Send Certified Mail Online

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March 23, 2024

A 2017 USPS (United States Postal Service) survey showed that 87% of U.S. citizens were familiar with Certified Mail’s features. In addition, 56% reported they have used Certified Mail.

These percentages suggest that Certified Mail is a widely used USPS service. 

Suppose you plan to send mail through Certified Mail. In that case, you may wonder about this mailing option’s features and how to access it.

How do you send USPS Certified Mail? When should you use this service? How much does it cost?

FindPostOffice.org is an all-in-one website that offers detailed information regarding local post offices in the U.S.

This article explains what Certified Mail is and how it works, including which situations require this shipping option and how to track your parcel after sending it. 

Learn more about shipping and tracking Certified Mail packages’ features, pricing, and mechanics.

Sending a USPS Certified Mail

The Certified Mail service offers the sender a mailing receipt and, if requested, electronic verification that the item arrived at its destination or a delivery attempt was made.

You can send Certified Mail offline and online. The offline option requires you to go to a local post office to do everything manually.

Meanwhile, the online method may be more convenient since it allows you to send a Certified Mail on your schedule.

Still, knowing both ways can help you decide which option best suits your circumstances.

1. Sending Certified Mail Online

Register an account with a web-based business offering the Certified Mail service. 

Note: Some companies offer online options without a minimum or monthly fee.

Next, choose and set up a payment method to pay online. Then, draft your letter using any word-processing software. 

Afterward, upload your files to your online service provider’s website. The web business will get these documents printed and mailed under the Certified Mail option and give you the mailing receipt as soon as they are mailed.

2. Sending Certified Mail by Visiting the Local Post Office

You can send a Certified Mail at a post office, branch, or station or hand it to a rural carrier. 

You can also drop it off in a post office maildrop, nonpersonnel unit, a street letterbox, or any other receptacle for First-Class mail.

Gather Everything That You Need

Gather all the necessary items to send your Certified Mail before heading to a USPS location. You need the following:

  • The parcel or package you plan to send
  • Enough money to cover the costs of sending Certified Mail
  • Mailing information, like the recipient’s address

Get the Certified Mail Form 3800

You must fill out Form PS 3800 (Certified Mail Receipt) and affix it to your envelope’s front. You can pay for the Certified Mail and postage fees at the counter.

Determine Whether You Want a Return Receipt

The Return Receipt service offers a user proof of delivery, which contains information such as the recipient’s signature and actual delivery address.

Here’s how to get an electronic copy of the return receipt:

  • Visit the USPS website (USPS.com)
  • Enter the Certified Mail, COD, Registered Mail,  Insured Mail (over $200)
  • Input your email when prompted by the ERR (electronic return receipt) option.
  • The signature is sent as an email attachment (not on the typical green postcard).

Purchase Restricted Delivery Service

With this service, the mail carrier will request the recipient to provide identification proving that they’re the addressee. The delivery person will also require them to sign the package.

You can buy Restricted Delivery via Stamps.com if you have bought one of the following:

  • Certified Mail
  • USPS Insurance of more than $500 value
  • Registered Mail
  • Collect-on-Delivery

Attach the Barcode and Return Receipt to the Mail

Certified Mail typically bears a barcoded green Form 3800.

You must place the Certified Mail form’s label part above the delivery address and to the right of the return address. You can also affix the label left of the delivery information on your mailpiece.

Select the Mailing Option and Pay the Postage

First-Class Mail and Priority Mail are eligible for Certified Mail. Pay for the postage of any of these services based on your budget and preferred delivery time.

Priority Mail is expensive but delivers faster than First-Class Mail. In addition, Priority Mail allows you to send items weighing up to 70 pounds (lbs).

Keep Your Receipts Safe

Keep in a safe location the mailing receipt you get after sending a Certified Mail. This way, you can easily access the receipt information whenever needed.

Track Your Mail

You can monitor your Certified Mail’s delivery progress using a unique tracking number. Just input the code in the designated field on the USPS website. 

Your mail’s current status will appear on the displayed screen, providing you with regular updates.

Why Should You Send Certified Mail?

Certified Mail offers a secure and trackable way to send sensitive documents, ensuring their safe arrival at the recipient’s address. 

Below are three primary reasons for purchasing Certified Mail.

1. Useful for Sending Important Mail

Certified Mail can be an excellent option for sending out crucial mailpieces, particularly those requiring proof of mailing.

This service offers easy-to-access tracking features so you know your mail or package’s whereabouts in real time.

