Vanity/Prestige City Names in the USPS® Databases and the Anchor Software Products

 

The concept of a “vanity” or “prestige” city name can be a little confusing, partly because the USPS does not use those terms when describing city information within the USPS databases. Understanding the concept of a vanity city name begins with identifying the terms that the USPS uses for different types of city names, the USPS databases where city information resides, and the CASS™ rules that determine how a particular city name is assigned to a standardized address during CASS processing.

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The USPS provides two primary databases that contain information about ZIP Codes, city names, and addresses. These are as follows:

  • City/State database
  • ZIP+4 database

The City/State database contains city information for every ZIP Code™ in the country. For each ZIP Code, multiple possible city names can be available. However, the USPS recognizes only one city name as the primary name for a ZIP Code, called the “Preferred” city name. A ZIP Code might have other city names associated with it, which can be divided into names that are allowed or not allowed to appear in a standardized address.

 

The ZIP+4 database contains information needed to properly standardize an address including the ZIP Code, street name, secondary information (apartment, suite, etc.), and also a key that refers back to the City/State database for the city name that is identified as the proper name for a specific address. In most cases, the city name for an address record in the ZIP+4 database will be the same as the Preferred city name for the ZIP Code, but a ZIP+4 record may also use a different city name for a specific address.

Preferred City Name

Preferred City Name

The primary city name that is assigned to a ZIP Code by the USPS. By default, all addresses within a ZIP Code will use this for their city name. All ZIP Codes have one default city name assigned to them.
Alternate City Name

Alternate City Name

An alternate city name that is available within a ZIP Code, but is not the default. Many ZIP Codes have one or more Alternate city names available.
 
 

Valid Mailing Name

Valid Mailing Name

A city name in the City/State database that is allowed on a standardized address. Many Alternate city names in a ZIP Code are allowable mailing names, but some are not. If a CASS standardization process finds a non-mailing name on an input address, then it will be changed to a Valid Mailing Name according to the CASS rules.
Override City Name

Override City Name

A city name that is assigned by the USPS to a specific address that is different than the Preferred city name for the ZIP Code. An Override city name appears in the USPS ZIP+4 database for a specific address record.
 
 

 

As you can see, the terms “vanity” and “prestige” city name do not appear in the list above. So, what exactly is a vanity city name? In the simplest terms, a vanity city name can be thought of as a city name for a specific address that is different than the Preferred city name for the ZIP Code. However, not all vanity names are the same. In some cases, the USPS recognizes and allows certain vanity names to be used, whereas in other cases certain vanity names may not be used. To help identify these differences, vanity names can be thought of as being in one of the following three different categories:

 

  1. Vanity names assigned by the USPS, which are represented by Override city names in the ZIP+4 database.
  2. Vanity names used by mailers that are allowed in a standardized address.
  3. Vanity names used by mailers that are not allowed in a standardized address.

 

To clearly see how these three types of vanity names work within a CASS standardization process, some examples using ZIP Code 63021 are given below. In the USPS City/State database, ZIP Code 63021 has the following city names:

 

City Name  State Preferred Mailing Name Indicator
Ballwin MO Y Y
Ellisville  MO N Y
Manchester MO N Y
Wildwood MO N Y
Sherman MO N N
Twin Oaks MO N N
Winchester  MO N N

 

As illustrated, the only Preferred city name for this ZIP Code is Ballwin. Three Alternate city names are Valid Mailing Names, whereas three other Alternate city names are not Valid Mailing Names. Below are some examples of how certain addresses within this ZIP Code will behave during a CASS standardization process when different city names are used on the input address.

 

  1. Example of an Alternate city name that is a ZIP+4 override

 

In many cases, the USPS will recognize a vanity city name by assigning that name to specific addresses within the ZIP+4 database. This is what is called an Override city name. According to CASS rules, when an Override city name exists for an address within the ZIP+4 database, then the standardized address must show this city name in all cases. This could be considered a “forced” vanity name by the USPS data.

