Certified Mail Cost

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July 17, 2023

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) of the United States Postal Service (USPS) mentioned in a 2017 report that 58% of Americans used Certified Mail for personal or professional mailings.

This statistic shows that Certified Mail is an essential postal service for many U.S. citizens.

If you haven’t sent Certified Mail and wish to send one soon, one of the things you must know is how much it costs. You also need to know the various extra services you can add to Certified Mail to help ensure your item gets delivered to your intended recipient.

This article discusses USPS Certified Mail costs and how you can save on mailing expenses. This article also explains what Certified Mail is and what benefits you can get from this USPS service.

Do you have a package to send using USPS Certified Mail? Visit FindPostOffice.org to locate the nearest post office in California, New York, Florida, Texas, North Carolina, and other states. You can search through 31,330 USPS retail offices across the U.S. using FindPostOffice.org’s online search tool.

How Much Does Certified Mail Cost?

As of June 2023, Certified Mail costs $4.35. If you’re sending an item, you can add this service to your parcel by paying this amount.

USPS Certified Mail Postal Rate Increase

On April 10, 2023, the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) approved the postal rate change for several USPS services, including Certified Mail. The changes would take effect on July 9, 2023.

Once USPS implements these changes, the postage meter rate to send a one-ounce USPS Certified Mail letter through First-Class Mail with a hardcopy return receipt will be $8.53, an increase from the previous price of $8.10.

Certified Mail Plus Electronic Delivery Confirmation

You can combine Certified Mail with an electronic return receipt for delivery confirmation for a fee.

Based on July 2023 prices, an electronic receipt costs $2.20. Using this service with Certified Mail costs $6.55 ($4.35 Certified Mail fee + $2.20 electronic return receipt = $6.55).

Combining both services allows the U.S. Postal Service to provide you with a mailing receipt or proof of mailing with your Certified Mail. You also receive an electronic verification ensuring USPS can safely deliver the parcel.

Electronic verification also indicates whether USPS made a delivery attempt. The electronic delivery confirmation is a printed report and contains essential mailer details such as the following:

  • Mailing date
  • Certified Mail receipt
  • Postage transaction
  • USPS mailpiece acceptance
  • Delivery attempts or final delivery date and time

Certified Mail Plus Return Receipt (Signature) Requested

Another option for sending Certified Mail is to include an adult signature requirement with the return receipt.

When you send mail, the Adult Signature Required service ensures your recipient is at least 21 years old. 

The recipient or resident of the recipient’s address must show photo identification (I.D.) to the mail carrier for age confirmation. The signature requirement helps ensure that the carrier doesn’t deliver your mailpiece to an underage person.

With this service, you can receive a return receipt with a signature and an electronic delivery confirmation through email. Additionally, USPS can keep the electronic return receipt records for two years after the mailing date for your reference.

The receipt contains the following details:

  • Postage purchase
  • Special services used
  • Mailpiece acceptance
  • Delivery or delivery attempt details

Certified Mail Plus Return Receipt Signature Plus Restricted Delivery

This service combines Certified Mail Adult Signature Restricted Delivery and Return Receipt services. Consider choosing this mailing option if you need to send sensitive documents requiring multiple security levels.

USPS can only deliver such mail to your addressee or their authorized agent aged 21 or older.

This service is not available at post office locations, and you can only add this option to your qualifying online label purchase. Before USPS delivers your item, the recipient must provide an acceptable primary I.D. with a clear photo.

Postage Costs

As mentioned earlier, the postage rate for Certified Mail as of January 2023 is $4.35. Other costs with additional services are as follows:

  • Certified Mail Restricted Delivery: $11.45
  • Certified Mail Adult Signature Required: $11.45
  • Certified Mail Adult Signature Restricted Delivery: $11.45

USPS Certified Mail Rate Increase Summary

The following table summarizes the proposed price rate increases for Certified Mail and other related services effective July 2023:

USPS serviceRates as of January 22, 2023Rates as of July 9, 2023
Certified Mail$4.15$4.35
Return Receipt – green card (hard copy P.S. Form 3811)$3.35$3.55
Return Receipt – electronic$2.10$2.20
First-Class postage (metered rate, not over one ounce)$0.60$0.63
First-Class additional ounce (oz) rate (below 3.5oz)$0.24$0.24
Restricted Delivery$6.65$7.10

What Is the Cheapest Way to Send a Certified Letter?

