How to Ship Alcohol: The Truth About Shipping Alcohol

Learn how to ship alcohol in the United States and why USPS doesn't allow it
Ship Alcohol
Grab these resources for this guide
Shipping Alcohol with UPS
UPS’ guide on shipping alcoholic beverages
Shipping Alcohol with FedEx
FedEx's authorization process to ship alcohol

Have you ever tasted a delicious local brew on vacation and wished you could ship some home for you to enjoy? We’ve all been there (provided we’re over the legal drinking age, of course). However, it’s not as cut and dry to ship alcohol in the United States as one might think. In most instances, you’ll need to obtain alcohol shipping licenses and sign agreements with your carrier…and that’s if the shipping carrier you choose even allows you to ship alcohol in the first place! Let’s get into it, shall we?

What are My Carrier Options to Ship Alcohol?

USPS entirely prohibits the shipment of alcohol, while FedEx and UPS allow for it with some restrictions. Therefore, if you’re looking to ship alcohol, we suggest going with either UPS or FedEx.

Why USPS Won’t Allow You to Ship Alcohol

Believe it or not, USPS doesn’t allow for the shipment of alcohol because of laws enacted by Prohibition back in the 1920’s! Seriously. However, that’s not to say USPS will always prohibit the shipment of alcohol going forward. Back in 2013, former Postmaster General Patrick Donahue pitched the idea of allowing USPS to deliver beer, wine and spirits to consumers’ doorsteps. He claimed that alcoholic beverage deliveries could generate upwards of $50 million a year for the Postal Service. That’s no small amount! Even so, Donahue proposed the idea years ago, and there doesn’t seem to be any movement happening in that direction any time soon. So don’t get your hopes up.

Wait—Wasn’t Prohibition a Hundred Years Ago?

Just about! The United States enacted Prohibition in 1920, and didn’t repeal it until 1933. There’s been a lot of time since then for our country to revise its laws prohibiting the shipment of alcohol. However, the good people on Capitol Hill still haven’t gotten around to it, for some reason.

Are There Any Exceptions?

For all you hyper-technical individuals out there, there are some exceptions to this rule. USPS allows for the shipment of products containing VERY low levels of alcohol like cold remedies, cooking wine, and mouthwash. However, any liquid containing 0.5% or more alcoholic content is non-mailable. That means pretty much every alcoholic beverage out there, including shipping beer and wine, is a no-go with USPS.

USPS Judges Boxes by Their Labels

Heads up: USPS will deny your shipment if your package has any labeling or branding that shows it MIGHT carry alcohol! If you’re asking yourself why this matters, keep in mind that lots of people like to reuse old packaging for new shipments. While we’re big fans of recycling here at Shipping School, it’s important to NOT use packaging that was once used to carry alcohol. As a rule of thumb, we suggest you avoid these types of boxes altogether when shipping with USPS.

How to Ship Alcohol with FedEx

FedEx allows the shipment of alcohol. However, there are some specific requirements you’ll need to meet to get started. We’ve laid those out for you below.

  • First, create an account with FedEx
  • Sign the FedEx Alcohol Shipping Agreement
    • You can contact your FedEx account executive for any help you might need on this. If you don’t have a FedEx account executive, give FedEx Customer Service a call at 1-800-GoFedEx (1-800-463-3339) and request that an account executive call you.
  • Use an electronic shipping solution for reporting purposes
  • Fedex requires a special label signifying that the package contains alcohol
  • Use the proper packing material
    • Use the right packing material that ensures your alcoholic shipment is secure. We suggest completely covering your bottle in something soft to prevent glass breakage and to absorb any liquid if the bottle happens to break. A cloth or hand towel should do the trick.
  • Obtain an adult signature
    • Final delivery requires an adult over 21 with proper identification to sign for the package.

How to Ship Alcohol with UPS

UPS allows for the shipment of wine, beer, and other alcoholic beverages on a per-contract basis. However, you’ll need to meet a few specific requirements. We’ve outlined those for you below.

  • First, create a UPS account number
  • Sign the UPS alcohol shipping agreement
    • You can contact your UPS account executive by calling 1-800-782-7892. They’ll be able to help you sign this shipping agreement.
  • Obtain a valid alcohol shipping license
    • All alcohol shippers must be licensed and authorized to ship according to the federal or state laws and regulations of the origin and destination states.
  • Think about destination restrictions
    • UPS won’t accept shipments of beer or alcohol for delivery to consumers. UPS accepts shipments of beer or alcohol only among and between selected states. The ability to ship wine depends upon the nature of the shipper’s license to sell wine, and the laws of the destination states.
  • Use proper packaging
    • UPS has specific packing requirements for shipping alcohol. They accept inner packaging of molded Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) foam, folded corrugated trays, or molded fiber trays. Sturdy outer corrugated containers are required.
  • Use proper labeling
    • UPS requires a special label signifying that the package contains alcohol. You can grab these directly from UPS, and your account executive will be able to provide you with one.
  • Document your shipment
    • You’ll need to your shipping label with a UPS Compatible Shipping Solution like WorldShip.
  • Obtain an adult signature
    • An adult over 21 with proper identification needs to sign for the package upon delivery.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Your Carrier

Here’s the bottom line: if you don’t know something, just ask your carrier! UPS and FedEx have a lot of guidelines for you to follow in order to ship alcohol. However, both UPS and FedEx employ lots of customer service representatives ready to help you out at a moment’s notice—and that help goes a long way. Just remember to stay away from USPS on this one…at least until the laws change.

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