USPS Collection Box
November 30, 2022
Have you ever wondered if you can put prepaid packages in the big blue mailboxes marked as United States Postal Service (USPS) drop boxes? What exactly is a USPS collection box, and how do you use it?
As of August 2022, the U.S. has over 139,800 USPS blue collection boxes. Interestingly, the color scheme of the U.S. postal service’s drop boxes has changed over the years and is now currently red, white, and blue, like the American flag.
Even if you’ve seen the drop boxes in front of post offices and streets, you may have questions about them. What exactly is a USPS collection box? Can you place packages in these receptacles? How can you find the nearest post office drop box?
FindPostOffice.org is a one-stop post office lookup site that can help you locate postal service addresses by city, metropolis, or state.
This article discusses what collection boxes are, how to use a USPS collection box, types of collection boxes, and USPS drop box pickup schedules. This article also covers how to find a post office drop box, other places to drop mail, and frequently asked questions about USPS collection boxes.
What Exactly Is a Collection Box?
Collection boxes are receptacles where customers can deposit mail. In the U.S., they are typically:
- Blue, free-standing units
- Post-mounted units
- Chutes in buildings
USPS mail drop-off points and U.S. post office facilities can contain collection box receptacles inside or nearby.
How to Use a USPS Collection Box
USPS collection boxes can help you avoid making a trip to the post office. The drop boxes can also make sending items through the postal system easier for you. Still, you should know the rules for using these boxes.
Items That May Be Deposited in Collection Boxes
Due to transportation security, you cannot place all types of mail in USPS collection box receptacles.
If you deposit mail incorrectly into the boxes, the postal system will “return to sender” for proper depositing.
For example, suppose you place USPS Priority Mail Express items or competitors’ items like United Postal Service (UPS) and Federal Express (FedEx) in the collection boxes. The post office will transfer the mail to the appropriate collection box after an employee discovers it.
Only after the items enter the proper mailstream will the delivery services implement guarantees or commitments.
Common Types of Collection Boxes
Here are some of the main types of collection box receptacles:
Cluster box: This centralized unit has over eight individually locked compartments sized for delivering magazines, merchandise samples, and accumulated mail. You can also deposit mail in a designed compartment.
Hubs and depots: These mailing services are non-physical boxes that are points on collection routes.
Lobby drop or wall drop: Customers deposit mail through a slot or opening.
Local collection box receptacle: People can deposit mail with the local postmark into the street letterbox for local delivery.
Mail chute: This glass-fronted tube contains a mail slot on each floor of tall buildings. People use a chute to drop off letters for collection. The ground floor usually houses the collection box.
Package drop units (PDUs): This new U.S. postal service collection receptacle uses prepaid postage to help assist with the shipping needs of business volume mailers.
PDUs are exclusively for packages meeting restrictions and prepaid postage using:
- Click-N-Ship: Ship packages from home or the office.
- PC (personal computer) postage: Use home printers to print U.S. postage stamps.
- Postage meter: Streamlines business postage operations and reduces mailing costs.
- USPS returns service: Is a system for boxing, labeling, and returning mail.
- Parcel return service: Returns packages to merchants without requiring consumers to pay postage
Priority Mail Express collection box receptacle: USPS specially marks this white collection box receptacle for the public deposit of prepaid Priority Mail Express items.
Rack collection boxes: Companies usually install these mailing racks in office buildings.
Snorkel collection box receptacle: This USPS collection box is placed curbside and contains a chute to receive mail that motorists deposit. People also refer to this box as a “courtesy box” or “motorist mail chute.”
Standard collection box receptacle: This item is a blue-painted street box with the USPS logo. The public uses the “blue box” to deposit mail.
USPS Drop Box: Mail Pickup Schedule
The USPS’ outgoing mail pickup schedules differ slightly based on the particular box. Still, the postal service generally collects the boxes’ contents late in the afternoon, between 4:00 PM and 6:00 PM local time.
A mail carrier scans the barcode inside the box at pickup to verify that they have emptied the box.
The post office may empty drop boxes with a high volume of mail twice daily on weekdays.
In addition, several drop boxes also have Saturday pickup times. The postal service considers Saturday a normal workday since mail is delivered on that day.
Post offices do not provide mail delivery on Sundays. In addition, the postal service does not empty collection boxes on Sunday.
Suppose you miss the last pickup time on Friday or Saturday afternoon. What happens? In that case, the mail piece will remain in the drop box until the post office picks it up on Monday.
Key Information on the Collection Time Labels
The label shows the collection or pickup times for the collection box. These pickup times may differ based on the particular day of the week. However, changes in transportation can sometimes cause alterations in the collection schedules.
Also, sometimes, normal collection times do not apply. An example is one day before a federal holiday, like New Year’s Day.
How to Find a Post Office Drop Box
You can visit the USPS homepage to search for a USPS collection box in your area. Search within one to 25 miles from your location. You can use filters including:
- Hours: Weekdays, Saturday, and Sunday hours
- Service: Options can include money orders, greeting cards, and postage stamps
At FindPostOffice.org, you can search for post offices near you based on city, state, and zip code. We make it easier to find post offices with USPS collection boxes.
Other Possible Places to Drop Mail
Did you know the U.S.’s first post office opened in 1792? The central hub was Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The U.S. post office is among the most common places to drop your mail. You can handle mail-related business, including:
- Drop off mail
- Buy postage stamps
- Speak to the postmaster
You can send the item at the post office if your mail does not qualify for drop-off at a collection box. You can drop off the item with the postal worker.