One of the cheapest ways to send your Certified Mail is to choose the basic Certified Mail service without the Adult Signature Required or Restricted Delivery options.

Based on the previous sections, Certified Mail costs $4.15, while Certified Mail with Adult Signature Required or Restricted Delivery costs $10.80.

Another way to keep your mailing costs low is to send lightweight mail. Based on the table above, metered First-Class Mail becomes more expensive for every ounce added to your item.

How Can You Save Time and Money on Certified Mail?

As mentioned earlier, you can save on Certified Mail costs by opting for the lowest-priced service, opting out of extra services, and keeping your item as light as possible.

If you have a heavy package, consider using flat rate services, such as Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express items, to get the most out of your money.

If you want to save on delivery time, choose a fast mailing service. As a comparison, First-Class Mail can take between one to five days, while Priority Mail can take one to three days.

Save 28% by Opting Out Signature

Some individuals claim they can save up to 28% on Certified Mail costs by adding only the basic service and opting out of the recipient’s signature requirement.

While doing so can help lower your postage costs, USPS can deliver the mail to someone else at the delivery address if you don’t opt for a signature.

This approach is not ideal if you must send crucial legal documents requiring a recipient’s signature. But if your item is not critical, not requiring a signature can be a cost-saving option.

Opt for an Electronic Return Receipt Instead of Green Cards

The hardcopy P.S. Form 3811 or “green card,” so-called due to its green color, is the physical version of the return receipt.

As shown in a previous table regarding Certified Mail rates, green cards cost higher than electronic return receipts. The higher cost is due to additional expenses like printing and sending the forms to the senders.

Also, you can receive electronic return receipts within 24 hours. In contrast, green cards can take days to reach you.

Use an Automated Direct Mail System

An automated direct mail system can help manage the inefficiencies associated with manual mailing processes. If you run a business, this system allows you to perform marketing automation to reduce the physical hours spent on direct mail campaigns.

With an automated direct mail system, your marketing teams can focus their attention on revenue-generating activities that matter.

What Is USPS Certified Mail?

This USPS service provides an electronic verification and mailing receipt stating that the courier has delivered your article or that the mail carrier made a delivery attempt.

Specify the Recipient of the Mail

USPS Certified Mail lets you specify your recipient so that no one else can receive your item.

If you do not specify a recipient, USPS can hand your Certified Mail to anyone at the delivery address. For example, the mail carrier can deliver your package to your recipient’s family member or the receptionist at the office.

Check the Delivery Status

You can check your Certified Mail’s delivery status by tracking the mailpiece online through USPS Tracking or via telephone.

If you’re a business sending a large volume of Certified Mail, USPS can send delivery confirmations to you via bulk file transfer.

Get Return Receipts

Return receipts are an extra service for Certified Mail and can function as proof of delivery. These receipts can be vital when you send essential items like legal documents.

Some people may confuse the return receipts with certificates of mailing. This certificate proves you have sent an item when you say you did.

However, this record only shows the date the recipient accepted your mail. A mailing certificate does not provide proof of mailing, a record of delivery, or insurance against loss.

Key Points

A few key points to remember when sending Certified Mail are as follows:

  • You can use Certified Mail with USPS First-Class Mail, First-Class Package Service, and Priority Mail.
  • Certified Mail is eligible for a service fee refund if you don’t receive the mailing receipt and electronic verification after 30 days.

Why Do People Use Certified Mail?

In 2021, over 35.5 million Americans reported having packages stolen from them. If you want to minimize or prevent this occurrence, consider using Certified Mail when sending mail.

With this service, not only will you be informed through electronic verification whether the courier delivered your mail to your recipient. You can use Certified Mail for the following reasons:

  • Receive a mailing receipt.
  • Track your mail with a unique tracking number.
  • Maintain a delivery record at the post office of delivery.

You can also use Certified Mail for shipping to post office (P.O.) boxes. However, since this delivery service needs the recipient’s signature, the postal carrier must place a notification card into the P.O. box. The recipient must sign this notice before they can receive the Certified Mail.

