What are catch-all emails and how to manage them

Amy Elliott Amy Elliott
· 8 min read · October 17th, 2023
Catch-all email addresses are a useful tool businesses use to receive emails sent to their domain, but they're a challenge for marketers. Here's what you need to know about catch-all emails and how you can manage them.

The problem with catch-all email inboxes is that they are often neglected. Sending to email addresses people don’t check results in zero engagement and your messages may even bounce if the inbox is full. 

As any email marketer knows, this is a problem. Both poor email engagement and a high bounce rate can negatively impact your deliverability. But, there are ways around the issue.

Read on to find out why people use catch-all email addresses, the problem with having them on your list, and the simple steps you can take to identify and manage these addresses. 

What are catch-all email addresses?

Catch-all email addresses—also known as accept-all emails or wildcard email aliases—are email addresses belonging to a catch-all mail server. These email addresses accept messages sent to any address with the same domain name, even those that don’t exist such as ones that are made up or contain typos. 

For example, let’s say that the catch-all domain is You only have email addresses for your three employees: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], as well as a catch-all mailbox for [email protected]. A person could send an email to [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected], and the email would land in the “contact” inbox.

You may be thinking that this defeats the purpose of email addresses in the first place but catch-all email servers were created with the best intentions. 

The purpose of catch-all emails

Companies use catch-all email servers so that any emails sent to a non-existent or incorrect email address can still be delivered. It’s a way of ensuring that they receive all important email messages such as lead requests, customer support questions or partnership opportunities.

When someone sends an email to an address that doesn’t exist, the message is forwarded to an inbox created to collect these types of emails. Most businesses then check the inbox periodically to see if anything of interest has landed there.

That sounds like a great solution to avoiding any missed communication, right? Unfortunately, catch-all email servers quickly became a haven for spammers. This led companies to abandon or pay less attention to their catch-all inbox, as they became overwhelmed by unsolicited emails, phishing attempts, and even emails with malware.  

How common are catch-all emails?

Catch-all email addresses are relatively common. The chart below details the status of all email addresses that MailerCheck has ever verified. As you can see, catch-all takes up quite a significant chunk of the pie, with 8.6%.


When we look at the median value for catch-all emails in each list across all customers, this figure increases to 15.25%, with an average of 541 catch-all emails per list! And in an interesting twist, catch-all emails are more often found in smaller lists.

What does all this mean for you? Simply put, catch-all emails are too common to be ignored and there’s no way of knowing if a subscriber belongs to a catch-all domain at first sight. When combined with the low-engagement emails sent to these addresses, it’s best to take steps to manage the number of catch-all emails on your list.

The benefits of keeping catch-all emails

The main benefit of keeping catch-all email addresses is that they could belong to real subscribers who signed up for your content and may convert into paying customers.

There’s no way to know which catch-all email accounts have been neglected and which ones people still check. Removing legitimate email addresses will kill your chances of selling to these customers. 

Moreover, when engaged subscribers interact with your messages, your sender reputation and deliverability will get a boost.

The disadvantages of keeping catch-all emails

The disadvantages of keeping catch-all emails come from the fact that more often than not, people aren’t checking these accounts. And sending messages to accounts that people don’t check can lead to several issues.

You’ll get low engagement

People don’t engage with emails sent to accounts they don’t check. Sending to these addresses will reduce your overall campaign engagement and negatively impact your sender reputation. This can increase the chances of messages sent to real subscribers landing in the spam folder. 

Your email may bounce

Catch-all inboxes that have been neglected are often full of unopened emails. Once the inbox storage is full, it won’t be able to receive any further contact, causing your messages to bounce. There’s also the chance that companies will disable the catch-all inbox or set them to reject new incoming contact. 

This is a problem because like low engagement rates, high bounce rates will negatively impact your sender reputation, causing deliverability issues. Your Email Service Provider (ESP) may even use a high email bounce rate as a reason to terminate your account. 

You don’t know who reads your email

In the unlikely situation that your email lands in the catch-all inbox and someone opens it, there’s still the problem that you don’t know who is reading the message. 

You may want marketing managers to see the message promoting your new email tool, but messages sent to catch-all emails are just as likely to be read by people with less authority. 

How to verify catch-all emails

Let’s get one thing straight—emails belonging to a catch-all server are unverifiable—there is no way to know if they are valid or invalid. No tool on the market can do this because they can’t use SMTP to check out what’s happening in the inbox. 

However, you can run your email list through an email validation tool, like MailerCheck, to check which emails belong to a catch-all domain. You can then test which of these addresses engage with your campaigns and which ignore them.

Here’s how to do this.

Step 1: Check your email list health

The first step is to use an email list verification tool to verify the email addresses on your list. This will highlight any catch-all email addresses, as well as other types of invalid email addresses such as known spam traps, role-based accounts, addresses with syntax errors, and full inboxes.

Learn about how to clean your email list with MailerCheck here.

Step 2: Test and improve

Once you’ve run your email list through MailerCheck, find out which catch-all email addresses are valid by including a small number of them in your next email campaign.  

You can then monitor which recipients engage with the messages. Transfer these contacts to your main list while removing the invalid ones that bounce or don’t engage. 

Keep doing this until you have worked through all the catch-all emails that MailerCheck has identified. Adding just a few emails at a time will minimize the overall negative impact of catch-all addresses on campaign engagement.

Once you've performed these steps, repeat them every 6 months or so to keep your email list clean. You can also add real-time verification to your signup forms using the MailerCheck API to stop people from using catch-all email addresses when joining your list.

Time to check your list

Catch-all emails sure do throw a spanner into the works, right? But don’t worry! Now that you’re armed with the knowledge and tactics needed to face catch-all emails head-on, you’ll be able to develop a strategy that fits your email marketing goals and helps you to make informed decisions about how you treat accept-alls.

The first step is verifying your email list! Sign up to MailerCheck for free and start verifying your subscribers today.

Do you remove catch-all emails from your email list? Tell us how you manage them in the comments.

Amy Elliott
I’m Amy, Content Writer at MailerCheck. As a child, I dreamt about writing a book and practiced by tearing pages from an A4 notepad and binding them with sugar paper. The book is pending but in the meantime, I love taking a deep dive into technical topics and sharing insights on email metrics and deliverability.