Consider using Certified Mail when sending these documents:

  • Shareholder reports
  • Product recall notices
  • Delivery required messages
  • Account statements

2. Ensures Deliverability

Certified Mail may also help if you have a tight deadline by which your mail must be delivered.

USPS prioritizes delivering items sent with this feature, ensuring the mailpieces arrive at the intended destination on time. 

3. Make Your Mail Noticeable

An item sent using Certified Mail will likely stand out and give an impression of its significance to the recipient.

People typically discard mail without opening it, thinking it is junk mail.

On the other hand, recipients may pay more attention and prioritize deliveries arriving as Certified Mail items.

Add Proof of Mailing and Delivery, Signature Services, and More

USPS offers insurance and extra services, including proof of mailing and signature services, to clients who want added protection for their envelopes or parcels. Some add-ons are free, while others are accessible at a cost.

Extra and Included Insurance

Here are three things to expect from USPS’ extra services:

  • You can protect valuable items and have fewer worries through signature-required delivery, additional insurance, and other optional features.
  • Sometimes, you can print or order the extra service forms online.
  • You can have a record of when you mailed your items and know when your items reach their intended recipient.

Standard Shipping Insurance

You can buy insurance coverage for your mail or packages for up to $5,000 to cover potential loss or damage.

Your item’s declared value determines the insurance fee. Moreover, limitations apply to insuring some products.

For example, the following items are ineligible for insurance:

  • Nonmailable matter
  • Parcels with goods for sale, addressed to prospective buyers who have not authorized or ordered their shipment
  • Fragile items that cannot be safely mailed regardless of packaging

Mail Insured for More Than $500

USPS delivery personnel may require the recipient to present a valid primary ID before they can receive the mailpiece.

USPS customers may offer any of the following as an acceptable primary form of photo ID:

  • U.S. Government ID (identification)
  • Passport
  • Matricula Consular (an identity card Mexican citizens residing outside Mexico can use)

Pricing

Insurance fees based on declared values start at $2.70.

Insurance coverage only protects the actual value of the mailpieces. You may buy up to $5,000 indemnity coverage at a post office or online.

Priority Mail Express and Priority Mail

Priority Mail Express and Priority Mail services provide up to $100 insurance. For high-value shipments, additional coverage is generally available.

Qualifications

Priority Mail Express and Priority Mail shipments within the U.S. must have a valid USPS Tracking barcode to be eligible for included insurance.

Priority Mail insurance, plus extra services, are not included when you buy it.

Priority Mail Express Delivery

Before delivery of the mailpiece, the USPS delivery personnel may require the addressee to show an acceptable primary ID. 

Claims

Secure your postmarked mailing receipt and proof of the value of your shipment should you need to submit a claim.

Suppose your mailpiece got lost or damaged. In that case, you can file a claim no later than 60 days from the date of mailing. 

Proof of Mailing and Delivery

Imagine sending and receiving important mail with ease and peace of mind. You can be confident that your items are safe thanks to USPS proof of mailing and delivery. 

Below are some reliable add-ons to ensure your mail reaches its destination.

USPS Tracking

USPS provides tracking details as an item moves to its destination, including the time and date of delivery or attempted delivery.

Notes

USPS Tracking is available at your local post office or online, depending on the mail class you choose. 

Cost

USPS Tracking is free when bought at a local post office. 

Meanwhile, electronic tracking is free for Stamps.com customers using any of the following services when they print their shipping labels within the Stamps.com program:

  • First Class Package Service
  • Parcel Select Ground
  • Priority Mail 
  • Priority Mail Express 

Certified Mail

As mentioned, Certified Mail proves that you sent a mail or package. This service lets you verify delivery attempts and get the signature of an authorized agent when combined with the Return Receipt.

Notes

Here are four things to consider when using Certified Mail:

  • You can buy Certified Mail at the post office.
  • Certified Mail combined with a Return Receipt allows you to get an electronic or physical delivery confirmation containing the recipient’s signature.
  • The recipient may be asked to provide an acceptable primary ID before USPS delivers the mailpiece.

Cost

Certified Mail is an economical way to secure your mail or package’s delivery. This service costs $4.35.

Return Receipt

This feature lets you obtain an electronic or hardcopy delivery report showing the recipient’s signature.

Notes

Here are three things to remember regarding Return Receipt:

  • You can buy this feature at a local post office, depending on the mail class.
  • Return Receipt is available with Priority Mail Express.
  • Electronic Return Receipts (ERRs) are unavailable to FPO (Fleet Post Office), APO (Army or Air Force Post Office), DPO (Diplomatic Post Office) locations, and Freely Associated States.