Which Carriers Have Certified Delivery Options?

USPS is the only carrier offering Certified Mail. A certified item needs a delivery signature, meaning the mail carrier cannot leave the package in your recipient’s mailbox or doorstep.

Other shipping companies may offer similar services that require signatures but not certified delivery. For example, United Parcel Service (UPS) and Federal Express (FedEx) have Signature Required and Adult Signature Required as delivery confirmation services.

Certified Mail Delivery Time

USPS First-Class Mail delivers mail in one to five business days and packages in two to five days. If you use the Certified Mail service with this type of mail, the delivery time should be similar to First-Class Mail.

On the other hand, Priority Mail delivers in one to three business days. When using Certified Mail with this service, the delivery time should be comparable to Priority Mail.

How to Send Certified Mail

To send a certified letter through USPS Certified Mail, you can go to a post office and fill out the domestic Certified Mail form (P.S. Form 3800). Attach this form to the mail you need to send.

USPS will use the barcode on this form for your Certified Mail’s electronic confirmation and tracking details.

You can also create Certified Mail labels online. However, you should bring your item to the counter for verification if you need evidence of mailing. The postal worker will stamp your receipt to confirm the date and time of mailing.

What Happens to Your Certified Mail if the Recipient Refuses to Sign?

Suppose you send a package using the Certified Mail service, but your recipient doesn’t sign for the delivery. The postal carrier cannot hand over the Certified Mail to the recipient without a signature and will return the item to the post office.

What if No One Is Home at the Time of Delivery?

Usually, USPS can leave the package at the recipient’s mailbox or doorstep if you send the item through regular mail.

But what if you send the package through Certified Mail, and your recipient isn’t home to receive it? In this case, the delivery person must leave a note stating they attempted to deliver Certified Mail.

How Many Delivery Attempts Does USPS Make?

For Certified Mail, USPS makes only one delivery attempt. If the recipient doesn’t receive the item, the carrier returns it to the post office of delivery.

The post office will hold the undelivered or unclaimed Certified Mail for 15 days before returning it to the sender.

What Happens to the Certified Mail After a Failed Delivery Attempt?

Suppose USPS fails to deliver your Certified Mail, and the postal carrier returns the item to the nearest post office. Your recipient can sign the receipt and have someone else pick up the mail.

However, if the Certified Mail includes Restricted Delivery, your recipient cannot have someone else claim the item.

With Restricted Delivery, USPS will only deliver Certified Mail to the addressee you specified.

When you send an item through Certified Mail Restricted Delivery, your addressee must go to the post office and present their I.D. to claim the item. USPS will verify the recipient’s identity before handing over the item.

References

Delivering Peace of Mind: Certified Mail and the U.S. Postal Service
https://www.uspsoig.gov/reports/white-papers/delivering-peace-mind-certified-mail-and-us-postal-service
Insurance & Extra Services
https://www.usps.com/ship/insurance-extra-services.htm
Price List
https://pe.usps.com/text/dmm300/Notice123.htm
What is Adult Signature Required?
https://faq.usps.com/s/article/What-is-Adult-Signature-Required
What is Electronic Return Receipt?
https://faq.usps.com/s/article/What-is-Electronic-Return-Receipt
First-Class Mail
https://www.usps.com/ship/first-class-mail.htm
Priority Mail
https://www.usps.com/ship/priority-mail.htm
Return Receipt – The Basics
https://faq.usps.com/s/article/Return-Receipt-The-Basics#Green_Card
Certificate of Mailing – The Basics
https://faq.usps.com/s/article/Certificate-of-Mailing-The-Basics
What else do I Need to Know about the Certified Mail® Services?
https://faq.usps.com/s/article/What-else-do-I-Need-to-Know-about-the-Certified-Mail-Services
Is Certified Mail® Eligible for a Refund?
https://faq.usps.com/s/article/Is-Certified-Mail-Eligible-for-a-Refund
What are the Second and Final Notice and Return Dates for Redelivery?
https://faq.usps.com/s/article/What-are-the-Second-and-Final-Notice-and-Return-Dates-for-Redelivery
What is Certified Mail?
https://faq.usps.com/s/article/What-is-Certified-Mail