USPS Overnight Cutoff Time
February 8, 2023
The USPS (United States Postal Service) delivers mail and packages to every address in America, from big cities to small hamlets.
In 2021, USPS delivered a mail volume of about 128.9 billion, part of which was mail delivered through USPS’ overnight service. USPS Overnight service is similar to USPS Priority Mail Express, a guaranteed way to send mail or packages to a destination overnight or in 1 – 2 days.
Most people sending overnight or priority mail know that their mail must arrive the next day. So it’s vital that they know the post office’s cutoff times to ensure timely delivery.
What is the cutoff time for this type of delivery? What’s the importance of having cutoff times? What happens if your mail doesn’t make it to the cutoff time?
What’s the difference between USPS overnight shipping and Priority Mail Express? How much does it cost to send overnight shipping?
This article discusses the U.S. Postal Service’s overnight shipping cutoff times and explains why cutoffs are essential.
The discussion also includes what happens when you send mail after the cutoff time and the costs of sending overnight mail through USPS.
Additionally, this article looks into what makes USPS overnight shipping different from Priority Mail Express.
FindPostOffice.org can help you find a post office near you so you can plan when to send your mail. If your mail makes it to the cutoff, it will reach your recipient at the expected time.
What Is USPS Overnight’s Cutoff Time?
The cutoff time for USPS’ overnight service, known as Priority Mail Express, is between 5:30 PM to 5:45 PM.
Post offices usually close at 6:00 PM, so drop off your package early so that it goes out within the overnight packages for that day.
Despite these standard cutoff times, some post offices close earlier than others. So consider checking your local post office’s business hours to be sure.
Overnight shipments usually go out every night, except on Sundays, when the post office closes.
Why Is the USPS Cutoff Time Important?
Priority Mail Express is a guaranteed service, meaning you can get a refund if USPS doesn’t deliver your package within the one- to two-day timeframe.
Thus, USPS implements a cutoff time for shipments delivered through this service so the postal agency can honor this guaranteed service commitment.
Cutoff times also give post office employees sufficient time to scan, sort, and load the mail into the outgoing trucks.
How Does USPS Determine Overnight Cutoff Times?
The post office’s closing time usually determines the overnight mail cutoff time.
For example, if the closing time is 6:00 PM, the cutoff time is typically a little earlier, like 5:30 PM or 5:45 PM.
Specific locations have cutoff times determined by transportation schedules and delivery commitments imposed by USPS. Others base their cutoff times on the receiving post office’s location.
So a post office in a rural area far from an airport or mail processing center may have earlier cutoff times.
What Happens if You Miss the Cutoff Time?
If you miss the cutoff time for overnight packages, there usually isn’t much to do since the mail has already been scanned, sorted, and loaded into delivery trucks. If that’s the case, your shipment will go out with the next business day’s mail.
USPS Overview: What Is USPS Overnight?
USPS is a postal system operated by the United States government and is among the oldest postal systems worldwide. USPS is also one of the few U.S. government agencies authorized to operate by the Constitution.
As of 2021, USPS had more than 516,000 career employees and operated more than 232,000 vehicles. In the same year, the USPS also established 233,171 delivery routes.
How Does USPS Overnight Work?
USPS’ overnight shipping option is also called Priority Mail Express, the fastest delivery service the postal agency offers. Priority Mail Express has unique features like guaranteed delivery to ensure your packages arrive on time.
You can send packages through Priority Mail Express 365 days a year. This yearlong availability means you can ship your mail even on weekends and holidays without delay.
Is USPS Overnight Really Overnight?
Yes, USPS overnight delivery moves overnight after post offices close and is the same as next-day delivery. Priority Mail Express provides guaranteed next-day to two-day delivery service by 6:00 PM.
Is Overnight Shipping Insured?
All packages come with free insurance up to $100, so you can rest assured that your package will arrive safely.
What’s the Difference Between USPS Overnight Shipping and USPS Priority Mail Express?
Officially, USPS’ overnight delivery is known as USPS Priority Mail Express. So there’s no significant difference between these shipping services.
Additionally, Priority Mail Express has one-day and two-day shipping. Although this service usually arrives the next day, two-day shipping applies to ZIP codes and U.S. addresses outside the one-day shipping areas.
