USPS Return Receipt

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November 20, 2023

The United States Postal Service (USPS) delivers more mail than any other postal service worldwide, handling about 127.3 billion in total mail volume in 2022.

With such a significant volume, confirming whether the mail you send reaches your recipient can be challenging. If you run a business, you may want proof of delivery indicating your customer received your mail.

Fortunately, USPS offers extra services to handle this issue. One of those services is Return Receipt.

How does the Return Receipt service work? What mail classes can you use with this service? How much does it cost to purchase a Return Receipt?

This article tackles these questions and explains how to obtain a Return Receipt from USPS. This article also discusses whether this service is eligible for a refund and whether you can combine Return Receipt with other USPS extra services.

Visit FindPostOffice.org to find a postal location to send your mail and request a Return Receipt. Use the online search tool to help you find a post office near you or within your city or state.

What Is a Return Receipt?

If you are the sender, a Return Receipt provides you with proof of delivery. This proof contains your recipient’s signature and information about the delivery address and the time and date of delivery.

The Return Receipt can be physical or electronic. The physical version is a green card called PS Form 3811 (Domestic Return Receipt form).

The following sections discuss other details of the Return Receipt.

What Is an Electronic Return Receipt?

An electronic Return Receipt is a digital alternative to the physical green card P.S. Form 3811. You can choose the electronic option if you prefer a non-printed Return Receipt.

USPS does not allow you to buy electronic Return Receipts through the Postal Service’s official website. However, you can purchase this service from post offices during mailing time. Electronic Return Receipts requested during mailing time are available online through USPS Tracking.

What Is USPS Certified Mail With Return Receipt?

You can combine USPS Certified Mail with the Return Receipt service to provide proof of signature. Furthermore, you can receive the receipt electronically or by mail.

USPS Certified Mail is a service you can purchase during mailing at a post office. This service provides a mailing receipt confirming an item was sent and requires your addressee’s signature.

Do You Need to Know Who Signed for Your Mail? Use Return Receipt Service

If you want to know who signs for your mail, a Return Receipt can help provide evidence of delivery. This proof includes the delivery date, to whom the item was sent, and the delivery address, especially if the location differs from the address on the mail piece.

To receive the Return Receipt and determine who receives your mail, follow these steps:

  • Fill out the applicable sections on the Return Receipt and place it on the mailpiece.
  • Write “Return Receipt Requested” above the delivery address.
  • Visit www.USPS.com and go to “Quick Tools.” Click “Tracking” and enter the barcode number on your receipt. Afterward, enter your name and email address.
  • Pay the appropriate extra service fee.

Do You Need Evidence That Merchandise Has Been Sent and Received? Use Return Receipt for Merchandise Service

If you are a business owner, the Return Receipt for Merchandise service provides you with a mailing receipt and Return Receipt postcard. This card should contain the signature of the person signing for your goods.

To use this service, do the following steps:

  • Fill out P.S. Form 3804 (Return Receipt for Merchandise form) and attach the barcoded portion under the “Return Receipt Requested” endorsement.
  • Mark your mail with “Return Receipt Requested” above the delivery address.
  • Attach the completed P.S. Form 3811 on the mail piece’s front. If the form covers the address, affix the form to the back instead.
  • Pay the applicable extra service cost.

How Does a Return Receipt Work? How Is a Return Receipt Used?

If you need proof that the courier delivered a particular mail piece, use the Return Receipt to help prove your item arrived at its destination.

You can purchase a Return Receipt during mailing time but not after. However, you can request information from the delivery record if the Return Receipt you purchased did not arrive.

When purchasing a Return Receipt, you can choose whether to receive the physical form by mail or electronically by email.

As proof of delivery, Return Receipt works by providing the following information:

  • Delivery date
  • Recipient’s or authorized agent’s signature
  • Recipient’s delivery address information
  • USPS Tracking link prepopulated with the item’s delivery information (if the Return Receipt is provided by email)

After affixing the correct postage, fees, and form, you can mail your item with a Return Receipt from your home or office or drop it in a Collection Box.

P.S. Form 3811 includes a tracking number and barcode to track the proof of delivery on its way to you after the item’s delivery.

How Much Does a Return Receipt Cost?

As of July 2023, the costs of a Return Receipt, when requested at the time of mailing, are as follows:

  • Hard copy P.S. Form 3811: $3.55
  • Electronic copy: $2.20

Is the Return Receipt Eligible for a Refund?

Your Return Receipt may qualify for a refund under specific conditions.

USPS can refund your Return Receipt fees only if the Postal Service fails to provide the recipient’s signature if not otherwise unclaimed, refused, or returned to sender. To request a refund, visit the USPS website or your origin post office within 30 to 60 days from the mailing date.

Suppose you purchase a Return Receipt at a post office and do not receive the Return Receipt or receive an incomplete receipt. You can request a refund or replacement record during the following periods:

  • After 30 calendar days from the mailing date
  • Any time that you think the courier should have delivered the item

What Domestic Mail Classes Can Be Used With Return Receipt?

