Is USPS Tracking Accurate?

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March 25, 2024

Did you know the United States Postal Service (USPS) handles hundreds of billions of packages and mailpieces annually? In 2022 alone, that total mail volume figure was 127.3 billion.

Even more interesting is that these items enter USPS’ complex tracking system, allowing you to monitor an item’s journey from drop off until its final destination.

So whether you’re eagerly awaiting an eBay or Amazon purchase, an essential document, or a birthday gift from a loved one, the USPS Tracking feature ensures you have the most up-to-date information on your package’s status and whereabouts.

But here’s the burning question: Is USPS Tracking as accurate as the U.S. Postal Service says? 

This article explores USPS’ monitoring tool, including how it works, its benefits, and reasons why you sometimes don’t receive real-time tracking information.

For additional information on USPS’ tracking offerings, talk to a Postal Service representative at your local post office. Visit FindPostOffice.org and use the USPS facility search tool to find your area’s nearest post office locations.

How Will I Know if the USPS Tracking System Is Accurate? Are USPS Services Reliable to the Customers?

The U.S. Postal Service offers an extensive catalog of package delivery solutions and services to accommodate shippers’ diverse and ever-changing needs, from next-day delivery to digital previews.

Although occasional hiccups occur, such as late deliveries, damaged items, or lost parcels, these instances are the exception, not the rule. Therefore, it’s safe to say that USPS shipping services and tools are reliable.

Otherwise, the Postal Service won’t offer money-back guarantees and coverage. If USPS services aren’t reliable, people won’t trust their packages with USPS, and it won’t be a USPS mail carrier that handles 44% of the world’s parcels.

What Is USPS Tracking?

At its core, USPS Tracking is a U.S. Postal Service (USPS) feature that, as its name implies, lets you track your mailpieces throughout its transit. It offers end-to-end monitoring for most domestic-bound parcels.

This whole-journey tracking extends to mail items heading to some army and diplomatic post offices and ZIP codes in U.S. territories and Freely Associated States such as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Unfortunately, USPS Tracking’s start-to-finish monitoring doesn’t apply to First-Class Mail items and some international packages. However, you can purchase tracking information and get status updates as an add-on service.

It’s worth noting that while USPS’ tracking tool allows you to ride along your parcels, from the moment you drop them off at a post office to their arrival at their final destinations, USPS Tracking doesn’t expedite or guarantee delivery.

What Is the USPS Tracking System?

The Postal Service’s tracking feature utilizes a barcode and scanner system. To explain, let’s assume you had just paid a package’s postage. USPS will then generate a unique identifier for that mailpiece in the form of a tracking number and barcode.

Postal Service personnel and automated machines will scan this barcode at several points throughout the mail item’s journey within the USPS mailing network, starting as soon as you or a shipping partner notify USPS of an incoming parcel.

This scanning process updates the mailpiece’s delivery status and location in the USPS Tracking system. It ends when the intended recipient receives the item at the mailing address or picks it up from a USPS facility.

Is USPS Tracking Necessary?

USPS Tracking comes with most Postal Service shipping options, such as Priority Mail Express and Media Mail, at no additional cost. For mail sent through USPS’ delivery services that don’t include USPS package tracking, you can buy extra services to get tracking information.

Either way, having the ability to monitor your parcels is beneficial and often necessary. Here are some reasons why:

  • Peace of mind: The most significant advantage of USPS Tracking is that you’re aware of the location of your packages. This insight can help ease your anxiety, knowing you can use your mailpiece’s tracking number to determine its whereabouts.
  • Delivery planning: Waiting at the door for a parcel to arrive is inefficient. With USPS Tracking, you’ll receive an estimated date and time for delivery, allowing you to schedule your day for productivity.
  • Issue resolution: Sometimes, issues, such as international package customs clearance, can arise. USPS Tracking lets you know what stage of the journey your item is in and whether it hit snags, allowing you to address them promptly.
  • Customer satisfaction: If you’re a business owner running an eCommerce retail store, allowing your customers to monitor their orders’ status and progress can work wonders on customer satisfaction.

How Does USPS Tracking Work?

