One of the most popular premium mail services available from the United States Postal Service, each year millions of pieces of mail are sent via Certified Mail – and billions have been sent ever since the program was started back in 1955.
Providing individuals and businesses with an opportunity to get a confirmation that mail, packages, and parcels had been received (with an included receipt), certified mail fits neatly into the gap between registered mail and first class mail.
An affordable solution that “just works”, if you’ve been thinking about sending mail via USPS certified mail you’ll need to know how to do so and how much it costs.
That’s why we have put together this detailed guide.
Below you’ll learn more about the USPS certified mail return receipt cost, where you purchase certified mail postage, how to navigate the different certified letter cost structures your envelope or package may require, and so much more.
We also include a quick primer covering the basics of certified make and a step-by-step guide to help you go through the certified mail process as effortlessly as possible.
Shall we get started?
Let’s get right into it!
A Quick Certified Mail Primer
As we highlighted just a moment ago, the certified mail program was created back in 1955 by then Assistant US Postmaster Gen. Joseph Cooper.
Cooper was looking for a cost-effective alternative that sat between registered mail and traditional first class mail, providing many of the same benefits that registered mail had to offer while getting the price down as close to first class mail as possible.
He ended up working with a team at the post office to put together the certified mail schedule, and this has been a premium solution available through the USPS ever since.
In the almost 70 years since the program has been established billions of pieces of mail have been handled by the USPS through the certified mail schedule. This type of mailing offers tracking information, proof of receipt as well as proof of mailing, and an ability to insure the mailing (similar to what’s offered through registered mail) for those that want to pay a little extra.
A great offer for those that want a little more control and a little more predictability over first-class mail, as well as those that need a mail confirmation or a receipt of reception, you’ll never pay as much for certified mail as you do for registered mail – and that’s the biggest benefit!
A Close Look at Current (2020) USPS Certified Mail Rates
The most certified mail fee schedule (as est. in January 2020) is pretty simple and straightforward to follow along with.
To start things off, a postage meter rate to send a single ounce piece of mail through the certified mail process (with a return receipt included) is set at $6.90.
If an individual is interested in using certified mail labels that include electronic delivery confirmation as opposed to the more old-fashioned (and being phased out) “green card” they’ll be able to drop that price a little lower, bringing in at $4.85.
There are a whole host of extras that individuals taking advantage of certified mail can pay for, including return receipts that are sent via that old-fashioned green card or are electronically transmitted via email.
Electronic signatures will cost an extra $1.70, for example, with green card return receipts costing a little bit more than that.
It’s important to know that you also have to spend the first class postage to mail out your certified mail, too.
Let’s break down a little more of the certified mail postage costs right here.
Those wondering much is a certified letter alone will be glad to know that the price for certified mail (the standardized price) has only increased five cents from 2019. In 2019 the cost of certified mail as a baseline would have set you back $3.50, but today you can expect to spend just $3.55.
That’s a very modest increase.
Anyone wondering how much is it to send a certified letter that also includes an electronic delivery confirmation receipt will be glad to know that the price has stayed the same in 2020 compared to 2019.
You’ll only have to spend an extra $0.80 to get that electronic delivery confirmation receipt sent directly to your email, with a copy made available through your USPS account (as long as you link them together).
Should you want a traditional return receipt (one that is printed on those old-fashioned green postcards and returned to you via first-class mail) you’ll have to spend an extra $2.05 – bringing the total to $2.85. This represents a five cent increase for traditional return receipts from 2019.
If you want an electronic signature receipt PDF, you’ll have to spend $1.70 in 2020. This is a $0.10 increase from the year before when this same service from the USPS only cost $1.60.
As far as overall first-class postage is concerned (necessary to spend when you are sending something via certified mail) you can expect to pay $0.50 for the first outs of mailing weight that you are dealing with. Every additional ounce after that (as long as you stay under 3.5 ounces) will be charged out at $0.15 per ounce, with absolutely no change in 2020 costs compared to 2019.
Everything over 3.5 ounces will be charged at a sliding scale rate for first-class mail, depending entirely on a variety of different factors that you’ll need to discuss with your postal office. Most of the time these fees are still relatively affordable, though.
