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certified mail

What is Certified Mail?

Background and Basics

Most of the time, when you put a letter in the mail, the only notification you will receive is from the recipient saying, “Hey, I got your letter!” But what if you have something important or valuable to send, and you want to make sure that it arrives safely? If it’s valuable, you might want the mailman to deliver it to the person instead of just leaving it in the mailbox or mailroom. That’s where you want Certified Mail – an upgraded delivery service offered by USPS.

When you send something with Certified Mail, you will be notified when the mail was delivered or when a delivery attempt was made. If multiple attempts are made, you will be notified of each one individually. This can give you peace of mind when sending those important pieces of mail. You can also check the delivery status of anything sent with Certified Mail online, via telephone (1-800-222-1811), or by a bulk electronic transfer file if you provided a manifest to USPS. You will need your tracking number (The Mail’s unique ID) to check online or by telephone.

Mail delivered with the Certified Mail service has the delivery record (date of delivery + any signatures) saved by USPS for two years after delivery. You do need to request this record, though, as it is not sent to you automatically after delivery. You can request proof of a signature at the mailing time, and the USPS will send you the signature received during delivery. You can get that as a physical copy or electronically via email.

In some cases, using Certified Mail may make it so that you are eligible for a refund if something happens to your mail on the way.

Additionally, USPS will provide you with a mailing receipt (an example can be found here) for your records when using Certified Mail. This receipt details:

  • The mail’s unique ID/Tracking Number: this can be used to find the date of sending
  • The total amount paid for the postage
  • The recipient
  • The address it was sent to


There are three more advanced types of Certified Mail:

  • Certified Mail – Restricted Deliver: mail will be delivered only to the listed addressee or the addressee’s authorized agent
  • Certified Mail – Adult Signature Required: mail will be delivered only to an adult of 21 years or older
  • Certified Mail – Adult Signature Restricted Delivery: mail can only be delivered to the assignee, who must be an adult of 21 years or older. This option is only available to online and commercial mailers only

When Should you Use Certified Mail?

Utilizing USPS’s Certified Mail makes the most sense when:

  • You are sending something important or valuable, such as a check, a piece of jewelry, or legal documents
  • You are sending something that is required by a specific date
  • You need to be reimbursed for the mailing

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Written by Austin Proctor 


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