Ask LH: How Can I Swap Email Addresses With All My Contacts?

Dear Lifehacker, I’ve had the same email address for ages and signed up to everything from bank accounts to eBay and Amazon to newsletters. I’m considering changing ISPs but I’ll lose my ISP-provided email address. What’s the best option for a permanent non-ISP dependent email address? And how do I change everything over? Thanks, Mark

Dear Mark,

You should never use the email address provided by your internet service provider as your primary account – especially these days when there are so many free and reliable third-party options on the market.

As you’ve just discovered, sticking to an ISP-specific email address effectively locks you into their service with zero trade-off to the user. (Apart from the tiny convenience of not having to set up a second account – a task that would have taken you all of three minutes.)

You now need to migrate your settings and contacts, inform your friends and colleagues and update your email address with every services you subscribe to. Thankfully, this isn’t quite as difficult as it sounds.

Ideally, you should aim to have everything in working order before you change ISPs: that way you still have access to all your contacts and emails during the transition. Gmail is the world’s most popular web-based email client and it should suit your purposes perfectly. It’s also free, which means you can take your time migrating all your contacts across without paying for two services in the interim.

If you’re using a desktop mail client like Outlook, you’ll already have your contacts and old emails in place – simply start syncing to the new account instead of the old one. If you use webmail from your provider, then you will need to export your contacts and messages first, and then import them into your new email account. The exact approach varies depending on your provider, and you might have to do a little searching to find out what to do – start with the online support pages and work from there.

Naturally, you should send a bulk email to all your contacts informing them of the change. Then set up an auto reply with a brief note explaining that you no longer use this email and displaying the new email address. That way, everyone who sends you an email will instantly know to update their contacts.

Make sure you also change your address with important services, including your bank, airline, insurance providers and any online stores you use regularly. It’s important to bear in mind that many online services require you to confirm a requested email change through your current inbox. It’s therefore best to do this while you still have access to the old email address.

Once everything has been ported over, it’s a good idea to keep your ISP-supplied email address active for another month or so. That way you can keep an eye on the emails that come through for any important contacts you’ve forgotten to inform about the change.

If you need to cancel your email account immediately for whatever reason, it might still be possible to keep tabs on your inbox: some ISPs will redirect emails to departed users for a small fee. But really, your best bet is to get everything sorted before you make the switch. Good luck!

We’re also going to throw this one over to our readers: have you ever made the switch from one email address to another? Share your tips in the comments!


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