How Long Does It Take for Mail to Arrive in the Same City?

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June 8, 2023

Distance determines how long a piece of mail will arrive at its destination. The closer your location is to the recipient’s place, the faster they’ll get your mail. 

Let’s say you send a letter to a friend who lives in the same city. Should you expect your mail to arrive at your friend’s place within the day? 

How long does it usually take for regular mail to arrive at its destination? Does the USPS provide fast parcel delivery to all U.S. addresses?

The article discusses how long it takes for mail to arrive in the same city. It also explains the USPS mailing options and their delivery windows.

Knowing how long it takes to mail a letter in the same city can help you understand why packages often appear to be going farther from their actual destination during the shipping process. 

Need help locating a post office near you? FindPostOffice.org provides you with an easy and accessible post office lookup. Our site lets you access information related to USPS and answers mail-related queries.

How Long Does It Usually Take for Mail to Arrive in the Same City or State?

It usually takes two to three business days for mail to arrive in the same city or state. However, the exact timeline varies, depending on the shipping service you use. 

Suppose you use Media Mail to send educational materials to your friend who lives in the same city. In that case, expect the package to arrive at its destination within two to eight business days. Prices for Media Mail usually start at $3.49 at a post office.

Why Isn’t Mailing to the Same State or City Quicker?

You need to look into how the postal system works to understand why mailing to the same state or city isn’t quicker. 

Your local post office staff members aren’t the ones who sort your package. When you ship something with the United States Postal Service (USPS), your parcel, together with all the other letters and packages, is mailed off in bulk to one of the agency’s regional sorting hubs. 

Your package may go some distance away from its actual destination during the shipping process since only some states have a sorting hub. Once your parcel arrives at the sorting facility, it’ll be routed to where it needs to go.   

Are You Mailing a Letter Across Town Today? Don’t Expect It to Arrive Tomorrow

The U.S. Postal Service started the implementation of Phase II in 2015 by eliminating all overnight delivery of First-Class Mail and slowing the delivery of most periodicals, which now require an extra day to reach their destination.  

As of July 2022, the delivery of First-Class Mail letters or packages that weigh 13oz or less takes one to three days.  

The New Measurement System

Beginning in the fiscal year 2019, USPS started using the Service Performance Measurement (SPM) as its official measurement system. SPM replaced the External First-Class Measurement (EXFC) and Intelligent Mail Accuracy and Performance (iMAP) systems. 

EXFC measures the service performance of single-piece First-Class Mail flats, letters, and postcards from the time a test piece is deposited into a post office lobby chute or collection box until its delivery. 

Pieces of mail have barcodes. Instead of having a reporter mark down when a mailpiece is received, mail carriers would scan barcoded mailpieces to mark the delivery time. 

Using hand-held scanners and barcoding, USPS can automate its service performance process, eliminating the need for costly manual recording and reporting. The agency can also do the work internally rather than paying an external third party. 

Concerns About the Plan

USPS needed the approval of the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) to implement SPM. PRC is an independent firm that exercises regulatory oversight over the U.S. Postal Service’s operations. 

The Commission approved SPM on July 5, 2018. Effective October of that same year, USPS began using an internal SPM as its official service reporting and recording system. 

The agency no longer gets an external firm’s services to measure the time it takes to process mailpieces through the system. Instead, letter carriers perform the task and get paid for it.  

Lyudmila Y. Bzhilyanskaya, a Public Representative of the PRC, thought that despite SPM being technologically driven, its methodology and measurement results were unclear.

Bzhilyanskaya expressed concern about how SPM moves from an actual mailpiece to a virtual one. Unlike EXFC, which measures the end-to-end delivery time, the SPM system doesn’t track the delivery time of a particular mail. Instead, SPM emphasizes the statistical design’s quality and the sampling’s accuracy.    

Let’s say the mail carrier doesn’t return to the post office from their route before the final dispatch truck departs. That could be a problem under the SPM system.

One suggested solution is for mail carriers to scan collection mail from their route hourly to measure the first-mile time. 

From ZIP Code to ZIP Code: How Long Will Mail Take?