Another option is to drop the item off in the outgoing mail chute, usually near the post office boxes. Make sure to request that the post office staff scan the item and provide a receipt for tracking purposes.
If you have a home mailbox where the post office delivers mail, you can also drop outgoing mail there. This feature is a benefit over a post office box (P.O. box) that only allows you to receive mail.
Put your letter in the mailbox, then raise the little red flag. The flag informs the postman that they should collect the mail inside the box.
A local mail carrier will pick up the mail during their regular route and then return it to the post office for processing. This option can be incredibly convenient if you have a mailbox at home.
USPS Distribution Center
You can also drop off mail at some USPS distribution centers. Keep in mind some distribution centers do not accept dropped-off mail. Make sure to verify with USPs whether you can drop mail items there.
Third-Party Mail Handler
Third-party centers can also accept your regular USPS mail items. Examples include UPS stores and FedEx stores. The retail stores also typically allow you to buy postage stamps.
Still, you must conduct some mail services at local post offices. Possible locations include USPS-approved post stores for specific tasks.
However, remember that such third-party stores are not official USPS retailers. So, the USPS has not authorized them to perform particular activities.
An Abbreviated History of USPS Collection Boxes
Here are some notable dates in the long history of U.S. postal collection boxes.
1833: The first recorded collection boxes in the U.S. appeared in New York City.
The late 1850s: People attached mail collection boxes to buildings or lampposts.
1869: Samuel Strong received a patent for a flat-top box he developed for the post office department. People lifted the hinged lid to allow letter-depositing.
1891: Strong received a patent for a round-top letter box. The boxes’ top-hinged flap door covered a slot on the side.
1893: A Detroit company signed a contract to supply postal service with cast-iron boxes. The boxes included a letter slot in the front rather than the side.
The 1890s: The U.S. introduced free-standing “package boxes” nationwide. These drop boxes evolved into the USPS standard collection box.
1955: U.S. Postmaster General Arthur Summerfield announced that U.S. collection boxes would contain red, white, and blue. The goal was for people to identify the boxes more easily.
1962: Decals containing “U.S. mail” replaced painted words on the sides of big collection boxes.
1967: Mailboxes started containing “local” and “out of town” decals. Out-of-town mail can include:
- Other cities like San Francisco, Chicago, and Seattle
- Other states like Florida, Wisconsin, and Montana
- Other countries like Canada and Germany, through International mail
1988: The U.S. postal service approved new specifications for larger, high-density collection boxes.
2016: Of the approximately 153,560 USPS collection boxes, 93% were standard boxes.
The First U.S. Mail Drop Boxes
According to USPS, the first recorded use of collection boxes in the U.S. dates back to 1833 in New York City. Mail carriers placed drop boxes along their delivery routes, and they would collect the letters in the early afternoon every day of the week except Sunday.
The mail carriers then transferred the letters to the local post office to be delivered. Their fee was two cents.
After a few years, the New York post offices removed the collection boxes. This action reportedly caused “annoyance and inconvenience” to people living two or three miles from the post office.
You can get updates about changes to USPS collection boxes or other postal services from sources like the Postmaster General or USPS spokespersons. As of August 2022, Louis DeJoy is the U.S. Postmaster General.
1. Is there a set limit on how frequently I can use USPS drop boxes?
No, you can use the drop boxes as often as you want. The collection boxes are there for the public’s convenience. You can also deposit as many letters into the drop box as you can. The post office will then pick up the letters and process them.
2. Can I put a package in a USPS collection box?
Yes, you can place small packages in USPS drop boxes. Still, you must follow some rules regarding the boxes that you will place in USPS drop boxes:
- The box must be small enough to fit inside the drop box
- If the box weighs over 13 ounces, you must attach a pre-printed postage label
- You cannot use stamps to mail packages weighing over 13 ounces through blue collection boxes
3. What are the hours of operation for USPS drop boxes?
A USPS collection box is technically “open” 24 hours per day. You can drop letters or small packages into the collection box anytime.
However, the USPS’ pickup times usually occur during weekday afternoons. Some boxes also have Saturday pickup times. Still, the USPs do not pick up items from the boxes on Sundays.
4. May I place fliers on the outside of collection boxes?
No, USPS collection boxes are property of the United States Postal Service. USPS does not allow customers to affix anything on them. These include:
- Signs about missing animals
5. How safe is it to send prepaid packages through USPS collection boxes?
USPS collection boxes are quite sturdy. However, sometimes thieves may steal types of mail like letters and checks from USPS mailboxes.
When sending an essential package with prepaid postage, an alternative is to hand the package to a postal employee at the post office. Options like receipts and the certificate of mailing service verify that the package was sent and received.
Certified mail is also ideal for sending items like voting ballots. This process verifies that the delivery service has successfully delivered the mail. USPS only offers this service through first-class mail.
Unfortunately, people also sometimes vandalize mail collection boxes.
The vandalism of USPS mailboxes and the destruction of the mail inside is considered a federal crime that can involve law enforcement. For example, firecrackers tossed into the mailbox can destroy the contents.
Visit FindPostOffice.org today to find USPS collection boxes near you by browsing post offices throughout the U.S.