If you haven’t yet sent Certified Mail, you have probably received a letter or package via this service. It’s incredibly useful for those mailpieces that are super important and must reach the recipient on time.
With that in mind, you should probably know a little bit more about it, right? Great! That’s exactly why we’re here.
Let’s get into the details.
What Is Certified Mail?
Certified mail is a United States Postal Service feature that gives you a mailing receipt and/or electronic verification that your item has been delivered (or an attempt was made).
It’s one of their numbered service that allows you to obtain the following:
- A mailing receipt — you can see an example of this here.
- A record of delivery — this will include the recipient’s signature and will be kept with your Post Office for two years from the date you sent it out.
- Signature proof — you must select this at the time of mailing by making use of the Return Receipt Service. You will then receive this by mail or electronically.
- A refund — some items are exempt from refunds so you need to check beforehand. Don’t worry, we’re going to talk about this later.
- The delivery status — this can be accessed in three ways. We’ll take a deeper look into this now.
You will need to ring the dedicated phone line which you will find here. Make sure you have the USPS tracking number to hand when you ring up though, otherwise they will not be able to locate your Certified Mail.
By Bulk Electronic File Transfer
If you have given the USPS an electronic manifest, you will be able to retrieve the delivery status of your Certified Mail packages or letters this way.
By Using the Internet
Arguably, this is the easiest way to access the whereabouts of your Certified Mail letter or parcel. You just have to go to the USPS website and type in the tracking number found on your mailing receipt.
We should also note here that the Certified Mail service can be combined with the following USPS services:
- Certified Mail Restricted Delivery — here, only the person you write on the address slip can sign for the package.
- Certified Mail Adult Signature Restricted Delivery — here, the person on the address slip must be over 21. They are then the only ones who can sign for the package or letter.
- Certified Mail Adult Signature Required — with this service, anyone over the age of 21 can sign for the package or parcel.
How Much Does Certified Mail Cost?
When you think about how to send a certified letter, the cost of this service might be one of the first things you ponder. We’re about to answer that burning question for you.
On top of this standard price, if you want a return receipt included, it will cost you more. For those wanting one delivered to them via the mail, you will be charged $2.75. For those wanting an electronic return receipt, you will have to pay $1.45. We suggest that you go for the electronic one!
How Long Does It Take To Deliver Certified Mail?
Generally, delivery time will depend on the class of mail you choose to add the extra Certified Mail service to.
For those who are sending a First Class letter or package, you should expect your mailpiece to arrive within 2 to 5 business days. For those of you who are sending a Priority Mail letter or package, you should expect it to arrive within 2 to 3 working days.
Why You Should Use Certified Mail
You might have taken one look at the costs we mentioned earlier and decided against using Certified Mail. After all, is your mailpiece that important? Well, it may well be! So, we’re going to take a look at why you really should use this service.
Ensure It’s Delivered
Regular mail can get lost very easily by the USPS. They get so many letters that it’s just a matter of time before something goes missing. But with Certified Mail, you can guarantee your item isn’t one of them.
You will even get to know the exact date and time your recipient received your item.
Get Proof of Postage
This goes hand in hand with our “ensure it’s delivered” point.
When you send your item, you have to complete a Certified Mail form which lets you obtain proof of postage. Peace of mind will finally be achieved!
Note: for documents like taxes etc, Certified Mail is the only way to go. Otherwise, you cannot guarantee that your incredibly important item will reach the desired location.
Track Your Item
When you fill in the form, you are given a tracking number so you can follow your item throughout the whole process. You can see exactly where your item is at any time. No more wondering!
Maintain Your Records
The USPS keeps Certified Mail certificates for 10 years. This allows you to confirm or battle any claims made against you in the future. There’s nothing like staying confident in the fact that you’ve done everything by the book.
Extra Layer of Security
If you’re sending important documents, you need them to be on time. Certified Mail gives you a sure-fire way to keep nosey eyes off your information and that the right person will receive it.
Of course, this service isn’t a free for all! There are restrictions. Yes, they are the same as the general mail restrictions but we’ll briefly go over them here so you can make sure you aren’t breaking the law:
- Aerosols (malleable gases, propane, fire extinguishers)
- Lithium batteries (under some conditions, small batteries are okay to mail domestically)
- Alcohol (beer, wine, liquor)
- Cigarettes, tobacco, and cigars (cigars can be mailed domestically)
- Matches (treated matches can be mailed, strike-anywhere matches can’t be)
- Live animals (poultry, reptiles, bees, etc.)