As mentioned, the concept of USPS Tracking is straightforward, involving barcodes and scanners. However, this system has intricacies worth taking a closer look into, as they make the Postal Service’s monitoring features function effectively.

Let’s break down the different stages of USPS Tracking:

  1. Distribution Centers

USPS Tracking starts its journey at the heart of the operation – distribution centers. These facilities are hubs where your and countless other mailers’ packages converge, awaiting sorting and onward shipment.

When your mailpiece arrives at a distribution center, its shipping label or, more specifically, barcode is scanned. This scanning process updates the parcel’s tracking information, including its location. Another update will occur once your mail item leaves the facility.

Note that how long your mail item stays at a distribution center varies depending on various factors. The primary element influencing this downtime is when your package arrives. 

Generally, parcels that come later in the day may linger until the following day.

  1. Postal Offices

Post offices are crucial cogs in the Postal Service’s tracking system. For many letters and packages, it’s the first stop before their journey to reach their final destination. It’s also typically where sales receipts are printed and where the first scans occur.

Depending on a mailpiece’s mailing address, post offices may also be the last USPS facility it’ll enter before being loaded onto a truck for final delivery. In these instances, the parcel’s tracking information will display “Out for Delivery.”

  1. Delivered

When a package arrives at its intended destination, the mail carrier will conduct a final scan before leaving it at the door or placing it in your mailbox. This scan results in the last tracking update the parcel will receive.

Once your mailpiece displays a “Delivered” status, the U.S. Postal Service has completed its obligation. This status will also include details such as the delivery time and the location where the USPS driver left the item.

Does USPS Update Tracking?

The U.S. Postal Service updates a mailpiece’s tracking information at various points during its transit. Typically, these updates occur within 24 to 48 hours of an item’s arrival at a USPS facility, such as a sorting or distribution center.

However, the frequency of updates depends on the package’s destination. As a general rule of thumb, the farther a parcel must travel to reach its final destination, the more stops it has to make and the more frequent the updates will be.

Fortunately, if you want near real-time updates, USPS offers its USPS Tracking Plus service. This paid, optional service lets you see a mailpiece’s location on a map up to the minute.

For more information on USPS Tracking Plus and its live map tracking feature, call the Postal Service’s customer care hotline at 1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-275-8777). 

Alternatively, you can talk to a retail associate at your local post office, which you can find with FindPostOffice.org’s search tool.

Is the USPS Estimated Delivery Date Accurate?

As mentioned, USPS package services and features, including USPS Tracking, are reliable. However, does this reliability extend to its delivery window estimates? How accurate is USPS’ expected delivery date?

Unlike USPS Tracking, which only offers near real-time updates, the U.S. Postal Service utilizes up-to-the-minute computing to make accurate delivery estimates. In fact, 95% of mailpieces arrive on that estimated date- sometimes earlier.

Can the Estimated Delivery Date Change?

Although the estimated delivery date accurately gauges when a shipment will arrive at its destination, it can change due to various factors. As mentioned, USPS’ computing process is in real time and considers elements like weather conditions and mail volume. 

Does USPS Update Tracking in Real Time?

While USPS Tracking Plus allows you to track a parcel via a map, tracking information, such as location and delivery statuses, is only in near real time. In some cases, updates may take as long as 48 hours.

 If your package’s tracking info appears stuck, contact USPS through its customer service hotline or your local post office. Quickly find your area’s nearest USPS facilities with FindPostOffice.org.

Can You Receive Automatic USPS Tracking Updates?

Automatic tracking updates are a convenient way to stay informed about your shipment’s progress. Fortunately, you only need your parcel’s tracking number to automatically get these notifications via email or text.

Visit the USPS Tracking page and enter the tracking number. If available, click the “Text & Email Updates” option and follow the provided directions. Note that automatic USPS Tracking updates are only available for two weeks.

Additionally, you must ensure your spam filtering is turned off for Postal Service notifications. Otherwise, your email or phone may place the tracking updates into your spam or junk folder.

How Do You See USPS Tracking Information?

We discussed what USPS Tracking is, how it works, and its various advantages. However, this information is meaningless if you can’t see your mailpiece’s tracking information.

