Your USPS tracking number is a crucial piece of information, and unfortunately, it’s also fairly easy to lose, especially if you are given it on a piece of paper when you hand your parcel over. Tuck that into a wallet or purse, and it’s almost guaranteed to be gone when you next look for it. So, what happens if you lose your tracking number?
If you have lost your tracking number, you won’t be able to track your USPS parcel. This number is crucial to making the system work, and without it, you will be unable to track the parcel. This prevents you from knowing when it will be delivered, or if it has got lost en route.
What Is The Tracking Number?
The tracking number is a string of numbers that you will be given when you send a parcel via a tracked service with USPS. You can type this number into the tracking service on USPS’s website and it will display your parcel’s journey information and delivery estimates.
You can do this as many times as you want while the parcel travels, and it will show you updated information as it moves through the different stages, up to delivery. If a postal worker misses scanning it, it may jump a couple of steps, but this is still the most accurate way to track where your parcel is at any given time.
Where Do I Find My Tracking Number?
Your tracking number should usually be displayed upon the receipt you are given when you hand the parcel to USPS. You should also receive a confirmation email with the tracking number written on it.
You may also be able to locate the number on the online label record, if you paid for your postage online, or on the barcode that is placed on the item to be mailed (although you probably will not have this anymore).
Check all of these places. It is also a good idea to write down a tracking number when you are given it, so that you have a secondary copy. Often, an email is the safest way to receive your tracking number if you are given a choice about this.
Your tracking number is only generated at the point when you make an order with USPS. You cannot generate a tracking number prior to this; it is given to you when you pay to ship an item with the company.
How Do I Use A Tracking Number?
You have a few choices for utilizing a tracking number. The easiest is often by visiting the USPS website and entering the tracking number into the appropriate search field. You can also use the USPS mobile app (available for Android and iOS) and enter the tracking number there.
Alternatively, try texting the tracking number to USPS on 28777, or phone the USPS customer service line. You can call 1-800-222-1811.
Furthermore, it’s possible to turn on email and text notifications that will send you updates on your parcel. You can do this via the USPS tracking site profile.
I’m Not The Sender; How Do I Get A Tracking Number?
If you are a recipient, not a sender, but you still want the tracking number so you can see how your parcel is doing, what should you do? The best thing to do is to request the tracking number from the sender. They should be able to provide you with a copy of it.
If you have purchased something, you may also be able to see the tracking number on the website you purchased from. It is usually under “order information” or alongside the notification that your package has been sent. However, not all websites encourage sellers to upload this information.
If it isn’t on the site, your will need to request it directly from the seller. USPS cannot give you the tracking information, because they don’t store it, so the seller is the only person who can help.
Alternatively, if you are a current Informed Delivery subscriber with USPS, go to your online dashboard. This should provide you with the tracking number.
What Happens If I Lose My Tracking Number?
It’s important to keep your tracking number somewhere very safe. Once lost, it cannot be recovered, because you are the only person who has access to the number.
As mentioned, USPS does not store the tracking information, and they will not be able to help you recover it or generate any further information about it whatsoever. It is up to you to keep this information safe.
This is partly why it is sent via email, as well as printed on the receipt. This ensures that you have a copy that should be easy to access at all times, and recoverable even if you move it to the “Deleted” folder (with most mail providers).
It is best not to delete this email until the parcel has been safely received by the recipient, as they may need the tracking information.
If the parcel gets lost or delayed, this tracking information will be a crucial aspect of finding out where it is and potentially recovering it. Without the tracking number, you have no way of locating your item, and therefore no way of telling if it has got lost – and where it was last logged in the system if it has.
Can USPS Look Up My Parcel With Other Information?
USPS has lots of other information about your parcel, such as the sending date, the recipient’s address, the sender’s address, etc. You might be wondering if they can use this information to look up your parcel and find out where it is.
Unfortunately, the answer is that they can’t. Your tracking number is what is associated with the parcel, not the other information. This makes sense if you think about it, because it is a unique number and there is no risk of getting it mixed up.
If USPS tried to look up your parcel by recipient address, they might find information about other parcels that are being sent to them, rather than yours. If they tried to look up the parcel by sender address, they might get other parcels that you have sent out. They keep things simple, and only use tracking numbers.