You can purchase an electronic Return Receipt upon mailing using any of the following domestic mail services:

  • Priority Mail, First-Class Mail, USPS Ground Advantage Commercial, or Parcel Select (with Collect on Delivery, Certified Mail, Registered Mail, or insurance over $500)
  • USPS Marketing Mail (parcels only, except for marketing parcels, with bulk insurance over $500)
  • Parcel Select Lightweight (with bulk insurance over $500)
  • USPS Ground Advantage, Media Mail, Library Mail, or bound printed matter (with Collect on Delivery or insurance over $500)

The Following Extra Services Can Be Combined With Return Receipt Service (PS Form 3811)

You can use a Return Receipt for the following USPS extra services:

  • USPS Tracking
  • Certified Mail
  • Certified Mail Restricted Delivery
  • Certified Mail Adult Signature Restricted Delivery
  • Certified Mail Adult Signature Required
  • Restricted Delivery
  • Registered Mail
  • Registered Mail Restricted Delivery
  • Collect on Delivery
  • Collect on Delivery Restricted Delivery
  • Adult Signature Requested (Form 3811 only)
  • Adult Signature Restricted Delivery for Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express (Form 3811 only)
  • Signature Confirmation (Form 3811 only)
  • Signature Confirmation Restricted Delivery (Form 3811 only)
  • Insurance for items insured for more than $500 (Form 3811 only)

“After Mailing an Item, Can I Request a Return Receipt?”

Purchasing a Return Receipt after mailing your item is not an option. You can only buy a Return Receipt during mailing and get a Return Receipt with delivery information via mail or email.

What Does a Return Receipt (Green Card) Look Like?

The hardcopy Domestic Return Receipt appears as a green card that contains a barcode and tracking number.

As mentioned, you cannot track your mail piece using this number. Instead, you can use this number to track the hardcopy receipt sent to you if you requested this service.

“How Do I Get a Return Receipt From USPS?”

As mentioned before, you can get a USPS Return Receipt by choosing to receive it electronically with a copy of the signature or by mail containing the original signature.

To track your return receipt by mail, visit the USPS website at www.USPS.com and click “Tracking” under the “Quick Tools” menu. You can also call USPS’ toll-free number at 800-222-1811.

“How Do I Obtain the Return Receipt (Electronic)?”

To receive an electronic Return Receipt, you must request one at the time of mailing. You must also wait for the delivery to be completed and for the signature record to be filled out before USPS can email the receipt to you.

To Get a Copy of the Delivery Record

To receive a copy of the Return Receipt delivery record, do the following tasks:

  • Visit the USPS website’s tracking page.
  • Input the Certified Mail, insured mail (over $500), Registered Mail, or Collect on Delivery (COD) article number from the mailing receipt or label.
  • Enter your email address when presented with the electronic Return Receipt option.

The Return Receipt email you receive should contain a link to the USPS Tracking page prepopulated with your mail item’s tracking or delivery information.

If you opt for the electronic receipt, the signature should arrive as a proof of delivery letter sent as an email attachment instead of the green postcard. 

To request an electronic Return Receipt, you must use your item’s barcode number on your accountable mail label receipt or the purchase receipt, depending on the post office issuing the receipt.

You may not be able to obtain the electronic Return Receipt if you do not have the article barcode number.

FAQs

  1. When will I receive the Return Receipt (electronic)?

The time it takes to receive your electronic Return Receipt request depends on when you request the receipt on the USPS Tracking page on the USPS website.

USPS can process the record immediately if all related documentation is completed and the courier delivered the receipt already. The email request should arrive within hours, depending on the email server.

If you request the record before delivery, USPS will wait for the signature record and delivery to be completed. The Return Receipt letter should be available by email within 48 hours of delivery.

  1. Would it not be easier to get my email address for Return Receipt (electronic) at purchase?

To ensure USPS can record your email address correctly, visit the Postal Service’s official website and enter the requested information.

You can choose not to get an email response for each purchased Return Receipt. Instead, you can specify to receive an email only for the ones you have questions about.

  1. Is there an option to receive a Return Receipt (electronic) in bulk?

When purchasing an electronic Return Receipt from the post office, USPS will require you to enter each request individually and receive an email address for every purchased electronic receipt.

Suppose you are an electronic Return Receipt customer that regularly sends large mail volumes, such as 25 items daily. You can participate in USPS’ Bulk Proof of Delivery Program and obtain signature data with a signature extract file.

To participate in this program, refer to your local post office or check other USPS shipping services like PostalPro for more details.

  1. What is the difference between Certified Mail and Return Receipt requested?

When you request a Certified Mail service, it can provide an electronic verification indicating that the courier delivered your item or attempted delivery. You can retrieve the delivery status in three ways:

  • Online via the USPS website using the Certified Mail extra service number on the mailing receipt
  • By phone via the item’s Certified Mail number
  • By bulk electronic file transfer upon providing an electronic manifest to USPS

On the other hand, a Return Receipt is an added USPS service you can add to a Certified Mail item. This service delivers you a copy of the recipient’s signature, providing proof of delivery or attempted delivery.

References

  1. SIZE AND SCOPE
    https://facts.usps.com/size-and-scope/
  2. Return Receipt – The Basics
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/Return-Receipt-The-Basics
  3. Electronic Return Receipt
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/What-is-Electronic-Return-Receipt
  4. Certified Mail® – The Basics
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/Certified-Mail-The-Basics
  5. Domestic Return Receipt
    https://about.usps.com/publications/pub370/pub370_v10_revision_012016_tech_005.htm
  6. Price List
    https://pe.usps.com/text/dmm300/Notice123.htm