If you're heading out of town and don't want to deal with your home mailbox stuffed full, there's a solution. It's called USPS Hold Mail.
The United States Postal Service will hold all your mail for up to 30 days, and it's absolutely free. It's a critical part of my checklist before international – or even domestic – travel.
But after introducing some new identity verification procedures a few years back, things have changed with the mail holding service. Still, it's an easy and free way to make sure your mail is safe and sound when you're on the road.
How the USPS Hold Mail Service Works
First things first, some ground rules.
USPS Hold Mail requests can be done 30 days in advance, or as soon as just the next day. You'll need to hold your mail for at least three days … but up to 30 days, so that should cover most typical trips and vacations.
Thrifty Tip: Leaving town for more than a month? Set up mail forwarding to a friend or family member, which starts at just $1.05.
To initiate a mail hold, you'll need to set up an account with USPS if you don't have one already. This is the first step in the postal service's identity verification process. So while it's possible to start a mail hold just a day in advance, this process means you might want to plan farther in advance.
Oh, and keep in mind: This only covers mails and packages delivered by the U.S. Postal Services. If you've got packages en route from other carriers like UPS or FedEx, you'll need to handle those separately.
How to Hold Your Mail
Head to USPS's registration page to get signed up. Once you're signed up, head for “Quick Tools” on the main USPS menu and select “Hold Mail” under the dropdown.
After signing back in, it's time to verify your identity. With any luck, you'll be able to quickly do so online by entering your phone number and getting a text message from USPS with a code. Enter your code and you should be on your way.
If you're not eligible to verify your identity online, don't worry – there are still options. The Postal Service could mail you a verification code to wrap up the process. Otherwise, just head to your local post office and fill out the Authorization to Hold Mail form.
Thrifty Tip: If your phone number does not work to verify online, try the phone number of a different household member.
Once you're validated, you’re ready to select your desired hold dates! USPS makes this simple with pop up calendars as you choose your hold dates. You can typically file a mail hold request just one day in advance – though you can't process these requests on Sundays or federal holidays.
You can also choose between having your carrier deliver the accumulated mail or pick up your mail yourself at your local post office.
Finally, USPS will ask you to sign up for Informed Delivery – a way to get a digital preview of all your incoming mail with the ability to track packages at any time. It’s free and a great way to see what you're missing while you're gone.
While there are some quirks to starting a mail hold with USPS, it's still easy – and, best of all, it's free. Stop letting your mail pile up while you're gone!