USPS® Address Verification | Free Tools and Best Options
USPS Address Verification validates and corrects US mailing addresses following the USPS Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS) standards.
Address verification against the USPS database confirms whether the address is mailable, reduces mailing costs, decreases lost/returned mail, and speeds up delivery.
The USPS is a good source for verifying addresses, but the Postal Service also has several unique limits that may prevent them from being usable for you.
We'll cover several limits with the USPS Terms of Service, address coverage, downtime, metadata, rate-limiting, and other things you should know.
If you find the USPS address validation options aren't adequate, don't worry, we have capable tools that provide more flexibility.
Try them out here:
|USPS Address Verification||Bulk USPS Address Validation||USPS Address Verification API|
In this article, we’ll cover:
- Why USPS Address Validation?
- How to Validate an Address with the USPS Address Lookup Tool
- Understanding the USPS Output, DPV, and LACSLink®
- Pros of Using the USPS Postal Address Verification Tool
- 6 USPS Address Verification Cons
Why USPS Address Validation?
USPS Address Validation tells you that the US postal addresses to which you’re sending are real and mailable. Many factors stand in the way of knowing if addresses will work for your purposes. ZIP Code changes, new construction, and annexation all play a role. Even human error when typing in addresses creates problems.
- The USPS makes 10-20 new ZIP Codes each year, and it takes up to 5 years for people to fully utilize new ZIP Codes.
- Individual ZIP+4 Codes may change up to once a month since plus 4s tie to how many employees a post office has, changing coverage areas, new construction, etc.
- Estimates say that between 4.7% and 8.4% of the time customers fill out an online form or enter their information, they make a mistake. Depending on how extensive your database is, there could be many incorrect addresses.
Address verification is an essential step if you want mail to make it to the correct destination on the first try without losing packages or getting returned mail.
The most obvious answer to this challenge is to use the USPS Address Verification web tool to clean up your mailing address list. USPS address verification is free, but you might find there are other solutions that better fit your needs.
First, let’s talk about how to use the address verification tool from the USPS. We will also cover the key pros and cons of the service. This article covers the USPS Address Verification Web Tools, but we also cover the USPS Address Verification APIs in depth here.
How to Validate an Address with the USPS Address Lookup Tool
Even if you’re confident of your address list quality, you must verify your address data within 12 months of mailing. Otherwise, you won't qualify for presorted commercial mail rates. We suggest checking addresses within a month before mailing since the USPS data updates monthly.
The USPS offers a free tool on their website to look up ZIP Codes by entering addresses one at a time. Here is how to validate an address with USPS and understand the results:
- Visit the USPS ZIP Code Lookup Page
- The minimum data the USPS Address Verification Tool permits are the street address, city, and state. If needed, the fields labeled for Apartment/Suite and ZIP Code can be left blank.
- If known, add the ZIP Code and the Apartment / Suite if applicable since it will improve the probability that the USPS address lookup tool will find the correct address.
- Click “Find”
- The tool will then run your address lookup against the USPS official address database to attempt to find a match.
Depending on what you entered, USPS will show you:
- a list of addresses when the tool identifies multiple valid matching addresses:
- a single fully enumerated address including ZIP+4 Code if the tool finds one matching address. The address will also display in the official USPS standardized format:
- an incomplete address missing the +4 Code. The missing +4 Code means the tool could only find a partial match. E.g., USPS successfully found the city and state but failed to find the building or house number:
You will also be able to click on the "⌄" icon for the listed address to expand the results. Possible Delivery Point Validation Indicator Options are:
DPV Confirmation Indicator Mailable? Meaning Y ✅ Address is valid and shippable. D ✅ Primary number (building, house) confirmed, but the secondary number (suite, apartment, unit, etc.) is missing from the user entry. S ❌ Primary number (building, house) is confirmed, but the secondary number (suite, apartment, unit, etc.) is present but failed DPV Confirmation. N ❌ Primary number (building, house) and the secondary number (suite, apartment, unit, etc.) failed DPV confirmation. - ❌ Address match not found, so it didn’t submit for DPV confirmation.
The DPV Confirmation Indicator of “Y” is the response you most want since it means it is the most precise address for a delivery location offered by the USPS.
A DPV Confirmation Indicator of “D” is almost as good since it indicates an address that is valid and shippable but also indicates that there may be a valid secondary address number (suites, apartments, units, etc.) missing from your entry.
The “D” indicator flags that the address may require manual review to confirm the address doesn’t need an apartment, suite, or unit number. The “D” indicator has prevented many lost packages. Mailing to an address with DPV Confirmation Indicator “D” typically means that your mail gets to the lobby of a building rather than a particular apartment or suite.
Mailing to an address with DPV Confirmation Indicator “D” typically means that your mail gets to the lobby of a building rather than a particular apartment or suite.
