How Long Does First Class Mail Take

Waiting for mail? Here is everything you need to know about first class mail and your typical mail arrival time. No more guessing when you get mail; take advantage of these easy to use mail delivery calculators.

It’s true, our world is becoming more and more digital every single day. However, there will come a time when you need to send a package, parcel, or letter via snail mail. The problem is, unless you shell out for tracking options, you might not know when your item will arrive at its destination. Luckily, several online applications are here to help.


Whether you prefer a good old classic, non-interactive mail “heat” map or a fabulous, super-intuitive delivery time calculator, there is a solution for you. We’ve compiled everything right here so you never have to worry about your mail again. Life’s too short for that!


entering a first class mail envelope in a mailbox



What Is First Class Mail?


In short first-class mail is faster and more expensive than standard mail. But that isn’t all; this mail service also comes with additional features like return and others. Typically, people use it for personal and business communication.


The rate for this type of mail is decided based on the weight and size of the package, parcel, or letter. While you may not want to pay the price, some documents are required to be sent first class and nothing else. These include invoices, statements, taxes, and other legal documentation. Why? Because it will be automatically forwarded when necessary and returned to the sender if it cannot be delivered. Pretty helpful, huh?



How Does First Class Mail Work?


You only see a tiny portion of the entire mail process. What’s this, we hear you ask? Well, let’s take a look:


  1. You write the address on an envelope.
  2. You put a first-class stamp on the envelope.
  3. You then put the envelope into your nearest mailbox.
  4. 1 to 3 days later, it arrives at the United States destination.


However, it is not as simple as that. So, what really happens to your letter? How long does 1st class mail take? You are about to find out.


  1. You write the address on the envelope and stick a first-class stamp to the front.
  2. You drop the letter into your nearest mailbox.
  3. It is picked up from the mailbox by the mailman.
  4. He or she then delivers it to your city Sectional Facility.
  5. Here, the letter is sorted alongside all the other mail.
  6. It is then taken to LAX where it travels by air to the destination’s Sectional Facility.
  7. Here, the letter is sorted again.
  8. After that, it is handed to the mail carrier who is travelling along that route.
  9. The mail worker delivers the letter to the recipient’s letterbox.


This entire process takes 1 to 3 days which, when you think about it, is pretty amazing!


usps trucks


How Long Does It Take For First Class Mail to Arrive?


First-class mail delivery time is usually between 1 and 3 days, regardless of where you are in the United States of America. While some think that this is obvious, many believe that it takes just 1 day. But, as you have just found out, this is not always true.


Of course, the distance between the sender and the recipient does play a part in this. You will often see that packages, parcels, and letters that are sent within a state will arrive much sooner than those sent across the country.


USPS First Class Delivery Time Delays


Nothing is perfect. Therefore, first-class mail will sometimes be delayed. Whether this is due to an employee making a mistake, you making a mistake, or life just throwing the mail a curveball, delays can happen.


The question is, what are these delays? And why would they affect when your letter arrives? Let’s have a look.


Adverse Weather Conditions


Yes, USPS does deliver when bad weather hits. However, there are exceptions. For instance, if the weather is too severe, it is not safe for the drivers to continue operating. Not to mention that national natural disasters will affect their route and general operation.


Incorrect Address


This is the part where you may have made an error. If you accidentally wrote the wrong address on your envelope, the delivery person will not be able to place it in the correct mailbox. Thus, it causes huge delays.


Be careful when writing the address since even one incorrect digit in the zip code can result in important mail not being delivered.


On the other hand, rain can smudge the address which will mean it is illegible. Again, this results in undelivered mail or letters placed in the wrong mailbox.


Backlogs At The Sorting Facility or Post Office


During holiday periods like Christmas and such, the United States Postal Service experiences big backlogs. Whether this occurs at the Sorting Facility in the city or the post office, it can delay your letter, package, or parcel for an unspecified amount of time.


Federal Holidays


Mail delivery times can also be affected by recognized holidays. The United States Postal Service does not deliver on these dates. So, if you need your recipient to receive your letter beforehand, remember to send it earlier rather than later.


finger pointing a location on a map


How Long Does It Take Mail to Travel From City to City?


Since we have just talked about the delays you might experience, you shouldn’t take estimations as a set in stone rule. That being said, there are a variety of different online calculators that give you a pretty accurate idea of when your mail will be delivered.


The best one by far is the USPS’ own brand delivery time calculator. Here’s how you use it (it’s super-simple, trust us!):


  1. If you are the sender, enter your zip code into the “Origin Zip Code” box.
  2. Then, enter your recipient’s zip code into the “Destination Zip Code” box.
  3. Use the drop-down menu under the “Select Service” heading to choose “First Class Mail”. You can also pick from priority mail, priority mail express, and standard shipping methods.
  4. That’s it!


Just bear in mind that these are service standards and not guarantees.