Priority Mail Express Service Features
USPS Priority Mail Express has the following features and options:
- Free package pickup
- Insurance of up to $100 for no additional cost
- Proof of delivery signature record
- Overnight shipping to a P.O. box address
- Available morning delivery (by 10:30 AM) for an extra fee
- Sunday and holiday delivery options are available for an additional fee
- No need to use dimensional (DIM) weight when calculating costs for packages under one cubic foot
Weight, Size, and Shape Requirements
When sending envelopes through USPS Priority Mail Express, you can use flat-rate envelopes by paying only one price. Requirements include:
- Paying the same price for mailpieces weighing up to 70 lbs (32 kgs) going anywhere within the U.S.
- Closing the container flaps within the normal folds when sealing the flat-rate envelope
For mailing boxes through USPS Priority Mail Express shipment, requirements include the following:
- Paying for the package based on its weight (70lbs maximum) and distance (zone)
- Using standard-sized USPS Priority Mail Express mailing boxes for your convenience, so you don’t need to worry about manual measurements
The Cost of USPS Overnight Shipping
Compared to other couriers’ services like FedEx Overnight, USPS’ overnight shipping is relatively cheaper.
The sender usually pays a flat rate for sending Priority Express Mail unless they send nonstandard-sized packages. Rates for nonstandard packages are the following:
- Between 22 and 30 inches: additional $4.00
- More than 30 inches: additional $15.00
- More than two cubic feet (3,456 cubic inches): additional $15.00
Priority Mail Express Flat Rate Products
As of 2022, the flat rates for standard overnight shipping for USPS Priority Mail Express are as follows:
|Type||Shipping Price||Dimensions||Used for|
|Flat rate envelope||Commercial base: $24.25|
Post office and online: $27.90
|12.5” x 9.5”||Documents|
|Legal flat rate envelope||Commercial base: $24.50|
Post office and online: $28.05
|15″ x 9.5″||Legal documents|
|Padded Flat Rate Envelope||Commercial base: $24.70|
Post office and online: $28.45
|12.5″ x 9.5″||Books|
Predict the USPS Express Mail Delivery Time
As a guide to when Priority Mail Express packages arrive, senders should consider the following delivery times:
- Mail sent before 9:30 AM Eastern Time (EST) from Monday to Saturday can arrive within the same day
- Mail sent after 9:30 AM EST from Monday to Friday arrive the next day
- Mail sent between Saturday, 9:30 AM EST, and Monday, 9:30 AM EST, will arrive on Monday
Priority Mail Express Delivery Times Changed Effective May 23, 2021
On May 23, 2021, USPS revised the Domestic Mail Manual (DMM), which defines the agency’s mailing standards, to reflect delivery time changes to the Priority Mail Express.
Although USPS didn’t publish these DMM revisions until June 20, 2021, the changes were already effective May 23, 2021.
The Priority Mail Express service guarantees delivery times for most domestic mail at 12:00 PM or 3:00 PM based on the three- or five-digit ZIP Code delivery areas defined in the Priority Mail Express Delivery directory.
However, USPS revised the Priority Mail Express guaranteed delivery time to 6:00 PM. The agency also removed the optional 10:30 AM delivery time initially available for an additional fee.
These revisions to the guaranteed delivery times were meant to enable USPS to improve its service quality and customer experience.
How Soon Will the Mail Arrive?
Priority Mail Express usually arrives the following business day, provided the post office accepts your mail before the cutoff time, and the destination is in a one-day shipping location. This shipping option is reliable, so your mail will likely arrive on time.
It’s also usually rare for your mail to get delayed or lost. So, if you pay for priority overnight shipping, your mail should get to the intended recipient the following business day.
USPS counts Saturdays as business days. However, Sundays and national holidays don’t count, so the postal service doesn’t deliver mail on these days.
For instance, if you send overnight mail on a Friday, USPS will deliver it on Saturday. However, mail sent on Saturday won’t arrive until Monday because there are no Sunday deliveries,
By What Time Will the Mail Arrive?
The time your mail arrives depends on the recipient’s area. However, based on the DMM revisions effective May 23, 2021, Priority Mail Express now has a guaranteed delivery time of 6:00 PM.
Can You Make It Arrive More Quickly?
