Send Certified or Registered Mail

Whether you need proof that your mail was delivered or a detailed chain of custody along with insurance for high-value letters and packages, USPS offers Certified Mail and Registered Mail services.

This article will compare both services so that you can decide which is best for you and guide you through how to send your mailpiece with Certified or Registered mail.

Certified Mail® vs. Registered Mail®

Certified Mail

Certified Mail is a special service that provides a Proof of Delivery Receipt via an Electronic or Physical Return Receipt.

You can send certified mail using Certified Mail specific envelopes or labels, or you can manually fill out the USPS Certified Mail form and attach it to a regular mailpiece.

  • Certified Mail prepared with Stamps.com certified mail labels or envelopes do not need to be taken to the post office. You'll hand the mailpiece to your mail carrier or place them in a USPS mailbox.

    To use this option, your account must be on the Stamps.com Premier Plan or higher. Not on the Premier Plan? Learn how to upgrade.

  • When not sent using certified mail envelopes or labels, you can still create the envelope with Stamps.com, but you must manually fill out and attach the USPS Certified Mail form to the mailpiece. If you require a return receipt, you'll also need to hand directly to a postal employee.

Both processes are explained in the sections below.

Registered Mail

Registered Mail is a secure transport method used when mailing high-value letters and packages. In addition to providing a Proof of Delivery Receipt via an Electronic or Physical Return Receipt, Registered Mail also:

  • Allows you to insure your mailpiece up to $50,000.

  • Establishes a chain of custody that tracks and secures your shipment throughout the entire transit process.

Electronic vs Physical Return Receipts

Both Certified Mail and Registered Mail provide an electronic or a physical Proof of Delivery Receipt.

Electronic Return Receipt

With an Electronic Return Receipt, your recipient signs for the mailpiece electronically, and that signature is entered into the USPS computer system. Instead of waiting for a Physical Return Receipt to be mailed to you, access your Electronic Return Receipt by going to the USPS Track and Confirm page. Advantages of an Electronic Return Receipt include:

  • Electronic Receipts are admissible in court. Different jurisdictions have different rules, so please check with the USPS as well as your local government if this a concern.

  • Electronic Return Receipts are less expensive than a Physical Return Receipt, and you can check it almost immediately.

Electronic Return Receipts are not available with Priority Mail Express or when shipping to military (APO/FPO/DPO) addresses, US Territories or Possessions, or the Freely Associated States of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, or Palau.

Learn more about Electronic Return Receipts on the USPS Frequently Asked Questions page.

Purchase Receipt Required

Whether you are printing NetStamps, labels or envelopes, you will need to visit your Post Office to get a purchase receipt for shipments sent with Electronic Return Receipt. The purchase receipt will include the article barcode number that is required to request your completed Return Receipt. For more information please see USPS's page on Electronic Return Reciepts.

To avoid having to go to the Post Office, we recommend using Certified Mail for any pieces of mail that require specialized tracking.

Physical Return Receipt

With a Physical Return Receipt, your recipient signs the return receipt in the presence of their mail carrier, which is then mailed to you by the USPS as proof of delivery. Physical Return Receipts are admissible in court. Different jurisdictions have different rules, so please check with the USPS as well as your local government if this a concern.

Learn more about Physical Return Receipts on the USPS Frequently Asked Questions page.

Prepare Certified Mail with Stamps.com Labels or Envelopes

To prepare Certified Mail using Stamps.com labels or envelopes:

Prepare Certified Mail without Stamps.com Labels or Envelopes

If you do not have Stamps.com labels or envelopes, or your plan subscription does not support printing with our certified mail labels and envelopes, you can still send certified mail by following the steps below.

To prepare Certified Mail when not using Stamps.com labels or envelopes:

  • Manually fill out the required USPS Form 3800. Attach this form to the mailpiece prior to mailing.

  • When requesting a physical Return Receipt, fill out USPS Form 3811. Attach this form to mailpiece prior to mailing.

  • When requesting an Electronic Return Receipt, you must hand your mailpiece to a Postal Clerk at a US Post Office for processing.

Registered Mail

To send Registered Mail:

Purchase Receipt Required

Whether you are printing NetStamps, labels or envelopes, you will need to visit your Post Office to get a purchase receipt for shipments sent with Electronic Return Receipt. The purchase receipt will include the article barcode number that is required to request your completed Return Receipt. For more information please see USPS's page on Electronic Return Reciepts.

To avoid having to go to the Post Office, we recommend using Certified Mail for any pieces of mail that require specialized tracking.

Additional Details about Registered Mail

  • You must drop the mailpiece off at your local US Post Office.

  • USPS employees cannot help prepare mailpieces for Registered Mail.

  • All mailpieces must be securely closed. All sealing materials must visibly damage packaging if removed and must absorb postmark ink.

  • Fragile items must be properly packaged.

  • Window Envelopes can only be used for Registered Mail with no value. This means no negotiable instruments, such as cash, some checks, deeds, stock certificates, or bonds.

  • Registration may be refused if a local USPS branch cannot guarantee adequate security for Registered Mail.

  • A local Postmaster can require pickup at the delivering Post Office if delivery would pose a risk of robbery to the mail carrier.

  • If a mailpiece is visibly damaged at the time of delivery, the recipient will be required to open the mailpiece in the presence of the delivering mail carrier or a postal clerk to verify no rifling has occurred.

  • USPS Registered Mail Insurance will cover up to the full or market value of cash or negotiable instruments, the market value of gems, jewelry, precious metals, or merchandise, and the replacement cost for nonnegotiable instruments.

  • When shipping via Registered Mail with COD, the total insurable amount can total up to $25,000. However, the total amount the carrier can collect from the recipient is capped at $1,000.

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