Remember my story about how my savings bank threatened to close my account?
The bank thought my new mailing address, which my mail scanning service assigned me, was a P.O. Box.
Because it was against the Patriot Act, they called me multiple times threatening to close my account unless I gave the address of my legal residence.
Banks Require The Address of Your Legal Residence
For banking and tax purposes, you need to list your legal residence on your financial accounts.
According to banks and how they follow the Patriot Act, this address cannot be a:
- P.O. Box
- Commercial mail receiving agency
The address must be a legal home or residential address.
Keep Your Legal Address Without Forwarding Your Mail
I was about to leave the country. So what was I to do?
I had been planning to submit an order to forward my mail from my old residence to my new mailing address, which would be my mail scanning service.
After a scare like that threatening bank phone call, I opted not to forward my mail.
Instead, I left my legal address as is.
Quick Solution: Give Your Banks a Second Mailing Address
You can give your bank a mailing address separate from your physical address. You don’t need to receive your mail from them at the actual physical address you give them.
If the physical address and the P.O. box mailing address are in different states the bank may raise an eyebrow, but otherwise it is a perfectly normal scenario. Plenty of people do not receive mail at their living address for a variety of reasons.
Also, let’s say you open a P.O. Box or get an address from a commercial mail receiving agency in the same state as your residential mailing address. But if you don’t live in that state, there is the option to have the post office compile and send you your mail from your residential mailing address to wherever you are.
All my banks use my commercial mailing address for sending me mail. Same with the IRS.
The Address In Your Bank Account and the Address On Your ID or Driver’s License Must Match
The best way to ensure no problems with banks is to have the address you give the bank be the same address on your ID or driver’s license.
Credit agencies and banks cross reference the address to databases that have the ID address.
If your addresses do match, banks will never question the address, even if you haven’t lived there for years.
They are not physically checking it by peeking into the window to make sure you live there.
What Are My Options As An Expat?
Other than banks, there are few reasons to ever give out a physical address, let alone the address you actually live at.
Obviously different circumstances will need different solutions.
- The easiest way to go is to simply leave your physical address exactly as it had been, with the banks and your ID. You get all the banks and other places to send mail to a second address (P.O. Box or commercial mail receiving agency like Traveling Mailbox). After that you can be anywhere and get mail shipped to you anywhere.
- Another option: if you have the money, invest in real estate and use it as your legal residence. For security reasons however, don’t have your mail go there. Keep your P.O. Box or commercial mail receiving agency for that.
- Yet another option: I rank this one the lowest of the three. Use a friend or family member’s address as your legal address–with their permission, of course. You’d have to consider what to do if they move, however.
Bottom Line: Do Not Submit a Change of Address Form to the Post Office
The problem is if you submit a change of address, you will see “Address Service Requested” on your bank mail and other first class mail. What this means is that the post office will send a card to the mail sender informing them of your new address.
If a bank sends an errant piece of mail to your old physical address, instead of the mailing address you gave them, you want it to simply be returned to sender. Not have them notified that you have a new different address elsewhere, which is how you get flagged.
Always Give Everyone the New Mailing Address Instead of Filing a Change of Address With the Post Office
This also helps with privacy, cutting off the people or companies from whom you no longer want to receive mail or know where you are.
It’s up to you how comfortable you are with leaving the old address on file with these places and your driver’s license after you have moved. I have had no problems myself and it doesn’t bother me. If you have given everyone the new mailing address then there should be no issues.
Mail that gets sent to the old address in your name will eventually be stopped and returned to sender at the post office before it even gets to the mailbox of your old place.
Depending on your mailman and the mail situation at your old address, this could happen right away as soon as your name is off the box. Or it could take a few pieces being delivered and returned by the new occupant. Eventually though, it will be put in the system that it is bad address. You won’t have to worry about your mail constantly being delivered to someone else.
If you’ve made sure all the relevant people have the new mailing address, it’s unlikely anything important will go to the old physical address in the first place.