According to the U.S. Postal Service, one in six families — that’s 17% of Americans — change addresses annually. Honorary road name changes and city annexations throughout the year are a challenge for utilities, too, turning correct addresses into costly errors.

Keeping your mailing list clean is an ongoing process, with cost and communication benefits.

If your mail piece is not delivered due to a bad address, your message has not reached your member. A clean address also ensures you receive the best postage prices available and that your message is delivered.

The cost for bad addresses adds up. In mid-2021, paper returns cost 63 cents per mailing. Electronic return costs are about half, with more leeway for first-time address errors. Pioneer began using intelligent mail bar codes for our publications in 2011.

In 2021, the use of electronic returns is projected to save utilities $40,000+ in  postage costs.

Intelligent mail bar codes help reduce magazine mailing error costs, but fees can still add up for returns on other types of business mail.

Returns stem from two main causes: old or improperly written addresses. If a consumer moves, the post office forwards first-class mail for a year. Magazines use the more affordable periodical rate, and are only forwarded for 60 days. Then they are returned to Pioneer and, eventually, the utility.

To help utilities avoid return fees and missed communications, we’ve put together a list of common problems to watch out for when entering addresses into a database.

Mailing Address Best Practices:

  • SP should be SPC
  • LP should be LOOP
  • Circle should be CIR or spelled out
  • Creek should be CRK or spelled out
  • Court should be CT or spelled out
  • Watch out for the intermixing of 0 and O. It is PO BOX not P0 BOX
  • NMBR or NUMBER are not acceptable for PMB, UNIT, SPC, TRLR or APT.
  • Don’t abbreviate words (Ex: Cem for Cemetery).

Private Mail Box Challenge:

When addressing for a private mail box service such as UPS Stores, there are some tricky formatting issues. The use of UNIT, BOX, SPC or APT will cause the address to bounce out in error. It may also bounce out in error if it reads STE A-123 or STE A123. The correct format usually reads: STE A PMB 123.

Keep Mail Simple:

  • The post office prefers only one address appear on a mailing piece. When using a PO Box address, keep in mind the physical address does not need to be included.
  • Extra info causes an address to bounce in error. For example: 123 JOHN WAYNE BLVD (BARN). (BARN) will cause the address to bounce out in error. The same is true for HSE, HOUSE, IP, MH, SHED.
  • There is no need to put a hashtag(#) for a number after APT, SPC, STE, TRLR or UNIT. Clean, clear formatting is best (APT 1, SPC 3, TRLR 4).

Apartment Mixups:

Often the problems we see with mailing to an apartment is the use of 1, 2, 3 instead of A, B, C. First class mail standards dictate the mail carrier attempts to deliver the mail piece if possible. If the mail piece is sent to Apt 1 instead of the correct Apt A, it is probably being delivered. Standards are different for periodicals though (including our electric and broadband magazines). A periodical can be returned for the wrong information.

Some postmasters follow the rule to the letter and have the carriers return the periodicals. Others, knowing Apt 1 should be Apt A, allow the periodical to be delivered. Why take a chance? It is best to enter it in correctly to begin with.

Focus on Fields

Make sure your address information is in the correct field. If you have separate city and state fields, having the information in the appropriate fields help to ensure your address does not bounce in error. If a house address is put in the wrong field, it may cause the address to appear with the street name followed by the house number. This also causes a bounced address.

When in Doubt, Check

The Zip Code By Address tool at is a great tool to look up an address. If you think the street name is misspelled you can verify it there, or even Google the address. If it is misspelled, Google may suggest a correct spelling.

Questions about an address? Do not hesitate to reach out to our Mailing Department. We are here to help!

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