When you use first-class package services offered by the United States Postal Service, you should expect it to be delivered within 1 to 3 business days. Helpfully, tracking is available which allows you to see where your item is at all times.


However, if you choose to use the first-class mail letters or first class mail large envelopes services, there is no tracking option. Your items will still arrive within 1 to 3 business days though so it depends how important your documents are as to whether you upgrade to ensure there is a tracking feature.


First Class Mail Delivery Time Map


Since mail tracking is not a feature of every first-class service (which we just discovered), delivery time maps are pretty popular. This one comes straight from the United States Postal Service itself and has proven useful for people all across the country.


You do need to remember that these are just service standards (as we mentioned earlier) and not a guaranteed commitment. This is what a lot of people fail to understand. While it’s a forgivable assumption, the USPS receives a lot of phone calls daily expressing concern for “late” mail, when in fact, it isn’t.


To get a better idea as to the significant difference between first class shipping time and standard shipping, take a look at this map. You’ll find the service standards for standard delivery here which gives you a great insight into how much first class is really worth.


USPS First Class Package Time Map


For the longest time (possibly still to this day), many mail users believe packages take an extreme amount of time to arrive, regardless of the service used. This isn’t entirely true! They take about the same time as letters when using first class (i.e. 1 to 3 business days). Therefore, you can use the aforementioned map to figure out when your letter, package, or parcel will be delivered.


block that says "price"


First Class Mail Features and Prices


By now, we will have definitely answered you “how fast is first class mail” question. So, we think it is about time we moved on to the features and prices of this type of mail service.


Let’s do it!


The Features


  • 1 to 3 business days delivery time
  • Most affordable solution for mail up to 13 ounces
  • When sending merchandise, you get insurance for damages or loss up to $5,000
  • Received confirmation services like the certified mail services offer you
  • All prices are figured out by looking at the size, weight, and shape of your item
  • For commercial prices of letters or cards, you are given one price for 3.5 ounces


The Prices


  • For a letter which has a standard size and shape, you will pay around 55 cents for a first-class stamp
  • For oddly shaped envelopes (square, large, etc), you should expect to pay around 70 cents when sending it first class
  • For standard postcards, you will be charged 35 cents approximately
  • For oddly shaped postcards, you will normally pay around 55 cents.


In some cases, you will have to pay additional charges for mail items that don’t fit the standard regulations. Don’t stress, we will go over what standard actually means in a moment. But for now, let’s focus on what these extra fees might be.


Non-Machineable Pieces


There are a few types of mail pieces that can’t be sorted by machines. This could be down to the shape (unusual, square, vertical), texture (lumpy, rigid), or the “extras” (string, buttons, clasps, etc).


Regardless of the weight of your letter, if it fits in the above categories, you will be discharged. Why? Due to the extra manpower it will take to sort your item.


Large Envelopes


If your mailpiece is above the standard sizes (height, length, and thickness) then your price will be higher. Yes, even if it’s only .1 over so try and keep everything within the limits if you don’t want to pay too much!


The Standard Sizes


As we promised, we’re going to share the standard sizes of everything from postcards to packages so it’s all the information you need is in one easy place.


Postcards: 5 to 6 inches length, 3.5 to 4.25 inches height, and up to 0.016 inches thick


Letters: 5 to 11.5 inches length, 3.5 to 6.125 inches height, and up to 0.25 inches thick


Large Letters: 11.5 to 15 inches length, 6.125 to 12 inches height, and up to 0.75 inches thick


Packages: 108 inches maximum length plus girth



An Alternative Stress-Free Solution


Today, we have looked at how long first class mail takes to reach you, and how you should go about calculating the shipping cost of your item.


While that is all well and good, don’t you wish there was an easier solution? One that involved less stress and headaches perhaps? Well, we have some great news for you — there is an online solution that is simple and oh-so-convenient. What is it, we hear you ask?


virtual mailbox!


This is essentially the same as your traditional mailbox but it’s better for the environment and you can access it at all times, wherever you are in the world. All your items will be delivered to its address, scanned by our professional mail handlers, and swiftly uploaded to your dashboard.


Now, this is where the fun comes into play.


From your home screen, you can figure out what you want to happen to your mail. Whether you need it scanning, discarding, shredding, or the physical item mailed to you, our handlers will do just that. Your wish is their command. It’s that easy!


Not only can you see a visual representation of what mail has come in while you are relaxing on vacation, but you can also refer back to letters that were sent years ago. No more filling endless binders with invoices, tax returns, contracts, and whatever else — everything is stored digitally, in one easy-to-access app.


With a virtual mailbox, everything is simple. Mail forwarding, returns, shredding, opening, the lot! You shouldn’t have to go through life worrying about first-class mail delivery times. So, what are you waiting for? We only live once!


If you’re interested in learning more about how the virtual mailbox works and additional features that come with it, click here. You will get lots of good info on storage, mail scans etc.


As always, if you have any questions, feel free to contact us.

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