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What Is Post Office Certified Mail? A Complete Guide

Hussain Ali

Did you know that over 24 million packages get shipped across the U.S. every day? Unfortunately, that means letters and parcels can sometimes get lost without any notice at all.

It can be even harder to find your item so you can repost it. However, there is a way you can ensure your article gets to its destination safely.

You can use post office certified mail. They provide various security options to help ease your worries when sending essential items. Read on to learn more about certified mail and how you can benefit from it.

What Is Certified Mail?

Certified mail is a service offered by USPS, which gives the sender a mailing receipt for the shipped parcel. Through electronic tracking, once the item gets to its destination, the sender is notified.

Items with certified mail postage cannot be left on a doorstep or mailbox; the person receiving the parcel needs to sign for it. So if you were sending certified mail to an office building, a receptionist could provide a signature upon receipt.

Also, if you had to send multiple certified mail packages, you could take advantage of the bulk electronic file transfer. With certified mail tracking, it’ll enable you to see the status of all your items.

How Can You Use Certified Mail?

Anyone can use certified mail. However, it’s commonly used by businesses for items such as:

  • Tax documents
  • Legal proceedings
  • Health records
  • Government communications

With businesses constantly sending and receiving sending information, it’s crucial to have a way to track items down in case they get lost.

Sending Post Office Certified Mail

To send certified mail, you’ll need to visit your local post office. You can pick up Form 3800 and attach them to your items.

However, if you want to skip the line at the post office, you can always print your certified mail labels at home. After attaching the postage to your parcel, you can place the items in your nearest post box.

There are also various options when sending certified mail. Let’s dive into some of them below.

Certified Mail With Return Receipt

To ensure that the item has safely reached its destination, you can attach a return receipt or ‘greed card’ to it. Once it’s delivered, the recipient needs to sign and date the card.

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Afterward, the receipt will get mailed to you. However, if you want instant confirmation, you can always get an electronic return receipt.

The postal worker in charge would generate a PDF document once the receiver signs for the parcel. Then, you’ll receive a notification.

Certified Mail With Restricted Delivery and Return Receipt

Having a return receipt attached to your item can certainly help ease your worries when sending important documents. However, what if you want to make sure a specific person signs for the article?

You can send certified mail with restricted delivery. It only allows the person who’s addressed on the parcel to sign for it.

So, upon receipt of the item, the individual will need to provide identification to the postal worker. Without confirmation, they can’t deliver the parcel.

Certified Mail Envelope

If you don’t want to print certified mail postage or go to the post office, you can always send letters in certified mail envelopes.

They’re a simple alternative when sending important letters. Your only responsibility is to correctly fill out the recipient’s address and place the letter in the mailbox.

How Much Does Certified Mail Cost?

USPS changes its postal rates occasionally, and they implemented new changes as of August 29th, 2021. Here are the new rates for sending various types of certified mail:

  • Certified mail with electronic delivery confirmation = $5.13
  • Certified mail with return receipt requested = $6.98
  • Certified mail with return receipt signature and restricted delivery = $12.98

As you can see, it does not cost much to send certified mail. However, if you’re sending items constantly, costs can start to add up. To mitigate losses, you could buy a roll of certified mail labels.

How Long Does It Take To Deliver Certified Mail?

All mail is prioritized by how you decide to send it. In standard cases, mail gets delivered between 4 – 5 days. 

However, USPS also offers two options to speed up the delivery time frame:

  • First Class Mail
  • Priority Mail
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Although both seem similar on the outside because they’re a step up from standard delivery, each has unique features with various benefits.


First-class mail is mainly used to ship items that weigh less than 3.5 ounces. That means you would use this method to send letters, lighter packages, and thick envelopes.

On the other hand, priority mail can be used to send packages that weigh up to 70 pounds. However, the rate and cost of what you’ll pay for these items will depend on their dimensions.


A critical difference between first-class mail and priority mail is their insurance policies. First-class mail doesn’t have a default insurance policy, so the sender isn’t covered if an item is damaged or lost.

However, priority mail does have an insurance policy. Items shipped domestically have a $100 coverage, while international shipments have a $200 coverage.

Delivery Times

If you’re shipping items to a domestic address, both priority and first-class mail tend to get delivered between 1 – 3 days. However, priority mail would be the better option for shipping internationally, because it cuts down on standard international shipping times.

Usually, it’ll take around six to ten business days for international shipments to reach their destination. However, it can be hard to guarantee an actual delivery, depending on the location.

Service Charges

There is no set pricing structure to determine how much you’ll pay. Yes, there are flat-rate boxes and envelopes. However, what you’ll pay will depend on three factors:

  • Size
  • Weight
  • Delivery address

To figure out the cost, try using a pricing calculator. After getting a feel for the prices, you’ll know which way to send your parcel.

What Happens To Undelivered Certified Mail?

When an individual sends certified mail, the first delivery attempt happens within one to three days. But if the effort is unsuccessful, the postal worker will leave a notice on your door telling you to pick up the item at the nearest post office.

The post office will keep the package for roughly two weeks. Afterward, they will mark it as “Unclaimed” and return it to the sender. 

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Although the post office may be responsible for some undelivered items, sometimes it results from the individual labeling the parcel with incorrect information. So it’s essential to know which mistakes to avoid as you’re preparing certified mail.

Losing Your Pickup Slip

Things happen. We’re human, so there may be a situation where you’ve lost your pickup slip that the post office left. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to collect your item without it, no matter how much detail you provide.

However, you will be able to schedule a delivery online. You’ll need information such as:

  • Your name
  • The date of the delivery slip attempt
  • The address on the label
  • The item number

The item number is the most critical part of filling out this information. Knowing it will make it easier for the post office to deliver and locate your package. So ensure you take good care of your slip if you miss a delivery.

Can Certified Mail Go Missing?

Unfortunately, even if you have certified mail, your item can go missing. But you shouldn’t panic. 

Since certified mail comes with tracking, you’ll be able to see the last place your item was stationed before it disappeared. Once you figure out the item’s previous destination, call that post office and speak to a representative.

Give them the certified mail number to see if your parcel is in the system. If it’s not, you should request a refund from the post office. You can do so by filling out PS Form 3533.

Please note that you won’t get a refund for the actual contents of the package. However, you can ask for a refund of your electronic return receipt and certified mail postage fees.

Send Certified Mail Today

Now you have a clearer understanding of post office certified mail. It allows you to track your items and get a receipt upon delivery. 

If you want to enhance the protection of your parcel, you can always ensure the named recipient can only sign for it. Use certified mail today to lower your stress and increase your efficiency.

To learn more certified mail tips, feel free to visit our blog for related content.

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