Fortunately, the U.S. Postal Service gives you several convenient methods of accessing your USPS Tracking information. These options include the following:

  1. Online

It’s no surprise why the USPS online portal is a go-to site for many shippers to check their packages’ status and why the USPS website has a visitor average of around 9.9 million visitors daily. After all, checking online is the most straightforward way to monitor a mailpiece.

Once at the website, log in to your USPS.com account and navigate to the USPS tracking page. Here, you enter your parcel’s tracking number and receive information such as its location, delivery status, and other relevant details, including the estimated delivery date.

The primary advantage of tracking your mail items online is that you can make necessary adjustments to your shipments, such as requesting a hold service or redirecting your mail to a different address.

  1. Texting

Another way to get tracking notifications on your parcels is by texting USPS. Write your package’s tracking number as the content, send that message to 28777 (2USPS), and you’re done.

Once the system responds, you’ll receive tracking information about the tracking number you texted. You may also receive prompts regarding actions you can take with a mailpiece, such as placing it on hold.

  1. USPS App

Are you aware that almost half of Americans spend an average of four to five hours on their smartphones daily? Chances are, you’re reading this article on your smartphone too. After all, phones are convenient for accessing various information and services.

Therefore, it makes sense that the U.S. Postal Service offers a mobile app for Android and Apple devices so you can check your mail item’s whereabouts and delivery status.

The mobile app provides a streamlined experience. Simply open the app and visit the tracking page. There, you’ll find all the tracking details you need. You’ll also find options to take various actions regarding your mailpieces.

  1. Call USPS

For a more traditional way to monitor your USPS mail, you can call the Postal Service at 1-800-222-1811. This hotline is available between 8 AM and 8:30 PM Eastern time on Mondays through Fridays but only from 8 AM to 6 PM Eastern time on Saturdays.

Does USPS Tracking Cost Extra?

USPS Tracking isn’t a separate service you must pay for, at least, not usually. Instead, it’s included with some of USPS’ mail services at no additional cost. 

Here are the package delivery services that automatically come with USPS Tracking:

Priority MailParcel Select Non-Presort
Priority Mail ExpressLibrary Mail
USPS Ground AdvantageParcel Select Lightweight
Media MailBounded Printed Matter

However, Postal Service shipping options, such as First-Class packages and Marketing Mail, don’t include end-to-end monitoring capabilities. In these instances, you must purchase add-on services like Certified Mail or Registered Mail to receive tracking information for these mail classes.

For extra service pricing information, visit the USPS website at USPS.com or call the Postal Service’s customer service hotline at 1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-275-8777).

Alternatively, you can talk to a U.S. Postal Service representative at a local post office. Head to FindPostOffice.org to find your area’s nearest USPS facilities.

How Do You Buy Tracking Services?

Here are two convenient methods you can choose from if you want to add tracking capabilities for your USPS shipments.

  • Post office: Visit your nearest post office and pay your mailpiece’s postage. You don’t have to take additional action if your parcel qualifies for automatic USPS Tracking.

However, if your mail item doesn’t come with USPS Tracking, inform the retail associate that you want to purchase extra services.

  • Online: Create a USPS.com online account. Doing so grants you access to several USPS services, including printing USPS Tracking labels, purchasing shipping and add-on services, buying stamps, and more.

Possible Reasons Behind USPS Tracking Not Updating

The primary focus of USPS Tracking is to keep you informed about your shipments. Unfortunately, there are cases wherein your mailpieces’ tracking information isn’t updating. 

Several factors may be the culprit for the delays, including the following:

Bad Weather Conditions Can Disrupt USPS Tracking

If your USPS tracking information isn’t updating, it may be because of bad weather conditions. Inclement weather can impact the speed of your mail or package’s journey to the next USPS facility where a scan will occur. It can also damage barcodes on parcels, making them challenging to scan.

Package Not Scanned or Updated

Your item’s tracking information may not be updated because the shipping label is illegible. While postal workers can manually enter barcodes, time constraints during shipping may prevent them from doing so.

Fortunately, if your mailpiece was successfully scanned during the initial mailing stages, it may mean it’s still en route to its destination despite not updating.