Cost

Return Receipt is priced in two ways, depending on the type of receipt you choose. Mail (physical) receipts cost $3.55, while email versions cost $2.20.

Certificate of Mailing

This feature helps prove that you sent the item when you say you did. This document demonstrates the date your mail was handed over to USPS for mailing.

Notes

Here are three things to remember about Certificate of Mailing:

  • This service is only available at a local post office.
  • USPS does not keep a copy of this document, so don’t lose your certificate.
  • You can only access this service at the time of mailing.

Cost

You can use two forms to access the Certificate of Mailing: PS Form 3817 (Certificate of Mailing form) or PS Form 3877 (Firm Mailing Book for Accountable Mail). 

Certificate of Mailing costs $1.95 when you use Form 3817.

USPS Tracking Plus

USPS offers an extended tracking history for your item through the USPS Tracking Plus Statement. You can request tracking information via email upon request. The details you can access can span up to 10 years.

Notes

Here are two things to remember about USPS Tracking Plus:

  • You can buy this feature online through USPS Tracking.
  • USPS Tracking Plus is available for the following services:
    • Parcel Select Non-presort
    • Library Mail
    • Priority Mail
    • Bound Printed Matter
    • Media Mail
    • Parcel Select Lightweight
    • First-Class Mail (flats and letters)
    • USPS Ground Advantage
    • USPS Marketing Mail parcels 

Cost

USPS Tracking Plus is a cost-effective way to enhance free USPS Tracking features. The price for this enhanced option starts at $0.99.

Valuable Items

When shipping valuable items, it’s crucial to choose mailing options that provide high levels of reliability and security. 

The following services can be excellent add-ons to your chosen shipping method.

Registered Mail

This service offers maximum security for high-value items. Registered Mail items are insurable up to $50,000 at your local post office.

Notes

Below are four things to consider when purchasing Registered Mail:

  • You can purchase this option at a nearby post office or rural carrier. 
  • Regardless of how you bought the service, present Registered Mail items for mailing to a USPS employee.
  • Registered Mail offers mailing receipt and, upon request, electronic verification of delivery or delivery attempt.

Cost

With Registered Mail, the recipient has to provide a primary ID before the mailpiece can be delivered. The price for Registered Mail starts at $16.80

Hold for Pickup

Customers can pick up perishable and valuable merchandise at their local post office. Mailers can request this service when they purchase postage for eligible items with select methods. 

Notes

Below are three things to consider regarding Hold for Pickup:

  • USPS will keep packages for up to 15 days, based on the service chosen (five days for Priority Mail Express).
  • The customer receives an email notification that a parcel is available for pickup.
  • The addressee must present an acceptable primary ID containing a recognizable photo.

Cost

You can access the Hold for Pickup service for free. This service is available for eligible items purchased through the following:

  • USPS Click-N-Ship
  • USPS-authorized Information-Based Indicia (IBI) postage meters, when combined with an authorized Hold For Pickup label
  • USPS-approved PC Postage products
  • Permit imprint
  • Enterprise Payment System (EPS) account, when combined with Package Intercept request
  • Accepted payment options at local post offices (for Collect on Delivery or COD Hold for Pickup only)

Signature Services

USPS customers can purchase signature-required services if they want assurance regarding the delivery of their mail or packages. 

Here are four signature-required features:

Signature Confirmation

This service lets you find your item’s delivery time and date. You can also use Signature Confirmation to verify when a delivery attempt was made.

Moreover, Signature Confirmation requires the recipient to sign the mail or package upon receipt. 

USPS stores the delivery record, which you may obtain via mail, fax, or email.

Notes

Below are four things to remember regarding Signature Confirmation:

  • You can purchase Signature Confirmation online or at a local post office, depending on the mail class you purchased.
  • Signature Confirmation has restricted availability to FPO, APO, DPO locations, and Freely Associated States.
  • You can use Signature Confirmation with any USPS service except Adult Signature Services and Marketing Mail.
  • Upon receipt, the recipient should present an acceptable primary ID with a clear photo.

Cost

You can purchase Signature Confirmation online or at a local post office. This service costs $3.40 when bought online and $4.05 when accessed at a post office.