Note: The USPS address verification process does not confirm that a person or company works or lives at a specific address. Instead, the verification process confirms that an address exists and can receive mail.
Understanding the USPS Output
As noted in step 7 above, if you click the "⌄" icon, you can expand the results and get up to 14 additional metadata points.
Looking at this output provided by the USPS Address Validation Tool, you might be wondering what things like "LAC," "eLot," and "DPV Confirmation Indicator" really are and their usage. While some metadata points aren’t relevant or important for most users, we’ll briefly explain a few useful ones.
Delivery Point Validation
Delivery Point Validation™ (DPV®) is a form of address validation designed by the USPS to ensure that an address can receive mail.
A delivery point can be a PO box, a box on an aircraft carrier, or a mailbox at the curb. It can also be a mail slot in the front door or a cluster mailbox in a subdivision—whatever the intended final destination is for a letter or package. Delivery points are not street addresses. A single street address may have multiple delivery points, such as individual units in apartment buildings or offices.
To identify delivery points individually, the USPS gives each one a unique 11-digit number, composed of the delivery point's nine-digit ZIP+4 Code plus an extra two digits that narrow the designation to the delivery point itself. The 11-digit number is the Delivery Point Code (DPC).
An address with a valid ZIP+4 Code but without a valid DPC may identify an unused building, a building that does not exist, or a vacant lot. Knowing how a valid delivery point differs from a valid address makes USPS output easier to understand.
LACS and LACSLink®
Another metadata point that shows up is LAC™.
Occasionally, addresses get renamed or renumbered. Many rural addresses have been updated with modern, easy-to-find city-street addresses to aid 911 emergency response teams. Or sometimes, a city might rename a street to edit an insensitive street name or honor influential local citizens.
For example, In 2010, Minneapolis renamed a portion of 3rd Avenue North near Target Field to “Twins Way.”
To keep track of these changes, the USPS has a system called LACS to track these changes.
LACS (Locatable Address Conversion System) is a secure dataset of rural-style addresses converted to city-style addresses that primarily arise from implementing the e911 system. It also contains existing renamed or renumbered city-style addresses.
LACSLink® exists as the link between USPS address tools to check addresses against the LACS dataset.
Your metadata results will tell you if the address was checked against LACSLink®.
For example, enter:
2737 N MOUNT PLEASANT RD GREENBRIER TN
The USPS ZIP Code Lookup will return:
5257 N MOUNT PLEASANT RD GREENBRIER TN 37073-5833
We know what you’re thinking. Either we put a typo in this article, or the USPS is returning a different address from what you entered!
But when you expand your results, you’ll see an "L" under the LAC. The “L” indicates that the address returned "5257 N" is the matching updated version of the address entered "2737 N" found in the LAC database and that "5257 N" is the most correct version of the address.
Since these are primarily for rural addresses updated to match a more conventional city address format, you may not frequently run across this type of address if you only validate a handful of addresses.
If you’re cleansing several thousand addresses in your database or preparing a mass mailing, you will see it come up far more frequently.
Pros of Using the USPS Postal Address Verification Tool
If you only need to use an address checker to verify USPS addresses occasionally, the USPS Zip Code Lookup tool works to validate US postal addresses one at a time. It’s easy enough to use, free, and requires no setup.
The tool also returns addresses in USPS standardized format. While this may look a bit different from what you originally entered, using the USPS standardized street address format ensures your mailpieces are processed smoothly with no delays.
With a little bit more work, developers can also integrate USPS Web Tools® APIs into a website or shipping application for free.
6 Cons of Using the USPS Postal Address Verification Tool
It’s pretty neat that the USPS offers all these address validation options for free. But - you guessed it - there’s a catch. Actually, there are 6.
Slow User Experience
If you want to grab an entire address, paste it into the USPS Address Verification Tool, hit enter, and see if your address is valid, you'll be disappointed.
USPS requires that you enter each part of the address into a different field. After hitting the “Find” button, you go to a new page with the results and click the "⌄" icon to see the full output. Then, you have to click another button if you need to make changes to the entered address or enter a new address.
The process isn’t so bad if you’re doing a few postal addresses, but it becomes painful around the 7th and excruciating around the 14th.
Smarty offers USPS address verification via single field entry. The response shows on the same page–which makes updating or entering the following address a breeze.
Even if you use the USPS API for address verification, you’re still limited to no more than 5 addresses per second which is slow considering that other services can efficiently process 1000 times that amount in the same time.
No Address Autocomplete
Maintaining a clean address database starts at the beginning—when you first enter an address. Autocomplete prevents malformed data from making its way into your database by recommending only valid addresses while the user types.
