[HELP] USA address format for country line

I apologize if this has been discussed elsewhere or if it is available in FAQs and I missed it (moderators, if this belongs in an existing conversation please send me there :sweat_smile:)

For Postcrossers in the USA, do you put “USA” or spell out “United States of America” for your address? I had it spelled out “United States of America” from when I began Postcrossing in 2017 (not sure why I did that? I must have read that was the proper format?), then I changed it to simply “USA” sometime in 2021 and haven’t noticed any problems with items not showing up. I made the change because:

  1. it is less for people to squeeze on the postcard and
  2. many (most!) of my postcards came addressed with “USA” even when my shared address had the full spelling of the country

Why am I asking this? I received a message from someone in Germany who recently tried to send me an envelope from a lottery and it was returned to them so I am trying to figure out what possibly could be the problem. The address I gave was complete:

FirstName LastName
House# StreetName
City, State 00000-0000 <—even full zip!

Thanks for any help!

Was it returned by USPS? If so, it should have a yellow label on it with the reason it was returned/rejected.

I’m sure “USA” is perfectly acceptable for the address, since most of my mail arrives addressed like that.


I’ve always used USA and the full zip.

There are a number of reasons that it was returned. I had someone send me something and it was returned to them twice. I had them write out my address really neatly and the third time it arrived.

I also just registered an official card earlier today that was sent to me from Wisconsin on 13 April, then was canceled on 18 April in Baton Rouge, LA, then again in Baton Rouge, LA, on 20 April. So…perhaps the USPS is just having some issues right now! lol


That is a great question - from the message it sounded like it was returned before it even left Germany, so not by the USPS? She was very nice in her message and said she would try to find out more from her post office, but I wanted to make sure it wasn’t a mistake on my part causing the trouble! I will see if she finds out more and I will ask if it was returned by USPS or German post.

I have the full UNITED STATES OF AMERICA on my official Postcrossing address (if I remember correctly, it was a prompt when signing up), but on the forum I’ve always given USA. Some official card senders even abbreviate USA. I haven’t had any issues that I know of.

I suppose if it did make it the the US it could be a handwriting issue, where some of the numbers are written differently in Europe? Though I’ve been impressed at what they have been able to deliver to me. It’s an interesting conundrum :thinking:

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Yes! I think I had it in all caps spelled out like that, having followed the prompt. I was looking around on my profile to see if I could find anything about that again and didn’t see anything. Maybe I should change my official back. That is good to know that you use USA for the forum without issues.

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Well, now I feel silly. Went back to my profile and address tab and there on the right hand side was a box with:

Unsure how to write your address correctly? Check the official UPU recommendation for United States of America.


Hi, may I put a little post delivery problem to you? Yesterday a letter came back from USA with a yellow label “insufficient address, unable to forward” and the word NIXIE. I can’t understand, what’s wrong with the address, because the recipient wrote it exatly so in a forum. Only a handwritten seven couldn’t exactly be written the american way, but is was the house number and the guy lives there for 30 years, so the postman/woman should know him anyway. Did you have some ideas, what was going wrong here?

Greetings, Alexander

Hi, Alexander! Sorry to hear you are having postal trouble too! I googled NIXIE USPS and learned this:

A Nixie is a name given by the United States Postal Service to a piece of mail which is undeliverable as addressed. It is derived from “nix”, English slang for the German nichts (“nothing”), and “-ie”, an item or a thing.

“insufficient address, unable to forward” brought up this:
According to the definition set forth by USPS, “Insufficient Address” means that the mail or package is addressed without a proper zip code, apartment name, street number, box number, house number, route number, or with geographical subdivision of the city or the state. Thus the correct address is unknown. In short, there is something missing in the address that makes it difficult for the USPS to identify the delivery location correctly. And as a result, the mail couldn’t be delivered.

Though, I will tell you in 2021 I sent a Christmas card to a friend who lives only about 15 miles away from me and the USPS sent it back to me with a Nixie label saying that the reason was that the house was VACANT ! Which was not true at all, I called my friend and they had no idea why that would have happened - they still lived there! So the USPS does make mistakes.

Can you take a picture of your addressed letter and PM the photo to the intended recipient so they can look and see if they notice anything amiss? Good luck - I hope you find a solution!


Is it possible to recipient made a typo when giving you the address? I know I’ve done that a couple times and thankfully it was caught. But SilverHare’s solution should cover that.

Thanks to booth of you. I found the address at another place, so I don’t think there is a typo in. Contacting the recipient is a litte probleme because the letter should be a surprise. I think, I am printing out the adress and tape it onto a new envelope and try again.

Fun fact about the source of nixie :slight_smile:

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@SilverHare I write USA even when somebody spells it out as ‘United States of America’. The country only matters in the origin country. I think the problem here is something else, USPS returns mail sometimes for no reason.There’s a related discussion about this here


I always write "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" You would be surprised at the wacky ways some people write USA.

I write always United States of America, or United States of A. because postal worker told me once that USA isn’t enough! It can be mixed up with other country. Tell me which other country has got this abbreviation?

Well, well…

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I imagine you are talking about a wooden postcard you won in a lottery. Could it be that the envelope is considered to contain ‘commercial value’? if so, it could require a form called CN22 as that item could be subjected to fees and taxes as it’s being sent from the EU to the USA. It’s just an idea…


It was a different envelope/lottery that likely only contains flat paper items (I don’t know what they are yet…could be postcards, stickers, etc…probably the usual stationery related items). Hopefully the sender can get some info from her post office if it was some sort of material categorization causing the problem.

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I suppose writing UNITED STATES OF AMERICA is the way to go, then each individual sender can use their discretion about abbreviating to USA (like @Martin-CZE and @anon12838227 have different experiences with their postal systems about what will work or not)

Technically, we’re only allowed to send documents in a normal letter from Germany. Everything else, including blank postcards and stickers would have to be sent as a (much more expensive) parcel. If the items are flat, they should get through undetected, but you never know.

Then again, I think it would be indicated on the envelope if it was returned for missing postage.


It’s still possible that it required CN22 declaration. Germany is in EU.

I don’t like it when there’s no reason the letter came back. They should put a sticker with an information on the envelope. In Poland, they do not do it only when there are not enough stamps. (Then the reason is obvious.) At least that’s what my experience shows.

At my post office they accept postcards with a country name such as “US” or “UK”. I can save time and not write “A” :wink:. Just kidding. Ladies at the post office accept all legibly written addresses. Again - at least that’s what my experience shows.

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@satinification and @angeleye Thank you for this information - I am learning a lot today!

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