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NCOA Frequently Asked Questions

What is NCOA?
NCOALink (National Change of Address) is a service whereas we match up a client provided database to the U.S. Postal service National Move File. By doing this, we are able to provide the client back a database with the last 48 months of moves, recorded by the Postal Service.

Why use NCOA?
Two main reasons: First of all, there is a requirement by U.S. Postal service that for a mailing to be sent out at the automated postal rates it must be updated with the newest move information. NCOA is one of the ways to update a list (postal endorsements is the other). The second reason is that there is a 20% chance that someone in a household will move, every year. So using NCOA is a very inexpensive way to keep your list clean and have a higher mailing deliverability.

What percent of moves should one expect on their mailing list with NCOA?
This really depends how old or outdated the uploaded list is. But typically there will be between 5% and 15% moves within a consumer file and 3% to 7% on a business file.

Will I stop getting returns if I send my database through NCOA?
NCOA will not mean the end of returns. In fact, we estimate that sending your list through NCOA will only cut your number of returns by about 50%. So if you get 5% returns after NCOA, chances are you would have gotten 10% had you not used the service. What NCOA does is match up a database to the National Move File. The National Move File is created when someone fills out a Move Update Form. There are multiple reasons why sending a file through NCOA would not catch a move.

  1. The person or company moving did not fill out a Move Update Form with the Postal Service.
  2. It takes 6 weeks for a move to be updated in the National Move File.
  3. Remember that not all returns are moves. NCOA does not check that someone lives at the given address, or even if the address is legal.
  4. The Postal Service only considers a New Move match when the address and name are exactly the same as it is in their file. So if a name is misspelled, it will not show up as a match. (e.g., The addressee submitted a change as "MARY G. SMITH-JONES", "125 MAPLE ST APT 125" and you submitted "M SMITH", "125 MAPLE ST". In this example, the last name, middle initial or address will cause a miss.)
  5. When someone fills out a Move Update Form, it will only be added National Move File, if it is filled out correctly. If the address they are at, or the address they are moving to has an incomplete address or zipcode, the Postal Service will not add it to the file.

How does this NCOA service go about trying to match names from my customer file to the National Move file?
The customer file is first put through CASS so its addresses are standardized. That way it will be easier to match with addresses on the National Move File. If the address is matched, it will then look at the company and names fields to find a match there. On a company move, it only needs to match with the name of the company. It does not track people employed at a company. On a family move, it only needs to match the last name in the file. On an individual move (for example, a young adult is moving out of the house, or a couple gets separated), both the entire name must match. The data contained within the NCOALink Product is comprised of approximately 40% family moves, 54% individual moves, and 6% business moves.

  • Business: Match on business name.
  • Individual: Match on first name, middle name, surname and title required. Gender is checked and nickname possibilities are considered.
  • Family: Match on surname only.

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