Unfortunately, the address verification tools offered by the USPS do not include an autocomplete feature which means:
- Address will take longer to enter
- Address are more likely to contain typos
- Address is more likely to be missing components
- An extra step will be required to confirm the address
Suppose you’re providing an online form for customers to enter address data. In that case, you’ll need to integrate Smarty's US Address Autocomplete into your forms to avoid user error while typing and reduce friction for your customer.
Learn more about what to look for in an address autocomplete service.
Missing 15 Million+ US Addresses
The United States Postal Service database contains 160 million mailing addresses in the United States.
But did you know there are over 15 million NON-postal addresses out there? Only private carriers like FedEx, UPS, and DHL service these valid addresses. You could miss millions of valid customer addresses if you only go by the USPS database. To validate non-postal addresses, you’ll need to look beyond the APIs offered by the USPS.
No International Data
As the name implies, the USPS is the United States Postal Service. While you can use the USPS to ship a package to an international location, the USPS does not offer any services to verify, validate, standardize or parse international addresses.
If you need international address verification for any other country, you'll need another solution.
Lacking Useful Metadata
Remember when we talked about DPV, LACSLink, and the other metadata you can get from the USPS Address Validator?
Not to be confused with the metaverse, metadata is data about data. It’s like the key to a map– explaining all the lines, dots, and other symbols. Metadata helps you sort and catalog information. The more metadata you have, the more you know about your original data or object, and the faster you can draw conclusions or analyze data.
The USPS Web Tools can return the following data points:
Firm name State Carrier route DPV footnotes Address1 5-digit ZIP Code Footnotes RDI Address2 ZIP+4 Code DPV match code Central delivery point City Delivery point CMRA Vacancy status
Smarty US Address Verification returns all the USPS data points above plus the following:
Default city name Building default indicator Daylight savings time flag SuiteLink ZIP-type Latitude and longitude No_stat flag EWS match Time Zone LACSLink code Congressional district Time zone offset LACSLink indicator
With every validated address, Smarty can provide up to 45 points of metadata to enrich your data. That’s a lot more information to provide better, faster services.
Strict Terms of Service (TOS)
Yes, those things no one ever reads but checks the box saying they’ve read. In this case, any business planning to depend on USPS services should at least see this statement from the USPS web tools user guide:
The Address Validation APIs can be used in conjunction with USPS SHIPPING OR MAILING SERVICES ONLY.
The Address API must only be used on an individual transactional basis, i.e., not batch processing or cleansing of a database, but as a customer enters the information into a form on a website.
Failure to comply with these terms and conditions can result in termination of USPS API access without prior notice.”
Here are a few everyday use cases not permitted by the above USPS statement:
- Want to clean your database of 1 billion, 1 million, or 100 addresses with USPS? Sorry, USPS gives a resounding “No.”
- Want to run a quick batch of 20 addresses? Nope, that is also against the USPS TOS.
- Want to ensure the address is valid before you ship a package with UPS since you recently discovered that the UPS validator doesn’t verify building numbers or unit numbers? Unfortunately, the USPS TOS blocks you again.
The TOS declares that USPS web services must be used exclusively for USPS shipping or mailing services.
The Terms also state that there isn't a Service Level Agreement (SLA). A service level agreement is a commitment between a service provider like USPS and a client that guarantees a minimum level of service.
Without an SLA, USPS is quite literally offering no promises.
You can programmatically access the USPS Address validation tools through a suite of APIs. We discuss the pros and cons of the USPS Address Verification APIs here.
USPS offers a good set of free-to-use tools and resources. Depending on your needs, address verification offered by USPS may be what you need.
We discussed all the abilities and limitations of USPS address verification and how Smarty compares. Here is a quick reference guide:
|Verifies Full USPS Addresses||✅||✅|
|Single Field Address Entry||❌||✅|
|15mm Non-Postal Addresses||❌||✅|
|Free to use?||✅||✅*|
|Max Addresses Lookups Per Request||5||∞|
|Lookups per second||~5||100,000+|
|Included output data||⇧||⇧|
|Supports International Addresses||❌||✅|
|Can be used for shipping UPS, FedEx, and other shippers||❌||✅|
|Database Cleansing Permitted||❌||✅|
|Bulk Address Verification Permitted||❌||✅|
|Guaranteed speed and reliability||❌||✅|
|Phone, email, and chat support||❌||✅|
Yes. The address verification tools offered by the USPS are free and simple to use—but come with limitations. Only you can determine if these limitations are deal-breakers.
If you’re looking for a long-term solution with the power and features you need to get the most out of your address data and help you maintain a clean database, Smarty US Address Verification might be what you need.
With US Address Verification by Smarty, you get the fastest and most accurate single address verification, bulk address validation, and address validation APIs on the planet. You’ll benefit from:
- Enhanced address matching
- All USPS database addresses
- 15+ million non-postal addresses
- Standardized address data
- Additional metadata
- Great documentation
- Lightning-fast speeds
- Legendary support