USPS used to have the option to have your package delivered on or before 10:30 AM the next day for an additional $5 fee.
After the DMM changes on May 23, 2021, this option is no longer available.
What Happens if USPS Doesn’t Deliver on Time?
Despite USPS’ best efforts, there are times when the agency makes mistakes. Even guaranteed mail won’t arrive the next day 100% of the time.
Fortunately, these delivery times have a money-back guarantee. So if USPS misses the time slot, you can request a full refund for all your mailing costs related to that item. The sender must make this request within 30 days of mailing.
This guarantee applies to one- and two-day shipping. You can reclaim your shipping costs if the delivery misses these deadlines.
Priority Mail Express Service Limitations
Despite the advantages of Priority Mail Express, it also has limitations, such as destinations and delivery times.
Exceptions and Limitations
USPS offers Priority Express delivery to most U.S. destinations. While there isn’t a complete and publicly available list of ineligible addresses, you can check your intended destination’s availability on the USPS Service Commitments page at USPS.com.
SLAs (Service Level Agreements) and Priority Express Shipping
Some areas can deliver Priority Mail Express letters and packages but can’t support one-day deliveries. Priority Mail Express should arrive in two days, on or before 6:00 PM, if your destination is within these areas.
Other details about the USPS Priority Mail Express you must know include the following:
Mailing Restrictions and Prohibitions
USPS has specific standards and regulations for mailing prohibited, restricted, and hazardous materials, including smokeless tobacco and cigarettes.
For example, USPS prohibits airbags, explosives, ammunition, gasoline, and marijuana in U.S. mail.
Meanwhile, domestically restricted items include cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, prescription drugs, live animals, and perishable goods.
For a complete list of prohibitions and restrictions, you can visit USPS.com or your local post office.
Shipping to a Military Post Office (APO/FPO/DPO)
Packages shipped to military post offices require you to pay domestic prices. These places also have specific restrictions and require filling out a customs form. To find out these restrictions, contact the USPS customer service at 1-800-275-8777 or any of the following post offices:
- Army Post Office (APO)
- Fleet Post Office (FPO)
- Diplomatic Post Office (DPO)
Requesting a Refund
If your shipment doesn’t arrive on the guaranteed delivery date or time specified on your receipt, you can submit a refund request for service failure within 30 days of the mailing date.
Business customers usually require speed, security, affordability, and customer service. As a solution, USPS provides these customers with expedited transportation for bulk mailings through Priority Mail Express Open & Distribute (PMEOD).
Customers using PMEOD can send their shipment in an approved USPS container to an authorized location. USPS opens the container in this location before delivering the shipment to the recipient.
Commercial rates for business shipments depend on the weight and zone to move your mailings quickly and at a reasonable cost.
USPS Overnight FAQs
- Is USPS Overnight reliable?
USPS overnight shipping, known officially as Priority Mail Express, is a guaranteed next-day to two-day delivery service by 6:00 PM the next business day or your money back.
This guarantee provides relatively high reliability compared to other shipping methods.
- What if I ask for my package to be collected?
You can request USPS to collect your package when you purchase your shipping labels online. A mail carrier will come by your house to pick up your package before the cutoff time.
- Is USPS overnight shipping the same as next-day delivery?
Yes, USPS overnight delivery usually arrives on or before 6:00 PM the next business day.
- What if I need the item delivered on a non-business day?
Under normal circumstances, USPS doesn’t deliver on Sundays or other non-business days.
But if you need that package delivered on such days, USPS provides an option of paying an extra $12.50 if you want the package delivered on a Sunday or holiday.
- Can I use overnight shipping to international locations?
You can use Priority Mail Express to ship international packages. However, your mail usually won’t arrive the next day due to distance and transit times from the U.S. to these places.
Instead, if you send mail internationally, Priority Mail Express guarantees that your shipment will arrive within three to five business days.
- What can you send using Priority Express?
You can send envelopes, letters, and packages weighing 70lbs or less through USPS Priority Express.
There are no restrictions on what content you want to send through Priority Express besides the prohibitions and restrictions USPS places on domestic and international mail.
1. A Decade of Facts & Figures
2. Priority Mail Express
3. Domestic Shipping Prohibitions & Restrictions