Package Lost Somewhere

Although rare, shipments can get lost during transit. If your parcel’s tracking information hasn’t been updated in seven days, it may be because it’s been lost. You must contact USPS and initiate a missing shipment search in these situations.

Call 1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-275-8777) to reach the Postal Service’s customer care center. Alternatively, you can visit your local post office and talk to a postal worker. Use FindPostOffice.org’s USPS facility search tool to find your area’s most convenient post office locations.

Update Delayed by the Carrier

Sometimes, your USPS tracking number may not update because of carrier-related delays. For instance, a USPS facility, such as a distribution center, may not have been able to scan your package within its operating hours.

Unexpected situations, such as equipment malfunctions, flat tires, or unscheduled system maintenance, can cause delayed delivery status updates and stuck tracking information.

Package Delivered Without a Delivery Status Update

If your last tracking update shows “Out for Delivery,” and there hasn’t been a change in the status for several hours or days, it’s best to check around your home to see if the package has already been delivered.

In rare cases, mailpieces can arrive without displaying a “Delivered” status. Your package or envelope may be already at your address or the intended recipient’s.

What Can You Do if Your Package’s Tracking Information Isn’t Updating?

If you notice that your mailpiece’s tracking information hasn’t shown any updates within 48 hours, it’s essential to take some steps to address the issue. Here are some actions you can take:

Check Your USPS Tracking Number

First and foremost, ensure you’re tracking the correct mail item. Fortunately, the U.S. Postal Service has several convenient ways to find your parcel’s unique identifier. These locations include the following:

  • The sales receipt: When you drop off a package at a post office, you’ll receive its tracking number, which you can find on the shipping label and sales receipt.
  • Confirmation email: If you paid the postage online, you’ll receive a confirmation email containing your mailpiece’s tracking number. Check your junk folder and settings if you don’t see an email from USPS.
  • USPS.com account: If you’re an Informed Delivery user, mailpieces heading to your registered delivery address will automatically be added to your monitoring list.

Contact USPS Customer Service

If your USPS tracking information hasn’t been updated for an extended period, the most straightforward way to seek assistance is by calling USPS customer service. You can reach the U.S. Postal Service at 1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-275-8777).

There are also specific hotlines for technical support at 1-800-344-7779 and delivery tracking at 1-800-222-1811. These official USPS telephone numbers will connect you with knowledgeable staff who can provide accurate information.

Go to the Post Office

If you prefer face-to-face interaction with a Postal Service representative regarding your package delivery, consider visiting your local post office. Speaking with a postal service representative in person is often the best way to get answers to your questions.

Fortunately, you can quickly find the most convenient post office location among the over 31,000 nationwide with FindPostOffice.org’s USPS facility search tool.

Wait a Few Days to Get Tracking Details

Sometimes, the most optimal course of action is to wait, especially if you’re not expecting time-critical mail items. As mentioned, USPS Tracking can hit snags, but it doesn’t necessarily mean your package encountered a problem.

How to Get Your Mail Delivered More Quickly

USPS Tracking doesn’t expedite mail delivery. That said, there are steps you can take to prevent delays in the shipping and scanning processes. 

Here are some measures to ensure your packages arrive on time:

  • Verify the mailing address: Double-check that you provided the correct delivery address and that it’s free from spelling errors. While USPS can decipher and rectify address issues, inaccuracies can slow down the process.
  • Apply labels carefully: Ensure that you affix the shipping label flat and that it doesn’t wrap around the edges of the box. Doing so helps with legibility and prevents damages that impact the scanning process.

Only Certain Mail Classes Offer Guarantees

While USPS Tracking can give you an accurate delivery date, it doesn’t guarantee it’ll arrive on said window. However, there are exceptions. 

For instance, Priority Mail Express offers shipping within the next to two business days or your money back.

As its name implies, Global Express Guaranteed (GXG) also offers a money-back guarantee. It’s the Postal Service’s fastest international shipping option, boasting delivery within one to three business days to over 180 countries.

For additional information on USPS’ date-certain, guaranteed delivery, call the customer service hotline at 1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-275-8777) or visit your local post office. You can quickly find your area’s nearest USPS facilities using FindPostOffice.org’s search tool.