This system does seem rather outdated; by now, it seems USPS ought to be able to locate parcels via other information. However, given the size of the USA and the extensive nature of USPS’s postal network, this would involve unthinkable amounts of work.
What Steps Should I Follow?
You have probably already looked for your receipt and/or email, but these remain your only options, so it’s worth following the steps below.
- Look for the receipt you were given when you mailed the parcel. This would have been handed to you by the shipping clerk. Check your wallet, purse, car, or any grocery bags you were carrying that day.
- Check whether you have the insurance slip (if your mail was worth more than $50). This slip should be given to you at the same time as the normal receipt, and it will also have the USPS tracking information printed on it.
- Check your Inbox and your Junk folders for your email from USPS. Try looking in the Deleted folder, or use your email’s search function to look for “USPS,” “tracking,” “dispatched,” or other key phrases.
- If you are a buyer, and you purchased from an online store, check whether their confirmation/dispatch email contains a tracking number.
- If you are a buyer and you can’t find this information, contact the person you purchased the item from. They should still have the tracking information and can send it to you again.
- Try contacting USPS. It is unlikely that they can help at this stage, but you have nothing to lose by trying.
- If you are the sender, ask your recipient if they are an Informed Delivery subscriber. They must have an active subscription for this to work, but if they do, they should have the tracking number on their dashboard. While a long shot, this may solve the issue!
- Wait for the parcel to be delivered. If all else fails, this is your only choice! That’s why it is important to hang onto your tracking information.
I Still Lost My Tracking Number; What Should I Do?
So, if you have managed to misplace both your receipt and your confirmation email, what are your options?
Unfortunately, you do not have any options besides looking for one, the other, or both of these documents, or simply waiting for the parcel to be delivered. There is no other way to access USPS’s online tracking system, or to generate the tracking number again. If USPS customer service cannot help, all you can do at this point is to wait for your parcel to be delivered.
That’s why it is very important to keep your tracking number in a safe place. You could make a folder in your email program for tracking numbers if you regularly mail parcels. Create a safe spot in your home for the physical receipts, and consider taking a picture of each one on your phone as a secondary copy.
Hopefully, this will help to ensure that you never lose a tracking number. If you do, don’t panic; your parcel will probably still be delivered just fine. All you have to do is wait.
Do I Need A Tracking Number To Report Mail As Lost?
If the mail unfortunately does get lost en route and you have lost the tracking number, you might be wondering what you can do and whether this means the mail is lost for good.
Fortunately, no! Technically, you do not need the tracking number in order to inform USPS that mail has gone missing, although it is a recommended piece of information to include if you can. When submitting a Missing Mail request, you will be asked for:
- The date of mailing
- The recipient address
- The sender address
- What the parcel looked like
- A description of the contents (preferably with a photo)
- The tracking number if available
If you do not have the tracking number, you can still file a Missing Mail request, and USPS will do what they can to locate the parcel. However, it is harder for them without a tracking number.
You will need to wait for seven days after the last estimated delivery date before you can file this request, so it’s a good idea to keep this information safe (because without the tracking information, you won’t be able to access it online).
If you do not have access to this information anymore, simply wait a few days and attempt to file a request. If USPS rejects it, you may have filed too soon. Wait another few days and try again. If it is again rejected, it may be time to contact the company and request some assistance.
Does All Mail Have A Tracking Number?
Not all mail will have a tracking number, no. Items that do not include a tracking number are those such as:
- Certain Marketing Mail parcels
- Letters (although tracking can be added at an extra cost)
It’s worth double-checking whether your mail should have a tracking number, or you might spend a long time looking for something you don’t have! Although most mail will generate a tracking number, not everything will.
Tracking numbers are a useful but quite flawed system, and if you are struggling to know when you should stay home for your parcel delivery because your tracking number has been misplaced, why not consider a Virtual Mailbox from US Global Mail?
This takes all the headache out of trying to check estimated delivery dates, missing parcels, and staying home when they aren’t due for delivery. Instead, the Virtual Mailbox is always “at home” for you!
Although it is best to keep hold of a tracking number if you can, this can make it a lot easier to deal with waiting for parcels.