Address Change Service (ACS) Explained
Recently the USPS® made one of its most efficient Move Update methods free when used with a Full Service mailing. The sheer variety of options and possibilities for ACS can make it feel daunting to navigate, however, the benefits are worth it once you determine which of the dozens of service options best fit your needs.
First, before we even delve in to the different service options available, we will discuss the three primary ACS types.
- Traditional ACS is the original offering, but does not fully leverage the IMb® and requires printing the ACS Keyline on each piece. This harkens back to well before any of the other ACS types, but despite its age is still an acceptable way to get the most current Move Update information from the USPS. Like all of the ACS types, this uses a Keyline which uniquely identifies each mailpiece in the mailing, so that results can be easily mapped back. In BCC Mail Manager, this is simply called the ACS Keyline. It has a unique look, with # wrapping the alphanumeric code.
- OneCode ACS utilizes the IMb for ACS information and is only available for basic mail pieces. The keyline is actually the IMb serial number, and nothing additional needs to be printed on the mail piece. This uses the Mail Manager “OneCode ACS Keyline” field to populate the serial number in the IMb. This code is also used to link the results of the ACS service back to the individual record.
- Full Service ACS is just like OneCode, all of the relevant information is contained within the barcode, but it is only available for Full Service pieces. It uses the OneCode ACS Keyline to populate the serial number and uniquely identify each mail piece. Full Service ACS is offered by the USPS free of charge, as long as the mailing itself is Full Service. Although it is “free” there still may be fees assessed, depending on the service, if that service involves returning pieces to you. This is done at the full single piece rate.
To complicate matters, each type of ACS outlined above has three or more Ancillary Services variations for how mail pieces and return data are handled. To further complicate matters, each Mail Class has a different set of available endorsements. The three main types of Ancillary Services are:
- Change Service Requested – focuses on getting you the updated address information. There are two variations, Option 1 and Option 2. With Option 1, you will only receive the new address or reason for non-delivery, any errant mail pieces are discarded. With Option 2, as long as the move occurred within the last 12 months, your piece is forwarded and a notification is generated. The mailpiece is discarded for any moves outside of those 12 months, and only a notice is generated.
- Address Service Requested – focuses on getting the mail piece to the intended recipient when possible, and of course getting you the updated information. Both options forward the mail piece if the move is within the last 12 months while generating a notice of the new address. For moves that are between 13 and 48 months, the results vary by options. With Option 1, you get the piece back with the corrected information affixed and no ACS notice; while Option 2 generates a notice, and sends back the piece with updated information. All Nixie or undeliverable pieces are handled in a similar fashion, with Option 1 sending you just the returned mail with reason for return affixed and Option 2 doing the same but also generating an electronic notice
- Return Service Requested – always returns the mail piece in question, and requires a printed endorsement. Option 1 generates no electronic notice (but again the reason for the return or new address is affixed). Option 2 generates a notice, and also has the information affixed to the returned piece.
- Temp-return service – is unique to First-Class Mail®. It behaves exactly like Return Service except it has the ability to forward information for Temporary moves, without generating any notice for the mailer.
Periodicals have a number of additional caveats, and in truth, almost all Mail Class, Ancillary Service combinations are in some way unique, but hopefully this primer has assisted you in deciding which ACS type and services are worth exploring for your mailings.
As always, please contact BCC Software Customer Support at 800.624.5234 with any questions regarding ACS services, or for help in setting up BCC Mail Manager.