The primary difference between your mailing address and your physical address is that a physical address is geographically located, while a mailing address is where you get your mail. Often, a physical address and a mailing address are the same. However, that is not always the case. Whether you want your mail delivered to your physical location or update your current physical address, it’s essential to know the critical difference between the two so that you don’t make an error.
In the United States, the physical address describes a geographical location, whereas the USPS standards for mail delivery govern a mailing address.
Depending upon the location, these two addresses might or might not be the same. Let’s take a closer look at both of them.
What is a Physical Address?
The meaning of physical address is your house’s actual geographical location, office, park, coffee shop, church, or whatever else. The physical address has a geographical boundary, and it falls under the jurisdiction of an administrative area or region with a government function.
The jurisdiction dictates taxes, land development, zoning, and mortgage regulation. The physical address determines how much access one has to public transportation, sanitation, internet, and waterworks.
A physical address is created or designated by a taxing agency. In most cases, it is the county tax assessor’s office. After an address has been assigned to a tax parcel, it can be sold, and structures can be built.
The U.S. Census Bureau collects demographic and geographical data on everyone in the United States and produces a variety of datasets that agencies use. One dataset is TIGER, standing for Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing. This data set contains information about geographic features like roads, current address information, and so on.
What is a Mailing Address?
On the other hand, a mailing address is an official address where you get your mail. For many residential home dwellers in the country, the physical and mailing addresses are the same. But in some cases, they are different.
The USPS sets a mailing address standard and revolves around ZIP Codes. The USPS created ZIP Codes in 1963. ZIP Codes have five numbers, with the first digit representing the geographical area of the U.S. (zero for the Northeast and nine for the Far West), the next two digits pinpointing population concentrations, and the last two are designated to postal offices or postal zones.
ZIP Codes are primarily there to deliver mail most efficiently, especially to larger areas, so sometimes USPS will decide that your mailing address isn’t the same as your physical address.
Reasons Your Mailing Address Might Be Different Than Your Physical Address
Some routes, such as Jackson, Wyoming, are not on USPS routes because of the weather. The weather makes it very hard to deliver mail to individual homes. Residents have to have a P.O. box at the main post office, and everything is delivered there instead of at their homes. In heavy rural areas where the houses are spread out, they have P.O. boxes instead of shipping to individual homes.
Sometimes, a place might be assigned a unique ZIP Code, especially to high-volume mail receivers such as government agencies, businesses, and universities. These places get their unique code, and the USPS drops off the mail at one location instead of directly.
For people serving in the military, their addresses are treated as domestic mail even if the destination is in another country. USPS delivers that mail to post offices, then delivers it to you. If you have a military address, it will differ from your physical address, depending on where you are stationed.
Lastly, new street addresses have not been delivered by USPS since 2013 and have to do with cluster mailboxes instead. This centralized mailbox will be different from your physical address if you live on a new street.
Mailing Address Shipping Restrictions
Mailing addresses have shipping restrictions that do not allow for third-party deliveries. Sometimes, mailing addresses are restricted because of P.O. boxes and cannot receive unrestricted mail. However, in the case of physical addresses, third-party carriers like UPS, FedEx, DHL, and Amazon can deliver to your house in a completely unrestricted way.