Have you printed a label and slapped it on a package that you haven’t had a chance to drop off? If the answer is “yes,” there may not be a reason to stress out just yet. Sometimes life happens, and you can’t get a package to your shipping carrier of choice as early as you had hoped. Depending on which carrier you choose to ship with, your label may expire later (or sooner) than you think.
How Long a Shipping Label Takes to Expire Depends on the Carrier
Shipping labels from each of the three major carriers expire in different increments after you purchase them. We’ve laid out how long labels take to expire for each major carrier below.
USPS labels expire the soonest out of all three carriers…although if you’re looking for specifics as to “when,” the answer is a bit unclear. More often than not, the time limit for how long a USPS label is valid depends on local Post Offices and is up to postal workers’ discretion. This is fancy talk for saying that it all depends on a particular Post Office. In our experience, we’ve seen USPS reject packages with labels containing ship dates as recent as one day prior. Other times, we’ve seen people get away with sending a package where a label is a few months old…but we definitely don’t recommend that!
Since this is the case, we generally advise shippers to hand over packages to USPS as soon as possible after they purchase and print their labels.
Depending on which online shipping software you’re using, UPS labels have traditionally expired after 100 days. However, UPS has gotten a bit stricter recently in terms of how soon they expect their customers to use their labels after they have purchased them. Without providing an exact timeline UPS prefers that customers use labels as soon as possible after purchasing them. If UPS considers a label too old once they have received the package it’s attached to, they might route the package to an Overgoods Location, where they keep lost items as well as packages with labels that have either expired or have been used multiple times.
If you purchased a UPS label a while ago and haven’t used it, the best practice is to simply recreate it and pay for a new one. Getting packages out of a UPS Overgoods Location can be tough once they end up there…and in our opinion, it’s better to remove any risk out of the equation by using a fresh shipping label.
FedEx shipping labels also expire much later than USPS labels, although expiration dates vary. Typically, you can print an emailed FedEx label for up to two years. However, it’s a whole different story once you’ve printed out the label. Once you print the label, Fedex typically gives you two weeks to use it before it expires. After that, FedEx will consider your label invalid, and you’ll need to purchase a whole new one all over again.