The type of mail you choose determines how long mail takes from ZIP code to ZIP code. Other factors that impact delivery speed are the size of the package or mail and the distance between the two locations. 

Let’s say you send mail and deliver it to the same ZIP code. You can expect the mailpiece to arrive in no more than 24 hours. Still, the arrival time depends on when you drop off the mail item at the post office. 

If you drop off the mailpiece before noon, USPS will deliver your mail the following day. However, your mail will probably arrive at its destination within two days if you drop it off at the post office in the afternoon. 

From ZIP Code to ZIP Code: What Is the Standard Mail Delivery Time? 

Generally, the standard mail delivery time is three to four days. However, you can use the USPS Delivery Time Calculator to know the time USPS delivers to your ZIP code.

USPS Delivery Time Calculator is a handy tool that calculates USPS transit time by ZIP code in the U.S. You only need to fill in the information below:

  • The origin ZIP code
  • The destination ZIP code
  • The service you choose 

What Time Does the Mail Come in Your ZIP Code?

To know the precise time mail comes in your ZIP code, you can go to the USPS website and fill out the Service Commitments form. 

The USPS Offers Fast Parcel Delivery to All Addresses in the U.S.

USPS offers various options for fast, economical package and letter delivery worldwide. With over 31,000 retail locations in the United States, the U.S. Postal Service makes it easy to ship your mailpieces and packages when and how you want them. 

USPS Domestic Delivery Times

USPS domestic delivery times for U.S. addresses vary by shipping service: 

Mail ClassTrackingDelivery SpeedPost Office Starting PriceStamps.com Starting Price
First-Class Mail (large envelopes)NoOne to three business days$1.26$1.16
First-Class Mail (letters)NoOne to three business days$0.63$0.60
Media MailYesTwo to eight business days$3.65$3.49
USPS Retail GroundYesTwo to eight business days$8.95 and upNot Available
Parcel SelectYesTwo to eight business daysNot available$6.99 and up
First-Class Package ServiceYesOne to three business days$4.50 and up$3.59 and up
Priority Mail Regional RateYesOne to three business days$10.68 and up$8.38 and up
Priority Mail Flat RateYesOne to three business days$9.45$8.25
Priority MailYesOne to three business days$8.70 and up$7.64 and up
Priority Mail ExpressYesOvernight to most locations in the U.S.$26.95 and up$23.50 and up

USPS International Delivery Times

The international delivery times vary by shipping service from one- to three-day delivery with Global Express Guaranteed up to 20 days for First-Class Package International Service. 

Mail ClassTrackingDelivery SpeedPost Office Starting PriceStamps.com Starting Price
First-Class Mail International (letters)No6 to 20 business days$1.40$1.45
First-Class Package International ServiceYes6 to 20 business days$22.10$22.23
Priority Mail InternationalYes6 to 10 business days$40.45 and up$39.53 and up
Priority Mail Express InternationalYesThree to five business days$47.95 and up$53.07 and up
Global Express GuaranteedYesOne to three business days$67.80 and up$64.41 and up

Note: The prices on the table are valid as of January 2023. Since the prices are subject to change, visit this page to get the updated list.  

USPS Delivery Days

USPS delivers mail during weekdays. The agency also delivers on Sundays but only for situations that can result in a significant backlog. For example, a backlog can accumulate over the Christmas period or Thanksgiving. 

USPS Offers Free Saturday Delivery

USPS provides free Saturday delivery incorporated into the agency’s regular delivery schedule, giving shippers 52 additional delivery days yearly. 

USPS Mailing Options and Their Delivery Windows

The Postal Service classifies mail and packages into different classes based on delivery speed. Here are the USPS mailing options and their delivery windows: 

Priority Mail Express

This USPS mailing option offers a next-day to two-day delivery service by 6:00 PM with a money-back guarantee.  

First-Class Mail

This USPS mail service delivers mail within one to five business days. Meanwhile, the delivery speed for small packages under this service is two to five business days. 

Priority Mail

This service includes tracking and delivery within one to three business days. Flat rates, prepaid pricing for retail only, and regional pricing are available under Priority Mail service. 

Media Mail

This USPS mail service is a cost-effective way to send educational materials and media items. The delivery speed for Media Mail is between two to eight business days. 