FAQs

  1. Can packages be delivered one day early?

As mentioned, around 95% of USPS mail items arrive on the estimated delivery date. However, the key word here is “estimated.” While you can trust USPS’s timeframe, you can expect some packages to arrive earlier, especially if the mailpieces must only travel a short distance.

  1. What if my package has not been delivered?

If your parcel hasn’t arrived at its intended destination, it may have hit a snag during transit. You can check its tracking information to identify the issue and take appropriate action. Otherwise, you can wait seven days, at which point you can request a missing shipment search.

  1. Is USPS Tracking ever wrong?

Occasional tracking information errors can occur, such as late updates or incorrect statutes. However, the answer to these problems is often patience. While USPS Tracking provides near real-time information, updates can take up to 48 hours to reflect.

  1. Does USPS update package tracking on weekends?

The U.S. Postal Service offers Saturday and Sunday deliveries for some package shipping options, including Priority Mail Express and Amazon packages. In other words, you may receive tracking updates for these mail items.

However, if you shipped a parcel via a USPS mail service that doesn’t provide weekend shipping, you may not receive location and status notifications.

  1. Why is my USPS package going farther away?

Imagine this scenario: You check your mailpiece’s location and see that it’s moving away from its intended destination instead of getting closer to it. While this may seem like a cause for concern, it isn’t.

USPS employs a network of distribution centers strategically located nationwide to handle the vast volume of packages it processes daily efficiently. However, the fastest route may not always be a straight line or the distribution center nearest the delivery address.

A package heading farther away from the mailing address is a deliberate step by the U.S. Postal Service to optimize the overall efficiency of package delivery.

  1. How soon will tracking information update after package drop-off?

Although the Postal Service strives to give you the most up-to-date information regarding your parcel’s delivery status and location, updates may not happen immediately.

You can expect tracking information updates within a few hours after drop-off. However, these updates can sometimes take up to 48 hours.

If you have any concerns regarding USPS Tracking, call 1-800-222-1811 or talk to a USPS representative at your local post office. Visit FindPostOffice.org to find your area’s nearest and most convenient USPS facilities.

References

  1. USPS Size and Scope
    https://facts.usps.com/size-and-scope/
  2. USPS Tracking® – The Basics
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  3. US Territories and Freely Associated States
    https://www.cdc.gov/islandaffairs/territories-states.html
  4. USPS Tracking Not Updating? Here’s Why
    https://www.postalytics.com/blog/usps-tracking-not-updating/
  5. How Often Does USPS Update Tracking? (2023 Updated)
    https://www.thecoldwire.com/how-often-does-usps-update-tracking/
  6. Visibility And Tracking
    https://postalpro.usps.com/visibility-and-tracking
  7. What is USPS Tracking Plus
    https://www.simplfulfillment.com/support-center/what-is-usps-tracking
  8. Contact USPS
    https://www.usps.com/help/contact-us.htm
  9. Insurance & Extra Services
    https://www.usps.com/ship/insurance-extra-services.htm
  10. Priority Mail Express
    https://www.usps.com/ship/priority-mail-express.htm
  11. TOP FACTS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE U.S. POSTAL SERVICE
    https://facts.usps.com/top-facts/
  12. Time Spent Using Smartphones (2023 Statistics)
    https://explodingtopics.com/blog/smartphone-usage-stats
  13. USPS Tracking
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  14. USPS Tracking®
    https://tools.usps.com/go/TrackConfirmAction_input
  15. Informed Delivery® – The Basics
    https://faq.usps.com/s/article/Informed-Delivery-The-Basics
  16. Is USPS Tracking Accurate? (Answered + Full Details)
    https://jamesmcallisteronline.com/usps-tracking-accurate/
  17. Does USPS Deliver Earlier Than Expected? (All You Need to Know)
    https://querysprout.com/does-usps-deliver-earlier-than-expected/
  18. Global Express Guaranteed
    https://www.usps.com/international/gxg.htm
  19. Does USPS Deliver On Sunday and Saturday (Or Weekend)?
    https://www.sellerapp.com/blog/does-usps-deliver-sunday-saturday