Approximately 40 million COA’s (Changes of Address) are filed annually, and the database is updated on a weekly basis. New address information is provided only when the NCOALink® and input name and address match. NCOALink® also includes other requisite USPS® processes; CASS™ & DPV®, that will standardize and grade the deliverability of each address, LACSLink® which updates your addresses as a result of 911 municipal conversions and SuiteLink®, which appends missing secondary address information to business records.
USPS® estimates that at least 8% of all Standard Mail™ is undeliverable because of incorrect addresses. This means lost opportunities, lost sales, and wasted money. Mailers use NCOALink® to save thousands of dollars that would have been spent on wasted materials and postage. In addition, valuable customer names that would have been lost have been updated to receive current and future mailings.
Many companies that are NOT licensees of the USPS® offer this service, and must outsource their processing. All of our processing is done in-house, in our USPS® approved secure facility.
An original or faxed NCOALink® Processing Acknowledgement Form must be received by Anchor prior to NCOALink® processing.
Sample Fixed Field Output Layout
Sample Delimited Output Layout
Sample DBF Output Layout
Sample Output Reports
The USPS® has identified the following reasons for undeliverable mail:
The first line of the address:
- Addressee unknown to carrier
- Addressee temporarily away
- Addressee’s name misspelled
- Addressee’s Street Address Errors
- Missing address line or street name
- No such or incorrect street
- No such or incorrect number
- Missing house number/ PO Box
- No such or incorrect apartment, suite, etc.
- Missing or incorrect street directional or suffix
- No such rural route number/rural route box
- Rural route address change to city-type address
The last line of the address:
- Incorrect or missing ZIP Code™
- Incorrect or missing city and/or state
Other reasons for un-deliverability:
- Change of address on file
- Forward order expired
- Moved, left no address/box closed, left no order
- Address vacant
- No label/illegible label
- No mail receptacle
How NCOALink® Works
Data processed through NCOALink® is first standardized to conform to USPS® requirements, including the ZIP + 4® code. Once the address has been standardized and the ZIP + 4® code applied, an attempt is made to match the address against the NCOALink® file, which contains approximately 160 million records or 48 months of permanent address changes. Address change information is derived from the PS Form 3575, Change-Of-Address Order, filed by relocating postal customers. If an exact match is made with the old address, the move information (new address) is provided to the mailer. NCOALink® helps reduce undeliverable-as-addressed mail by correcting input addresses prior to mailing.
NCOALink® Return Codes
NCOALink® Return Codes allow Anchor to assist the mailer in deciding on a set of business rules that would only drop records for those who moved without providing a new address. Records that are potential un-deliverables (but were not considered a NCOALink® match) are flagged as Return Codes. The mailer then can decide whether or not to mail to these addresses. However the quantity of “Return Codes” you will receive under NCOALink® may be very much reduced as compared to previous NCOALink®processing.
The Benefits of NCOALink® and Return Codes
NCOALink® provides mailers with the capability to receive a current address before mailings. NCOALink®provides additional benefits including Address Standardization and ZIP + 4® appending, ZIP™ Correction, Carrier Route Coding, a CASS™ report and DPV®.
NCOALink® Return Codes indicate a match was close but not good enough to meet the strict USPS®matching guidelines. The Return Codes indicate the reason a match could not be made with the NCOALink® file, and a mailer can investigate the address record and provide necessary corrections. A no-match to the NCOALink® file does NOT return the new address – the Return Codes, when provided, may give an indication why.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is NCOALink® ?
NCOALink® is a secure dataset of approximately 160 million change-of-addresses going back 48 months that enable mailers to update mailing lists with new addresses from individuals, families and businesses that have moved.
The USPS® has introduced NCOALink® to replace NCOA and FASTforward® Mailing List Correction (MLC) services. Mailers were required by the USPS® to switch to the new NCOALink® technology instead of NCOA (National Change Of Address) on October 1st, 2004 or replace FASTforward™ MLC by October 1st, 2005.
2. How do I prepare for NCOALink®?
Complete and sign an NCOALink® Processing Acknowledgement Form (PAF) and fax it to Anchor at 631-293-4113.
The USPS® requires a new six digit field that must be entered in the “List Owner” area called “NAICS”. Please refer to the NAICS document listing the most commonly used SIC Codes or visit www.census.gov/epcd/naics02, or call Anchor to determine your specific NAICS Code.
Brokers/Agents and List Administrators must check the applicable box and also complete the bottom portion of the PAF in addition to the list owner completing and signing their portion of the PAF.