USPS Retail Ground

This USPS service is ground shipping for thick envelopes, packages, and tubes with a maximum weight of 70lbs that are optional to be mailed at First-Class Mail service. 

The delivery service standard for USPS Retail Ground is two to five business days as of August 1, 2022. However, items containing hazardous materials, live animals, and those shipped to Alaska, Hawaii, and overseas military addresses still maintain the two- to eight-day delivery standard. 

USPS Marketing Mail

USPS Marketing, formerly Standard Mail, refers to mail matter that isn’t required to be mailed as Periodicals or First-Class Mail. USPS delivers Marketing Mail pieces within 3 to 10 business days. 

Domestic Express Mail

USPS delivers every piece of domestic express mail before 12:00 PM. 

Regular Mail Delivery From State to State

Although the average mail delivery time in the U.S. is two and a half days, regular mail may take around seven days to arrive at its destination, depending on the state. 

To understand the process that determines USPS letter delivery time, you should know what happens once you put your letter in the mailbox. 

Step One

Deposit your mailpiece in the mailbox. 

Step Two

The mailman will pick up your mailpiece and take it to your city’s sectional center. Let’s say you don’t reside in a city. Then the mail carrier will transfer your mailpiece to the nearest processing center to your location. 

Step Three

A plane will carry your mailpiece to its destination state (e.g., New York). Your mailpiece will arrive in the sectional center of your recipient’s city. 

Step Four

Postal workers will sort your mailpiece, along with other letters that arrived, and hand the items to the mailman. 

Step Five 

The mailman will deliver your mailpiece to the recipient’s address specified on the envelope

Delivering your mail from state to state isn’t straightforward. Although delays and errors are inevitable, USPS usually gets the delivery right. 

Suppose you opt for a noninteractive pictorial diagram of your referencing activities. In that case, you may refer to the Standard Mail map or First-Class Mail delivery time map

How Can You Ensure Your Package or Letter Arrives Quickly?

If you want to ensure your package or letter arrives at its destination quickly, you must choose the best mailing option possible. 

For instance, paying for Priority Mail Express will ensure faster delivery than First-Class Mail, even if you’re shipping to a nearby location. 

Priority Mail Express offers next-day to two-day delivery service by 6:00 PM with a money-back guarantee. 

Tips to Get the USPS to Deliver Your Mail Faster

You may get your mail delivered faster if you send it before the cut-off time. Still, there are different things you can do to expedite your mail delivery, such as the following: 

Anticipate Busy Seasons

You should use an expedited mail service or mail earlier during busy seasons to ensure faster delivery of your mail items. 

The U.S. Postal Service and other couriers often encounter demand surges during Christmas. So these companies may not complete deliveries in these seasons. 

Additionally, USPS doesn’t deliver on federal holidays except for Priority Mail Express. Mother’s Day is also a busy season for USPS, so you should anticipate such busy seasons to ensure your mailpiece isn’t stuck among thousands of greeting cards. 

Mail Earlier

Plan your time and mailing date in advance. Generally, it’s better to mail on Mondays and Tuesdays to ensure faster delivery. 

Let’s say you want to ship a package through Priority Mail Express and send it on Friday afternoon. Then expect USPS to complete the delivery on Monday next week. You can also pay an extra fee if you wish to push up the delivery on Sunday. 

Meanwhile, USPS will complete your delivery by Friday if you time your parcel correctly and mail it on Thursday morning before 10:30 AM.

Mail to P.O. Boxes

USPS doesn’t deliver to some rural areas because they’re non-serviceable. Deliveries to some destinations may take longer than usual due to bad weather conditions. 

Suppose your mailing destination falls under a non-serviceable area, or the weather could be better that it’s impossible to mail your item. You can send your mailpiece to the recipient’s community mailbox or P.O. Box so that USPS can quickly complete the delivery. 

Consider Using Virtual Mailboxes

Let’s say you need a physical or mailing address. You can use virtual mailboxes to receive your mail items if that’s the case. Virtual mailboxes have various features, such as mail scanning, record-keeping, forwarding, and accepting packages. 

