Whether you are moving overseas permanently, going on extended holiday, avoiding the British winter or working abroad for a fixed term one thing will need to be dealt with – your post! Boring but vital!

These days everyone is besieged by junk mail and maybe half of what you receive on a daily basis goes straight in the bin. However, among the ‘preferential loan rates’ and ‘seven windows for the price of five’ are letters that are important to you. Important that you see the contents and probably requiring some action on your part. On occasion prompt action could save you a lot of headaches and inconvenience later not to mention money. No matter how extensive your ‘things to do’ list is you will almost inevitably forget something. You need to plan how you are going to deal with your post.

So what are the options?
  1. Friends / neighbours / relatives
  2. Redirection
  3. Accommodation address service
  4. Mail scanning via MFExpress

1) Friends / neighbours / relatives. If you are not moving permanently then you will probably still have a home of some kind in the UK. You can get someone to pick your mail up for you and send it on, or you can telephone/email and get an update that way.
Benefits: Relatively cheap (unless you are making a lot of international calls).
Limitations: Reliant on the good will of others. Difficult to action some items at a distance. Unless your mail is collected daily there will be inevitable delays.

2) Redirection. The Royal Mail will redirect your post overseas via airmail.
Benefits:  Mail is redirected on a daily basis (although this could be a minus depending on your circumstances). Cost is 66.05 per annum. Can be set up in 5 days with appropriate forms and identification.
Limitations: Maximum period of 2 years. Cost is per surname – if you have two people moving with different surnames you have to double the cost. Signed for/Special Delivery items cannot be redirected. If you want your mail redirected to a different address you have to cancel the previous contract, no refunds available, and take out a new one. Charges for businesses are double and extra business names are charged incrementally. Final delivery is via the postal service in the destination country which will impact time and reliability depending on where you have moved to.

3) Accommodation Address with mail forwarding. You have your mail redirected to a commercial accommodation address provider who will then send it on as per your instructions.
Benefits: You have a considerable say in how your post is forwarded. You can usually choose from periodically (weekly, monthly and so on), on demand (you telephone or email when you want your mail sent on), or some companies will allow you to specify volume or weight triggers (‘send my mail on when it reaches 20 items or 1 kilogram’ for example). You can often choose how your mail is forwarded – by postal service or courier. Usually you can change the destination address at no extra charge. Address rental usually allows for more than one name. If there are any incremental name charges they tend to be relatively small. A limited number of companies will scan and email or fax your post on demand (i.e. you specify what mail you want treated this way). Often your address can be customised so that it appears to be a street address and not a box number. Some providers offer supplementary services. Usually same day set up.
Limitations: Service costs more, however you are getting more for your money. Rates vary from 100 - 250 plus VAT, depending on the volume of mail you expect to receive or the type of address you require – sometimes you can pay more for a ‘better’ address.
Forwarding is incremental and charged on a per occasion or per item basis. Expect to pay 1 - 3 per occasion plus P&P or 10 - 20p per item plus P&P.
 You will need to spend a while estimating your mail volume and calculating airmail costs. Airmail prices can be found at the Royal Mail website. Be careful! Your forwarding costs can easily outweigh the address cost. Make sure you are clear about what you are going to pay.

4) MFExpress. Hard to put this into a category as it is a unique, top of the range service. You are given a street address to which you redirect your mail. The mail is opened and ‘junk’ mail put to one side or destroyed – you decide which. The remainder is scanned and uploaded to a secure internet site. You then access your post via the internet. Post is forwarded, once a month, to a UK address of your choice.
Benefits: Access to your post within hours of it arriving in the UK. No reliance on the mail service in your destination country. Extensive range of supplementary services available such as cheque deposit and UK bill payment enables prompt action if necessary. Forwarding can be via airmail or courier if desired. Extra names included in the price. Same day set up.
Limitations: Customer needs to be reasonably familiar with using the internet. Cost is at the top end of the market (around 650 per annum) however it is a daily service (six days a week) and UK forwarding is included in the price.

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Posted 6Aug04