Nixies (or “Return Codes”) that offer information about name and address records that do not exactly match the USPS® change-of-address database, were previously only available with NCOA processing. With NCOALink® these “Return Codes” (no longer called Nixies) have different meanings. Testing indicates the actual number of input names coded with “Return Codes” as compared to “Nixie Option Codes” are greatly reduced with NCOALink® versus NCOA processing.
DPV® (Verifies Accuracy of Deliverable Addresses) is now included as part of NCOALink® by Full Service Providers and DPV® footnotes are part of the output. NCOALink® also includes other requisite USPS®processes; CASS™ & DPV®, LACSLink® and SuiteLink® .
NCOALink® will return the move effective date, the specific name and address utilized in the query that obtained the match, and the move type. The move type is determined by the interface based on the specific name inquiry utilized to obtain the match. Please note: The specific name utilized in the query maybe slightly different from the name supplied, i.e. Robert versus Bob. Please see the Full Service Provider Required Text Document for additional output details.
4. Why the change to NCOALink®
NCOALink® provides enhanced technology to protect the privacy and security of name and address information entrusted to the USPS®.
With NCOALink® the USPS® hopes to increase the utilization of change-of-address (COA) information and reduce further the costs associated with handling Undeliverable-As-Addressed (UAA) mail.
5. What NCOALink® licenses are available?
Three different NCOALink® licenses are available: Full Service Providers, Limited Service Providers and End User Mailers. Each requires a distinct certified software interface available through a USPS® certified NCOALink® Interface Software Developer/Distributor like Anchor Software LLC, or mailers can build and certify their own NCOALink® Software Interface.
NCOALink® 48 months of COA data replaced NCOA on October 1st, 2004, but it was available for use under license as early as March 2004.
6. Why does the USPS® require a license?
The USPS® wants to ensure that the use of their intellectual property and privacy protected customer information is limited to its intended purpose. NCOALink® by its design is secure and cannot be used to data mine address information. It provides an enforcement mechanism with the flexibility needed to use NCOALink® in the marketplace.
7. Why use Anchor for NCOALink® processing?
Anchor has processed billions of records, as a USPS® certified NCOALink® Full Service Provider, Interface Developer and Interface Distributor. Our experience and dedicated staff have the programming skills to ensure your mailing lists are always in compliance with USPS® requirements.
The USPS® awarded Anchor its first NCOALink® Full Service Provider license. The Full Service Provider database provides mailers with more change-of-address moves and uses 48 months of up-to-date address information, versus the “Limited Service Provider” database that provides only 18 months of address information. We recommend processing through the 48-month option to provide mailers more change-of-address moves.
We offer additional address hygiene services including:
Licensed by the USPS®:
– DSF2® (Identifies Deliverable Addresses and Specific Address Attributes)
Anchor Proprietary Processes:
– AAE (Anchor Address Enhancement)
– Deceased Processing
– Direct Marketing Association – Do Not Mail
– Several Other Services
8. What benefits will I realize by processing my file through NCOALink®
Mailers using NCOALink® will save thousands of dollars that would have been spent on wasted materials and postage that results from undelivered as addressed mail. The NCOALink® System makes available current change of address information that will reduce undeliverable mail. Addressing errors are identified and corrected before the mail enters the USPS®. Mailers will also receive a quicker response to an offer since it will go directly to the new address in the case of a move. Cash flow will also improve as a direct result of reaching a customer who has moved. In addition valuable customer names that would have been lost will be updated so that communication can continue.
The NCOALink®process at Anchor:
- Improves address quality through standardization and parsing.
- Speeds delivery of your offer by eliminating forwarding.
- Reduces undeliverable mail resulting in postage and material savings.
- Helps maintain accurate customer address files.
- Provides CASS™ processing of your list enabling you to qualify for postal discounts.
- Appends address type to data to input records allowing segmentation.
- Increases the effectiveness of Merge/Purge processing.
- Adds ZIP + 4®, Carrier Route and Delivery Point Barcode. Anchor Computer brings added value to the basic NCOALink® Service by offering NCOALink® Return Codes and the Anchor Change Of Address Index.
9. What is the ROI (Return On Investment) benefit of NCOALink®
Use of the USPS® NCOALink® program reduces costs of labor, postage and materials. Unfortunately, this is news to some companies and senior managers who have yet to realize the ROI benefits of this worthy program. Presented herein are two reference tools you can share with clients and prospects: a Return On Investment Guide and a Case History.
The USPS® has stated that the average NCOALink® match rate is approximately 4.1%. That translates to 41,000 move changes for a 1,000,000 record file. The match rate not only includes recognized address changes but also closed PO Boxes, foreign moves and moves with no forwarding address. When associated postage and material costs related to these factors are recognized as well as non ZIP + 4®coded addresses, one begins to conceptualize the value of this service.