- Cremated leftovers (you can ship these if they are in a properly sealed container and you use Priority Mail Express)
- Dry ice (if it’s used as a refrigerant to nonhazardous materials then you can send it)
- Firearms (only licensed dealers can send these)
- Glues (there are lots of exceptions here but you need to research this yourself)
- Fragile items (i.e. things that require extra-special handling)
- Perishable items (live animals, food, plants)
- Poison (otherwise known as toxins)
- Perfume (if it contains alcohol, you can ship it via ground transportation)
- Paint (it has to qualify as a commodity in order for you to ship it)
- Nail polish (see “paint”)
- Medicines (controlled substances have strict regulations)
- Hand sanitizer (you have to use USPS Retail Ground, Parcel Select, or Parcel Select Lightweight here)
Is Certified Mail Eligible For a Refund?
Since Certified Mail is relatively expensive, you will be pleased to know that you will be eligible for a service fee refund. However, this only applies if you haven’t received the mail receipt after 30 days. Remember, you won’t get the postage back, just the service fee.
How to Send Certified Mail
Now, to the question you’ve all been waiting for — how to send certified mail!
There are actually two ways to do this so we’ll have a look at each one in turn.
How to Send Certified Mail USPS from Your Post Office
Step One: Go to Your Post Office
When you get to the post office, you need to grab a Certified Mail Form 3800. It has a white and green sticker that also has a barcode. This is the bit that lets the United States Postal Service track your mailpiece throughout the process.
You will find that it also has a perforated edge. This part is the receipt. You should keep this as it’s your proof of postage.
Once you’ve acquired this form, you just need to write all of the information on it. This includes your recipient’s name and address (of course).
Step Two: Pop The Sticker On
Take the sticker off the backing paper. You need to place it onto the top edge of the envelope you are planning to mail. Ensure the address area is to the left once you place the sticker on the front.
You must make sure that there is enough room for the right postage stamps. Don’t worry too much about this if you’re sending a package since you can put the sticker onto the left side of the address.
Step Three: Pay The Right Postage Fee
We mentioned the various postage fees earlier so you can refer to that section if you need to know the costs. But here are the specifics:
- First Class mail must weigh 13 ounces or less.
- Priority Mail is delivered very quickly (in 2 or 3 days).
Step Four: Consider Whether You Want to Use Restricted Delivery
This means that the right person will receive your mailpiece. For those of you who select this option, you will need to sign the part of the form dedicated to these restrictions.
Step Five: Consider Whether You Want to Use The Receipt Service
If you have been wondering all this time about how to send certified mail with return receipt, this is the section for you!
As we have mentioned, this gives you a receipt with the recipient’s signature attached. You can obtain this in one of three ways:
- Postal service — you’ll be given a physical receipt this way.
- Email — of course, it will be an electronic receipt this way.
- PDF — this is an electronic image that it’s easy to print out.
Step Six: Keep Your Records
You need to make sure you keep all your documents in a safe place. Your receipt will be stamped with the mailing date so you can maintain order in your files.
Step Seven: Have a Look at The Delivery Information Online
Use the United States Postal Service website to check whether or not your mailpiece has been delivered. The Post Office will keep a record of the recipient’s signature, which you’ll be able to find there too.
How to Send Certified Mail Online
Step One: Sign Up For An Account With a Website of Your Choice
The first step you need to accomplish is signing up for an account. Make sure you’re using the legitimate, reliable websites to do this. Some sites might charge you monthly fees which are not acceptable and proves they’re a scam.
While you sing up for the account, check the prices for Certified Mail again. You need to consider whether it is worth it for the item you’re looking to post.
Step Two: Get Your Letter Ready to Send
Type out your letter or any other document on a reliable word processing program. If needed, you can print it out to sign the document. Generally, this will be a necessity if it’s important enough to send via Certified Mail.
Step Three: Scan Your Document
Scan your signed letter or document. Make sure you save it somewhere safe and check that you can read everything easily.
Step Four: Upload The Scan to The Site of Your Choosing
You need to then upload this scan onto the mailing service website.
After this, the service you have used will address, print, and send out your letter on the same working day!
Step Five: Keep a Copy For Your Records
Once you have received your proof of mailing, you must keep it for your records. Alongside this, you need to keep the proof of delivery from the United States Postal Service as well.
The Bottom Line
Sending Certified Mail isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but it certainly isn’t the hardest! You’ve got all the tools now to be able to master this excellent feature and utilize it for all your important mailing needs.