Can I Use a Shipping Label Twice?

Learn why you can't use a shipping label more than once after it has been scanned in, no matter which carrier you ship with
Can I Use a Shipping Label Twice
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No matter which shipping carrier you choose, you cannot use a shipping label twice. This is one of the important rules of shipping, with no exceptions!

Each Shipping Label Contains a Unique Barcode and You Can Only Use It Once

If you’ve sent packages with multiple carriers, you may have noticed that the appearance of a label varies based on the carrier. For instance, FedEx labels look different from UPS labels, which look different from USPS labels…so forth, and so on. Even regional shipping carriers such as OnTrac have unique labels that present information differently from other carriers.

However, despite their differences in appearance, all shipping labels have one thing in common. Each label contains a unique barcode where key information is embedded. This barcode includes the label’s tracking number, sender information, recipient information, customs information (for international shipments), and more.

This is why you can’t use a label more than once; once a carrier scans a package into its network, all of the above information on that particular label’s barcode is in the carrier’s database.

USPS Considers the Intentional Duplicate Use of a Label as Fraud

According to the USPS Click N’ Ship field information kit, the “intentional use of a duplicate label constitutes fraud.” Per USPS, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (the law enforcement arm of the Postal Service) monitors a database containing information on every label USPS issues—and how many times they are used. If the USPIS notices a pattern of duplicate labels for a particular shipper, they may determine the use as intentional and investigate further.

What Happens If I Accidentally Use a Label Twice?

Sometimes using a label twice can happen accidentally, especially for eCommerce businesses sending out large batches of identical shipments. If this is the case, your carrier may refuse your shipment with the duplicate label, or return it you marked as “Return to Sender.”

You May Be Able to Use a Printed Label After Refunding It

If you have refunded a shipping label but have printed it out already, you may be able to still use it (as long you haven’t used it before). When you use a refunded label, your shipping carrier will simply cancel your refund request and scan the package into its network.

That said, most shipping carriers prefer that you use shipping labels as soon as possible after you purchase them. This goes for both refunded labels and normal labels.

The timeline varies from carrier to carrier, but if too much time has passed between creating your label and handing it off to your carrier, you may not be able to use that label. You’ll then need to create a new one and use that instead.

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