Cost Saving Benefits:
- Changes of 12+ month old moves that would have otherwise resulted in returned mail for First-Class Mail®. Study data identifies an average of 20% of total moves occur in the 13-36 month period.
- Avoidance of mailing to closed PO boxes, foreign moves and moves with no forwarding addresses.
- Address improvements resulting in ZIP + 4® Codes.
- Address standardization of all records.
- Identification of probable moves and addresses with errors as noted in the NCOALink® Return Codes portion of the process. Most databases are relatively complete with ZIP + 4® Codes, 90% – 95% on average..
This study is presented as an example of the savings potential to small file owners that use Standard Mail™ A class mail, in this case an owner with 82,153 records.
|Move address changes||4.49%||3,688||$0.26|
|ZIP + 4® improvement||1.00%||821||$0.07|
|Move address changes and closed boxes, etc. @ $0.26 ea||$ 958.88|
|Postal savings on ZIP + 4® records @ $0.07 ea.||$ 57.47|
|Less cost of service||$ 152.00|
|Net savings||$ 864.35|
10. What are NCOALink®Return Codes and what benefits do they provide?
An NCOALink® Return Code is a record that is close, but does not meet the USPS® standards for matching to the NCOALink® database and does not receive a forwarding address. It is flagged as a possible move. A new address cannot be provided, however Return Codes are appended to the record to allow the mailer to make a mail/ no mail decision. NCOALink® Return Codes typically identifies 40% to 70% additional names as possible moves over those found with the more restrictive matching rules required for providing a new address Option added to NCOALink® processing can result in additional savings and sales.
11. Why do I have to sign an NCOALink® PAF (Processing Acknowledgement Form)?
The USPS® requires this acknowledgement form. The form states “the sole purpose of the NCOALink®service is to provide a mailing list correction service for a list that will be used for the preparation of a mailing”. If you do not have a PAF on file with Anchor, please fax us a signed PAF at the time of placing your order. Per USPS® regulations, a mailing list owner’s PAF will remain in effect for one year from the date of signing. For each subsequent year a new form must be signed and returned to us as soon as possible.
We suggest that you download an NCOALink® PAF (Processing Acknowledgement Form), print, sign and mail/fax it to us at Anchor Computer, 1900 New Highway, Farmingdale, NY 11735-1509 USA, or fax it to us at 631-293-4113. You are under no obligation to place an order with us. However, we will have the form on file in case you decide to place an order and send us your file for processing.
12. How often should I process my database through NCOALink®?
To qualify for postage discounts on all classes of mail, you are required to update your files every 95 days. In addition, you also benefit from the improved deliverability that results from NCOALink® While it is generally recommended that you perform NCOALink® processing prior to each mailing, many companies update their database or mail file every 2 to 3 months. You should calculate the savings gained each time you mail to your list. This is done by multiplying the number of addresses that the NCOALink® process corrects by the cost of your mailing piece. Since the cost to process your file through NCOALink® is almost always less than the cost incurred from having undeliverable pieces (and subsequently not reaching your clients or prospects), it often makes economic sense to process your list through NCOALink® prior to each mailing.
13. I have a database with consumers and businesses – will NCOALink® help me?
Yes, the NCOALink® file is comprised of approximately 40% family moves, 54% individual moves and 6% business moves. It almost always makes sense to process your file through NCOALink® whether it is comprised of consumer, business, or both types of addresses. In the case of business moves, the whole company must move, not just an individual.
14. If a person moves several times, will I receive the current address?
When possible, postal customers who move multiple times within the life of a COA in NCOALink® and have notified the USPS® are linked to ensure the latest address is furnished when an NCOALink® match is attained.
15. What does Address Standardization do?
- The primary and secondary input addresses are standardized to USPS® regulations.
- The input city name is standardized to USPS® City – State and ZIP + 4® files.
- The 5 digit ZIP + 4® is verified or corrected.
- The Carrier Route is appended from the USPS® ZIP + 4® File.
- Delivery Point Bar Code Data and eLOT™ (Sorts Mail by Approximate Carrier-Casing Sequence) is appended from the USPS® ZIP + 4® file.
16. What’s the difference between NCOALink® and DSF2®?
NCOALink® is a process that matches a file of names and addresses to the USPS® licensed NCOALink®database comprised of 160+ million records of individual, family and business moves. DSF2® is a USPS®licensed database that improves delivery of your mailing by examining address data and comparing it to the DSF2® database that contains each of the 145+ million delivery points. DSF2® confirms the existence of the address, provides delivery type, business versus residential, and provides a Pseudo Sequence Number to qualify for walk sequence postal presort discounts. DSF2® detects potentially undeliverable addresses for reasons other than Change Of Address.