If you’d like to take advantage of “flat rate” first-class shipping in a 9 x 12 envelope or a 10 x 13 envelope you’ll be expected to spend one dollar across the board. This is the exact same first-class certified mail price for a flat rate envelope that you would have had to spend in 2019, too.
Of course, you’ll always have the opportunity to bump things up to a registered delivery service as well. This isn’t quite the same as registered mail, but it does offer a lot of the same benefits at a relatively affordable price tag.
If that’s what you’d like to do you’ll have to spend $5.45 to take advantage of the registered delivery service with certified mail. This is a $0.10 price increase compared to the year before, when the same service was available through the USPS for just $5.30.
The USPS also has a handful of “standardized” certified letter cost structures that you’ll want to know about for the year 2020.
A certified mail with return receipt requested (signature attached) piece of mail through the USPS will set you back $6.55. This service provides you with a return receipt electronic signature that shows exactly who signed for your piece of mail, when they signed for it, and when the peace was actually delivered.
A certified mail with return receipt signature requested with restricted delivery is going to cost $12.
The services a little bit different from others provided by the USPS, in that you are going to request that the USPS only allows delivery of your mail to the individual that you have addressed the package for parcel to – or their authorized agent.
This means that a piece of registered mail with this specific service cannot be delivered to just anyone living at a specific address. If the person that you have addressed the mail to specifically needs to accept and sign for the package or one of their agents (and authorized agent) has to do the same.
Restricted mail is only available when you choose to take advantage of either certified mail through the USPS, insured mail services for over $200 or registered mail services. This is a very affordable way to guarantee that the mail you want delivered to someone specifically only ever ends up in that person’s hands.
Another big benefit of that specific service is that a record of the transaction is made in the USPS system. The USPS Special Service will maintain those records (digitally) for 10 years, too.
A Quick Guide for Sending USPS Certified Mail
If you want to be sure that your piece of certified mail arrives as quickly as possible you’ll need to make sure that you follow the steps highlighted below as closely as you can.
Like we mentioned earlier, certified mail is essentially an “upgraded” version of first-class mail.
This means it’s going to take anywhere between two and five business days for your mail to be delivered, though it’s not at all uncommon for that scheduled to be accelerated up to 2 to 3 business days.
Most commonly used by those that need to communicate in a time sensitive manner, to send sensitive or private documents, and to track/confirm mailing and receipt, the general process for leveraging USPS certified mail is simple and straightforward.
The easiest way to get started is to visit a local post office and fill out the certified mail form, Postal Form 3800.
This form is pretty easy to spot, in that it includes a green and white sticker somewhere near the top of the form that has a barcode prominently displayed. This is the barcode that will be attached to your certified letter, the barcode that will handle the tracking and electronic confirmation details for you, and a big piece of the certified mail puzzle going forward.
Form 3800 is also going to include a receipt with perforations that will be separated by the postal office clerk that handles your certified mail process for you. Don’t worry about separating this early – Postal Service officials will split apart and give it to you at the right time.
The most important thing for you to do right here is to accurately fill out all of the information displayed on the form itself. You need to be sure that the recipient’s name, address, and other core details are accurately printed (legibly) so that the USPS officials can input the information correctly into the computer.
After that has been taking care of, simply peel the green and white sticker with the barcode off of the form and attach it directly to the top edge of your envelope – on the front. Do try your best to provide enough room on the right and left of this sticker to apply your first-class postage and to provide your return mailing address.
All that’s left to do right now is to walk up to any post office worker at your local post office and asked them to completely certified mail process for you. These officials will go through the form, inputting information digitally, and then will scan the barcode on your envelope into their system to attach the tracking information across the board.
The postal employee will then tell you what the certified mail cost is going to be for the services that you have selected. You’ll also have an opportunity to add any of the certified mail extras that you are interested in at this point in time.
Any of the services that you select you’ll need to check off on the form yourself, endorsing or initialing each extra on the column attached to your receipt.
This is your last chance to confirm that all of the mailing information is accurate and good to go. You’ll want to double check (maybe even triple check) before you sign on the dotted line and paid the certified mail fee.
Finally, you’ll be provided with a copy of your receipt to keep in your records.
It’s important that you hang onto this receipt as is going to have tracking information details, a record of you sending the certified mail piece out yourself, and a couple of other details that make following or finding certified mail a lot easier later down the line.
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