 

Within this example ZIP Code, the city of Wildwood, MO has many of their addresses assigned with an Override city name in the ZIP+4 database. This Override city name will appear on the standardized address even if the input address contains the Preferred city name or any other Alternate city name within the ZIP Code.

 

ZIP+4 record: 1301 Bear Canyon Rd / Wildwood, MO 63021

 


Input Address                              Standardized Address
1301 Bear Canyon Rd                 1301 Bear Canyon Rd
63021 (no city given)                  Wildwood, MO 63021

 

1301 Bear Canyon Rd                1301 Bear Canyon Rd
Ballwin, MO 63021                     Wildwood, MO 63021

 

1301 Bear Canyon Rd                1301 Bear Canyon Rd
Manchester, MO 63021             Wildwood, MO 63021

 

1301 Bear Canyon Rd               1301 Bear Canyon Rd
Wildwood, MO 63021                Wildwood, MO 63021

 

  1. Example of an Alternate city name that is a Valid Mailing Name

 

In this example, an address is used that does not contain an Override city name in the USPS database. This example illustrates how a mailer may use a vanity city name that will actually appear in the standardized address, because the lack of an Override city name in the USPS ZIP+4 database allows an Alternate city name to be used. Since the Preferred city name is Ballwin for this ZIP Code, if the input address does not contain a city name, or if it contains Ballwin for the city name, then the Preferred name will appear in the standardized address. An Alternate/vanity city name will appear on the standardized address only if it is presented on the input address.

 

ZIP+4 record: 1201 Sulphur Springs Rd / Ballwin, MO 63021

 


Input Address                               Standardized Address
1201 Sulphur Springs Rd            1201 Sulphur Springs Rd
63021 (no city given)                   Ballwin, MO 63021

 


1201 Sulphur Springs Rd            1201 Sulphur Springs Rd
Ballwin, MO 63021                       Ballwin, MO 63021

 


1201 Sulphur Springs Rd           1201 Sulphur Springs Rd
Manchester, MO 63021              Manchester, MO 63021

 

 

  1. Example of an Alternate city name that is not a Valid Mailing Name

 

The same ZIP Code 63021 also contains a small city called Twin Oaks. As such, the residents of Twin Oaks might want that name to appear on their mail, just like the Wildwood city above. However, Twin Oaks appears in the USPS City/State database as a non-mailing name, so it is not allowed to be part of a standardized address. In this case, the Preferred city name will be used in the standardized address if Twin Oaks is found in the input address.

 

ZIP+4 record: 1400 Autumn Leaf Dr / Ballwin, MO 63021

 


Input Address                                Standardized Address
1400 Autumn Leaf Dr                   1400 Autumn Leaf Dr
63021 (no city given)                    Ballwin, MO 63021

 


1400 Autumn Leaf Dr                   1400 Autumn Leaf Dr
Twin Oaks, MO 63021                   Ballwin, MO 63021

 

The CASS rules regarding the processing of city names, especially the behavior of Override city names, were created in 2002 as part of the USPS CASS Cycle G. All CASS-certified software is required to follow these rules. Regarding vanity city names, if users wish for a name to appear in their output address that is different than what is allowed by the CASS rules, then changing the city name may invalidate the CASS certificate that was created for their mailing list.

 

Here is a summary of the CASS rules regarding the city name that is applied to the standardized address. The city name that is used will be the first city name that matches a rule in the following order:

 

  1. Use the city name from the ZIP+4 database if it is an Override city name (i.e. it is different than the Preferred city name for the ZIP Code).
  2. Use the input city name if it is valid. (The vanity city name from the customer’s address file.)
  3. Use the Preferred city name for the ZIP Code.

 

All Anchor Software products that perform address standardization follow the CASS rules above. If mailers wish to use vanity names in their addresses, then Anchor will honor them according to the CASS rules. A vanity name will be retained in the standardized address if it is allowed by the rules, whereas it will be changed if it is not allowed.

 

Two footnote codes exist within Anchor’s address-hygiene products to help identify when a city name is changed between the input and standardized addresses.

 

DD: The input city and/or state was corrected in the standardized address.

D1: The input city name was a non-mailing name, and was corrected in the standardized address.