17. What’s the difference between NCOALink® and LACSLink®?
NCOALink® is a process that matches a file of names and addresses to the USPS® licensed NCOALink®database comprised of 160+ million records of individual, family and business moves. The LACSLink®Product is a USPS® licensed database, and according to recent USPS® statistics contains approximately 5.5 million records that enables you to update your mailing lists when addresses have been converted by local authorities, i.e. renumbering of houses or addresses converted from rural style to city style addresses, usually as a result of a 911 conversion. LACSLink® is now included in the NCOALink® process.
18. How long does it take to run NCOALink® on my file?
You must submit your file for NCOALink® processing with an NCOALink® Processing Acknowledgement Form. You select from four different service levels – 3 hour Priority Service, Next Business Day A.M. Service, Next Business Day P.M. Service and 2 Business Day Service. Please contact us for custom processing for larger volumes or if these service levels do not meet your needs. The USPS® requires that processing be completed within 7 days of receipt of your files for processing unless express written consent by the files owner.
19. How often do I have to CASS™ process my database?
If you are bar-coding your mail, the requirement is every 3 months, all input addresses are standardized, CASS Certified™ and ZIP + 4® /DPC processed.
20. Is my file secure at Anchor?
Yes, Anchor Computer has taken every precaution to make sure your file is secure throughout the NCOALink® process. Before upload, your file is encrypted using secure socket layer server software (SSL). Your file is then processed in our USPS® approved secure facility. Last, before your file is sent back to you, it is again encrypted using SSL software and zip pass-worded.
Anchor Computer respects your right to privacy and follows the guidelines set forth by the Direct Marketing Association. Anchor Computer will not sell, rent, exchange or release any of the information you submit on this web site, without your permission.
21. Will I still have undeliverable mail if I process
It is estimated that only 66.9% of mail is deliverable as addressed. The remaining percentage has some form of addressing deficiency, which could affect deliverability. Endorsed mail and First-Class Mail® can be forwarded or returned to the mailer. Undeliverable Standard Mail™ is normally discarded. NCOALink® will reduce the amount of undeliverable mail by Address Standardization and ZIP™ Correction as well as Move Update, but will not completely eliminate undeliverable mail. Some examples of returned mail NCOALink®not corrected are:
- Someone who moves and does not notify the USPS®
- The match to the COA file is not good enough to meet USPS® requirements for licensees to provide a forwarding address.
- Someone who has moved and filled out the address change form, but the information has not yet been added to the NCOALink® database.
- Someone who has moved and filled out the address change form, but the information never added to the NCOALink® (e.g. data quality issues)
22. Will NCOALink® validate name information as well as provide new move information on all the records in my database?
No, NCOALink® processing does not validate name and address information on your database. The NCOALink® database contains Change-Of-Address information only. If a person or company files a change of address with the USPS® the information is maintained on the NCOALink® database for 48 months. If a person or company does not file a change of address and the carrier does not file a “Moved – Left No Address” it does not appear on the NCOALink® database. Additional reasons a person/company would not be maintained on the NCOALink® database are:
- The person/company still lives at the address on your database.
- The person/company may have filed a temporary move (for example a college student moves home for the summer).
- Person may be deceased.
23. Will NCOALink® correct Spelling Errors in my names and addresses?
NCOALink® will not correct spelling errors in your names or addresses. Address Standardization will standardize your addresses to postal regulations and may also correct some street name misspellings. DSF2® also has the ability to correct misspelled street names.
24. Will NCOALink® tell me if an address is deliverable?
NCOALink® will give you change-of-address information and usually provides a ZIP + 4®. The DPV®process included in NCOALink® determines the deliverability of address records. ZIP + 4® validates addresses based on valid house number ranges but not the actual number. DPV® validates based on exact house number and apartment number.
25. Is there a difference in the NCOALink® process provided by each licensee?
Each licensee is tested and audited and their processing approved by the USPS® and all licensees must use USPS® CASS Certified™ address matching software in the process.
Anchor Computer is a non-exclusive Full Service Provider Licensee of the United States Postal Service® for NCOALink® , DSF2® and LACSLink® Pricing of these products and services is neither established, controlled, nor approved by the United States Postal Service®. The following trademarks are owned by the United States Postal Service®: ANKLink®, USPS®, United States Postal Service®, Postal Service™, Standard Mail®, ZIP™, ZIP Code™, ZIP + 4®, LACSLink™, NCOALink®, DPV®, DSF2® eLOT™, CASS™ and CASS Certified™.