Postal address verification
Postal address verification (also known as address standardization, address validation, address verification and CASS certification) is the process used to check the validity and deliverability of a physical mailing address. According to the United States Postal Service, an address is valid (or mailable) if it is CASS-certified, meaning that it exists within the comprehensive list of mailable addresses in their Address Management System. This is different from the credit card Address Verification System (AVS), which is the method used by credit card processors to authenticate ownership of a credit card by verifying that the account on the credit card matches the billing address on file. Credit card AVS does not determine deliverability of an address.
Before an address can be certified as "deliverable" (CASS-certified) it must first be standardized. Standardization takes an address and converts it to a standard format by correcting the address (if possible) and also adding missing information (such as ZIP codes) to produce a complete address containing a street address, city, state, and ZIP code.
The following methods are used to achieve the most accurate address possible:
USPS approved abbreviations are used whenever possible to clarify and shorten the address.
- Example: The term 'Avenue may commonly be abbreviated AV, AVEN, or AVN or fully spelled out as "avenue". The standardized form is "AVE". Similarly, Square is commonly abbreviated SQRE, SQR, or SQU, while the standardized form is "SQ".
Because a misspelling will usually result in an undeliverable address, whenever possible commonly misspelled words are corrected. These are typically city names and street names. Due to the large number of possible misspellings, not all of them can be accurately caught and corrected.
- Example: The street address 1600 ampytheatre parkways would be caught and corrected to 1600 Amphitheatre PKWY. The spelling of the city name as "pheonix" would be corrected to "Phoenix".
Uniform city names
Many cities have a number of different commonly used names. Each ZIP Code in the Address Management System has one "preferred" city and may have one or more "acceptable" cities.
CASS-certified software will accept as standard any "preferred" or "acceptable" city for a five-digit ZIP Code. Only a city that is "preferred" or "acceptable" will be recognized as standard. These systems will attempt to correct incorrect city names and any that cannot be corrected will be rejected.
- Examples: "New York City", "Empire State", "Greeley Square" and "Manhattan" in ZIP Code 10001 would be standardized to "New York". Meanwhile, the "preferred" city of "Floral Park" or either of the "acceptable" cities of "Bellerose Village" or "South Floral Park" would be accepted as standard for use in ZIP Code 11001.
An address must be complete in order to be valid. This means that it must have a street, city, state and ZIP code. Whenever possible, addresses that are incomplete will have the missing information added.
If a valid ZIP code is provided but the city and state are missing, the city and state will be added.
- Example: "1600 Amphitheatre Pkwy 94043" would be expanded to "1600 Amphitheatre Pkwy Mountain View CA 94043"
If a valid city and state are provided but the ZIP code is missing, the ZIP code will be added.
- Example: "1600 Amphitheatre Pkwy Mountain View, CA" would be expanded to "1600 Amphitheatre Pkwy Mountain View CA 94043"
Delivery point validation
The standardized address is then compared against the entire list of valid addresses in the Address Management System to determine if it is a valid address. Address validity is based on many different factors, including address renumbering (via the USPS Locatable Address Conversion System) and address completeness. If an exact match is not found, an acceptable alternative will be used (if available).
- Example: 123 North main Street, New York, NY 10010 is an apartment building with 100 apartments in it. If an apartment number is not specified, the default address (lobby) will be used for delivery.
If the address is valid, it will be assigned a ZIP+4 code something like this: 12344-5678, where the first five digits are the ZIP code and the trailing four digits are the delivery range. An address with a ZIP+4 code (or nine-digit ZIP code) is considered to be valid. In most cases, this means that the address is deliverable. However, if the USPS has the address listed as "VACANT", it will not be delivered, even though the address is valid.
- Note: An address can still be valid (but not deliverable by the USPS) if it is a remote location and only served by private carrier such as UPS or Fedex.
- Verify and correct addresses BEFORE mailing
- Correct addresses in a list
- Remove duplicated addresses from a list based on the standardized address
- Qualify for USPS bulk mailing discounts
- Minimize delivery delays by only using valid addresses
The USPS offers address verification directly on their website. Addresses are processed one at a time by typing the address into the provided fields. The USPS also licenses their services to companies that provide the CASS certification in bulk. These third-party providers typically allow processing of address lists in CSV or Excel format. They may also provide an API allowing the use of address verification services from within a program or website.
Pricing from third-party address verification providers ranges from free (for non-profit organizations) to thousands of dollars per year, depending on the number of addresses. A Google search for "free address verification" will turn up a service that offers free address validation for schools, libraries, churches and other nonprofit organizations. A quick google search for "address validation" or "address verification" will generate a number of useful results for commercial services.
- "USPS Publication 28, Appendix C: Postal Addressing". Retrieved 2 January 2012.
- United States Postal Service Domestic Mail Manual  602 Addressing. Retrieved 2012-09-21
- United States Postal Service "ZIP Code Lookup"  Look Up a ZIP Code. Retrieved 2012-09-21
- USPS - Welcome to Business Mail 101
- USPS - ZIP Code Lookup - Search By Address