Restricted Delivery

This service lets you specify the individual who can sign for and accept your item. You can only use Restricted Delivery with any of the following extra services:

  • Certified Mail
  • Collect on Delivery (COD)
  • Signature Confirmation
  • Registered Mail
  • Insured Mail (for items worth over $500)

Notes

Here are two things to remember regarding Restricted Delivery:

  • You can purchase this service at a local post office, depending on the mail class you choose.
  • USPS may request a primary ID with an identifiable photo for the addressee or the authorized agent to sign for and receive an item.

Cost

Here’s how much this service will cost when combined with each extra feature:

  • COD Restricted Delivery: $6.90
  • Insured Mail Restricted Delivery: $6.90
  • Registered Mail Restricted Delivery: $6.90
  • Signature Confirmation Restricted Delivery (electronic): $10.30 (electronic) 
  • Signature Confirmation Restricted Delivery (retail): $10.95
  • Certified Mail Restricted Delivery: $11.45

Adult Signature Required

This feature requires the signature of an adult (an individual age 21 or over) at the recipient’s address. You will get delivery details and the recipient’s name and signature.

Notes

Here are three things to remember regarding this Adult Signature Required:

  • You can add this service to eligible online label purchases.
  • Adult Signature Required is not sold at post office locations.
  • Upon receipt, the recipient of an Adult Signature Required item should present a valid primary ID with a recognizable photo.

Cost

Adult Signature Required is a relatively costly add-on, priced at $9.05.

You can pay for this service in addition to the postage fee using:

  • Click-N-Ship (a USPS service that allows customers to create and print labels). 
  • PC (personal computer) Postage. 
  • Permit imprint (if you electronically submit mailing documentation or postage statements).
  • IBI (Information-Based Indicia) postage meter that combines data matrix barcode with human-readable information.

Adult Signature Restricted Delivery

This service ensures your mail or package is delivered after the addressee or authorized individual verifies their identity, certifies that they’re 21 or older, and signs for the mail or parcel.

Notes

Below are three things to remember regarding Adult Signature Restricted Delivery:

  • You can add this service to an eligible online label purchase.
  • Adult Signature Restricted Delivery is not offered at local post office locations.
  • Before delivery, the addressee must provide an acceptable primary ID with an identifiable photo.

Cost

Adult Signature Restricted Delivery is a relatively costly add-on, priced at $9.35.  

Note: Shipments of smokeless tobacco and cigarettes with Adult Signature service, mailed by specific individuals, require the mailer to hand over items at a retail counter.

Collect on Delivery (COD)

With COD, you can allow your recipients to pay for shipping and merchandise when they receive the package.

You also benefit from insurance coverage up to $1,000 based on the amount to be collected or the amount of insurance coverage preferred, whichever is higher.

Notes

Below are four things to remember regarding COD:

  • The addressee may pay the COD costs via personal check, money order payable to the mailer, or cash.

Note: The USPS employee will accept the money order after the recipient provides an acceptable primary ID with a recognizable photo.

  • You can buy COD at a local post office or through your rural carrier, depending on the mail class.
  • COD is unavailable for international deliveries, APO, FPO, or DPO locations, and some Freely Associated States.
  • COD service offers the mailer a mailing receipt.

Cost

Collect on Delivery is a moderately priced add-on, starting at $9.30. Price starts at $10.60.

Compare Add-On Services

Here are additional details regarding the add-on services above to help you decide which is best for you:

  • Certified Mail is only available for First-Class Mail and Priority Mail. 
  • Signature Confirmation is available for Priority Mail, Bound Printed Matter, Library Mail (parcels only), Media Mail (parcels only), and USPS Ground Advantage.
  • Adult Signature Required and Restricted Delivery are available for the following mailing classes:
    • Parcel Select Lightweight
    • Parcel Select Non-presort (not at retail)
    • Library Mail
    • Priority Mail Express
    • First-Class Mail
    • Media Mail
    • Priority Mail
    • USPS Ground Advantage
    • Bound Printed Matter

Think Snail Mail Is a Thing of the Past? Think Post Offices Are Dead? 

Post offices remain vital and sometimes necessary for specific tasks despite popular belief that they are obsolete.

People may use them to send crucial documents and parcels, especially when they do not trust the internet to send them securely.

They also use them for sending post office boxes, certified letters, and eligible packages and for selling post stamps.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How long does it take to deliver Certified Mail?

Plan on 3 to 10 business days for shipment when sending a Certified Mail letter with First-Class Mail.

Meanwhile, you can expedite mail delivery by upgrading to USPS Certified Mail with Priority Delivery, generally a one-to-three-day shipment option. 

