address received directly from a customer for mailing purposes. The mailer may continue to use the addressee-provided address for a maximum of 95 days and still comply with the Move other addresses through an approved Move Update process. The mailer must use the results of that process to remain compliant with Move Update.

About move types and name matching

There are three types of change of addresses (COAs):
• Individual person
• Family
• Business

A business can submit a COA request to have all mail for the business forwarded to a new address. If the owner of a home business receives mail addressed to the business as well as to individuals at the residence, to have all the mail forwarded correctly when the move occurs, the owner will need to file one COA in your business name and one COA for each individual, or for the family. This is because it is possible for a family to stay at one address while the business moves, or vice versa.


NCOALink is a pre-mailing method available only through companies licensed by the Postal Service. Licenses are available for 18-month and 48-month COA databases. Through the use of NCOALink, the mailer’s electronic list is matched with permanent COA orders sent to the Postal Service by individuals, families, and businesses. Updated COA data is provided to licensees weekly or monthly, depending on the terms of their license agreement. The mailer can update the address changes through NCOALink prior to mailing. By using NCOALink before mailing, the mailer reduces “Undeliverable As Addressed (UAA) mail handling costs for the Postal Service.

NCOA-EASY.COM basic service is a match on the NCOALink 18-month database. It has been our experience over many years that this level of service is sufficient to determine most movers. In most circumstances, the additional cost of matching to the 48-month database is not warranted by the results. Another database of older moves (ANK) from 19 to 48 months – is available on special order, but this data only provides knowledge the customer has moved and is “Address Not Known.” It does not provide the new address. Our experience is that the number of customers falling in this category is minimal and is therefore not worth the higher costs of processing either.

License Fees
The fees charged by the USPS to access the data in 2017 are $203,000 for a 48- Month Full Service Provider and less for other providers. The quality of data and data attributes, aside from age, are the same for both. (Other licenses are available for other classes or users like software developers, machine manufacturers, and others.)

Processing Acknowledgment Form (PAF)
NCOALink provides mailers with documentation showing each updated address and the month the move became effective. If the updated address is then used by the mailer, the Move Update standard has been met. The Postal Service strictly controls the matching logic of NCOALink. An NCOALink licensee must obtain a signed Processing Acknowledgment Form from each List Owner for mailing lists utilizing NCOALink services. This is required by the Postal Service to insure that customers are using NCOALink only for its intended purpose, which is to correct lists used to prepare mail for delivery to the Postal Service.