Shipping Documents: What is the Best Way to Send Documents?

Learn about the different services for sending documents with USPS, including the cheapest service and the fastest service
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Need to send a contract that requires a signature? Companies like DocuSign have made it easy to sign and execute legal documents over the Internet. However, there will always be a need to physically ship documents for real-life signatures…and if you need help, the major shipping carriers in the U.S. have you covered. When you find yourself in this situation, here are some of the cheapest and fastest ways you can send documents.

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Use Certified Mail for the Absolute Cheapest Way to Send a Few Documents

If you’re looking to save the most money when sending your documents, your best bet is to use Certified Mail. The cost for Certified Mail is a small fee plus the current cost of a Forever Stamp. When you purchase this service, USPS assigns you a tracking number when they accept it at the counter. Therefore, Certified Mail allows you to track your envelope up until USPS delivers it, while regular First-Class Mail doesn’t.

Like First-Class Mail, documents sent by Certified Mail take anywhere from 2-3 business days to arrive at the final destination. However, keep in mind that the cost will be higher if your documents weigh more than the maximum limit of 3 ounces for mail.

The Different USPS Services for Shipping Documents

USPS offers a variety of different shipping services for sending documents that are too heavy for Certified Mail. We’ve listed the most affordable and fastest USPS services for these types of shipments below.

Use the Priority Mail Legal Flat Rate Envelope for Shipping a Stack of Heavier Documents

If you’re shipping more than several documents that make your envelope weigh more than 3 ounces, then you’re better off using the Priority Mail Legal Flat Rate Envelope. As the name suggests, this envelope will be a flat rate charge at the Post Office, no matter how much your documents weigh or how thick they are. Like USPS always says, “If it fits, it ships!”

Like all Priority Mail Services, delivery occurs anywhere between 1-3 business days, and the service is fully trackable. You can order these envelopes for free on the USPS website, or you can walk into your local Post Office to find them.

Pro Tip: The Priority Mail Legal Flat Rate Envelope will cost less than it will at the Post Office when you use shipping software to buy discounted postage online…which we’ll get to in a minute.

For the Fastest USPS Service, Use the Priority Mail Express Legal Flat Rate Envelope

The Priority Mail Express Legal Flat Rate Envelope is hands-down the fastest USPS service available to ship documents. This makes it the perfect service for shipping time-sensitive legal documents. However, since it’s the fastest USPS service, it’s also the most expensive. Priority Mail Express features overnight delivery to most urban locations and 2-day delivery to rural areas. Also, USPS will fully refund the cost of postage if the envelope arrives later than the guaranteed delivery time…so all in all, it’s a pretty good deal!

When to Use UPS & FedEx to Send Documents

Shippers often opt for alternatives to USPS when sending documents, and UPS and FedEx are both popular for these types of shipments. Since they are both private carriers with their own logistics networks, they are both more expensive than USPS. However, they offer a large variety of delivery windows that shippers can choose from to make any budget work. For instance, you can opt for emergency next-day delivery or a time-specific delivery such as “noon on Thursday.” This flexibility in the delivery timeframes is the main advantage of using UPS or FedEx over the U.S. Postal Service for shipping documents.

Keep in mind that whether you use UPS or FedEx, the faster you’d like your document(s) to arrive, the more expensive it will be to ship them.

FedEx tends to be more expensive than UPS, but they are positioned in the market as the premier carrier for sending documents. In fact, FedEx specializes in business-to-business deliveries, niche shipments, and document deliveries. Like UPS, FedEx offers a variety of delivery windows, including next-day emergency delivery, as well as longer, ground-based options that are the most affordable of all their services.

Consider Paying for Signature Confirmation for Sensitive Document Shipments

No matter which shipping carrier you choose, we often recommend purchasing signature confirmation when sending sensitive documents. Signature confirmation requires the recipient (or another person at the recipient’s office or residence, such as a front desk worker) to sign for the parcel upon its arrival. This gives shippers added peace of mind that their shipment arrived at the right place, as well as evidence of delivery.

Read more about signature confirmation services and how you can use them to your advantage.

Buy Discounted Postage Online With Shipping Software to Get the Best Rates

No matter which shipping service you decide to use, you’ll always save the most money on postage when you use online shipping software. Online shipping software allows you to access the deepest level of discounts that USPS offers, known as Commercial Pricing. On top of offering discounted USPS postage, most shipping software providers also offer discounted labels from UPS (FedEx is less prominent in the shipping software sphere than USPS and UPS, though some providers offer discounted FedEx labels).

On top of the savings you enjoy, another benefit of shipping software is the convenience factor. You can buy and print the postage right from your home, so you won’t ever have to go to the Post Office, UPS Store, or local FedEx office again!

To learn more about how you can save money on your shipping labels, check out our guide: Choosing the Best Shipping Software.

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