You can operate all the functions of virtual mailboxes using your mobile device. Virtual boxes can provide a physical dimension to your email and smart devices by linking your email address to your virtual P.O. Boxes and residential addresses for package fulfillment and other activities. 

FAQs

  1. Is it faster to drop mail at the post office or mailbox?

Dropping mail at the post office or depositing a letter in a mailbox usually has the same speed. Suppose you drop off a mailpiece at a 24-hour postal location before the last pickup time. Your mail will be postmarked with the date you dropped it off.

Your mail item will also be postmarked the same day if you deposit it in a collection box before the last pickup time listed at that location.  

  1. How long does USPS First-Class Mail take to arrive at its destination?

USPS First-Class Mail usually arrives at its destination within one to five business days. 

  1. How long does it take for a stamped letter to arrive at its destination?

A stamped letter is a type of mail marked with a paper postage stamp. You may check out USPS Service Standards Maps to know how long it takes for your stamped letter to arrive at its destination.  

  1. How long does mail usually take to arrive while mailing through other carriers?

Other mail carriers like FedEx and United Parcel Service (UPS) deliver mailpieces at about the same time as the USPS – sometimes faster. But FedEx and UPS have limited service options and may charge more.

For instance, FedEx Ground shipping sends mail items to major states and cities within one to five business days. However, shipping to locations like Alaska and Hawaii can take longer than the usual delivery windows. 

On the other hand, UPS offers Next Day Air Early, a service that guarantees your mailpiece reaches its destination the next day by 8:00 AM to major cities in the 48 contiguous states. 

References

  1. Mail & Shipping Services
    https://www.usps.com/ship/mail-shipping-services.htm
  2. USPS Service Standard
    https://www.nalc.org/government-affairs/body/2017-service-standards-fact-sheet.pdf
  3. A Customer’s Guide to Mailing, page 6.
    https://www.prc.gov/sites/default/files/archived/DMM100.2.pdf
  4. Mail Excluded from Service Performance Measurement
    https://www.uspsoig.gov/sites/default/files/document-library-files/2020/19XG009NO000-R20.pdf
  5. About the Postal Regulatory Commission
    https://www.prc.gov/about
  6. Carriers rise to the challenge of accelerated volume, innovation
    https://www.nalc.org/news/the-postal-record/2018/october-2018/document/CD.pdf
  7. PUBLIC REPRESENTATIVE COMMENTS CONCERNING SERVICE PERFORMANCE MEASUREMENT SYSTEMS FOR MARKET DOMINANT PRODUCTS
    https://www.prc.gov/docs/92/92005/PI2015-1_PR_Comments_Final.pdf
  8. SUPPLEMENTAL OPENING COMMENTS OF DOUGLAS F. CARLSON
    https://www.prc.gov/docs/91/91997/PRC%20Serv%20Perf%20Comments%20II.pdf
  9. How much USPS Delivery Time?
    https://usps-track.us/delivery-transit.html
  10. USPS Delivery Times
    https://www.stamps.com/usps/usps-delivery-times/
  11. Priority Mail Express
    https://www.usps.com/ship/priority-mail-express.htm
  12. First-Class Mail
    https://www.usps.com/ship/first-class-mail.htm
  13. Priority Mail
    https://www.usps.com/ship/priority-mail.htm
  14. Mail & Shipping Services
    https://www.usps.com/ship/mail-shipping-services.htm
  15. What is USPS Retail Ground Service?
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/What-is-USPS-Retail-Ground-Service
  16. What is USPS Marketing Mail®?
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/What-is-USPS-Marketing-Mail
  17. Priority Mail Express
    https://www.usps.com/ship/priority-mail-express.htm
  18. What is the Latest Collection Time at a Post Office™?
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/What-is-the-Latest-Collection-Time-at-a-Post-Office
  19. Does a Virtual PO Box service appeal to you?
    https://www.uspsoig.gov/blog/does-virtual-po-box-service-appeal-you
  20. What is FedEx Ground shipping?
    https://www.fedex.com/en-us/shipping/ground.html
  21. UPS Next Day Air® Early
    https://www.ups.com/pr/en/shipping/international/services/express-early.page