How to Track Mail with the US Postal Service

Use Certified Mail service at the Post Office to send mail with a tracking number; don't use First Class Package service
paying for Certified Mail service at the Post Office is the only way to track mail with USPS

Tax season is right around the corner, which means that citizens all across the country will soon start mailing documents to the Internal Revenue Service (or IRS, for short). As a result, people are are starting to ask us how they can get tracking numbers for regular mail with the US Postal Service. Here’s how you can do that…and a little about what not to do.

Certified Mail Service at the Post Office is the Only Way to Track Mail with USPS

Buckle up, because if you want to get a tracking number for your regular mail, you’ve got to make a trip to your local Post Office. Paying for Certified Mail service is the only way you can send regular mail with the Postal Service and still get a tracking number for it, and every Post Office location offers this service. When you send a letter or document Certified Mail, you can type in this tracking number on the USPS website, and you’ll be able to keep tabs on it like how you would normally track a package! The USPS website will provide all the necessary updates from the time the letter is scanned in, to when it’s out for delivery, all the way up to when it’s delivered.

Don’t Attempt to Buy First Class Package Postage for Flat Envelopes

Here’s a big no-no for all you experienced shippers out there. A lot of shippers choose to pay for First Class Package Service to send letters and documents in an envelope with a tracking number. The thought process is that instead of going to the Post Office, they would rather pay for the postage with online shipping software, get a tracking number, ship out the envelope, and see their documents delivered faster than regular mail.

While this might seem like a pretty solid idea, USPS won’t let it fly. Oftentimes, USPS will seize these envelopes and return them back to shippers—citing “insufficient postage,” believe it or not! In fact, we see this happen all the time. Instead, the Postal Service groups these envelopes that they call “flats” into their regular mail service.

The bottom line here is, USPS won’t let you use package services like First Class Package to ship flat envelopes. So, if you’re trying to get a tracking number for sensitive letters and documents, paying for Certified Mail service is the ticket.

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