  1. Can I stop a letter or any shipment from being mailed?

Yes. For a fee, USPS Package Intercept lets the shipper or addressee stop delivery or redirect a parcel, flat, or letter that is not out for delivery or has already been delivered.

Most domestic shipments with a tracking or extra services barcode are eligible for Package Intercept. 

Note: You can only request a Package Intercept online.

  1. How do I track my letters?

The type of delivery and tracking details depend on the mail class or add-on services you bought at the time of mailing.

Whether you are the sender or addressee, you can monitor your item via text, call, or USPS application.

  1. When will my letters be delivered?

The answer to this question depends on which mailing service you bought. For example, First-Class Mail generally takes three to ten business days. In contrast, Priority Mail items may arrive in one to three days.

  1. How do I access the Signature Confirmation (A.K.A. or “also known as” Proof of Delivery and Green Card)?

This document is also known as Electronic Return Receipt (ERR). You can access the ERR for letters that USPS has successfully delivered to the same place where the tracking information exists.

  1. What if my letter never gets delivered?

Suppose you suspect your letter is lost, delayed, or missing for seven days or more. In that case, you can file a Missing Mail search request at MissingMail.USPS.com. 

  1. How does USPS pricing work?

USPS is one of the most efficient mailing service providers worldwide, with some of the lowest postage fees of any industrialized country.

Postage prices may vary depending on the following factors:

  • Size, weight, and shape of the item
  • Quantity of mailpieces
  • Delivery distance
  • Mail entry point
  • Type of content
  • Speed of delivery

Dollar for dollar, you get a great deal from your mail.

  1. Can I send Certified Mail without going to the post office?

You can send Certified Mail from your home without submitting traditional USPS forms, using a postage meter, and visiting the post office to obtain a stamped receipt.

  1. How do I send USPS Certified Mail from home?

You can send a Certified Mail online via a third-party service. One such service provider is SimpleCertifiedMail.com.

Here’s the step-by-step guide for sending USPS Certified Mail through SimpleCertifiedMail.

  1. Log in to SimpleCertifiedMail.com.
  2. Provide the recipient’s name and address on the site’s online form.
  3. Print Certified Mail cover sheets using your desktop printer.
  4. Fold the letter and cover sheet into a windowed Certified Mail envelope provided by SimpleCertifiedMail.com
  5. Drop the item in any USPS mailbox or leave it for your mail carrier to collect.

  1. Can I access Certified Mail and Return Receipt online?

Yes. You should request a Return Receipt (electronic) at mailing time. It will be best to wait for the shipment and the signature record to be processed before USPS can email it to you.

  1.  Can I print out or order a Certified Mail label online?

Yes. For example, you can buy Certified Mail and Return Receipt at Stamps.com.

References

1. Delivering Peace of Mind: Certified Mail and the U.S. Postal Service
https://www.uspsoig.gov/sites/default/files/reports/2023-01/RARC-WP-18-002.pdf
2. Certified Mail
https://pe.usps.com/archive/pdf/dmmarchive20030810/S912.pdf
3. Certified Mail with Electronic Return Receipt
https://des.wa.gov/sites/default/files/2022-06/ERRTutorial.pdf
4. Restricted Delivery
https://stamps.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/157/~/restricted-delivery
5. Insurance & Extra Services
https://www.usps.com/ship/insurance-extra-services.htm
6. 500 Additional Mailing Services
https://pe.usps.com/text/dmm300/503.htm?_gl=1*1j2wgwg*_gcl_au*MTc3ODkzMTU4Ny4xNjk3NDYxNTI0
7. USPS Tracking
https://www.stamps.com/usps/delivery-confirmation/
8. Certificate of Mailing – The Basics
https://faq.usps.com/s/article/Certificate-of-Mailing-The-Basics
9. Hold for Pickup Service
https://faq.usps.com/s/article/Hold-for-Pickup-Service
10. USPS Package Intercept
https://www.usps.com/manage/package-intercept.htm
11. USPS Tracking® – The Basics
https://faq.usps.com/s/article/USPS-Tracking-The-Basics
12. Missing Mail – The Basics
https://faq.usps.com/s/article/Missing-Mail-The-Basics
13. Postage Prices
https://pe.usps.com/BusinessMail101/Index?ViewName=Prices
14. Electronic Return Receipt
https://faq.usps.com/s/article/What-is-Electronic-Return-Receipt
15. Prepare and send Certified Mail in seconds
https://www.stamps.com/usps/certified-mail/