Last year, there was a total United States Postal Service (USPS) mail volume of 116.15 billion. While a lot of standard mail was sent, much of this was Certified Mail.

Something many people don't understand about Certified Mail is how it's different from requesting a Return Receipt. While both options can provide peace of mind when sending mail, they aren't exactly the same.

In this guide, we will explain the difference between Certified Mail vs Return Receipt via USPS.

What Is Certified Mail?

Certified Mail is a USPS mail service option that allows users to safely send mail of high importance. Sending Certified Mail allows a sender to track a mail piece's movement and know exactly when it gets to the recipient. Each piece of Certified Mail has a tracking number. The number tracks where the letter is at any given time, from the sender's Post Office to the intended destination.

When the certified mail piece reaches its destination, a signature is required for delivery. If Certified Mail is sent to a PO Box, a notice will be placed inside the PO box. The recipient will then need to go to the window clerk to sign for the delivery of the Certified Mail.

Keep in mind that you can only send Certified Mail as USPS First-Class and Priority Mail.

Advantages of Certified Mail

Senders in many different industries use Certified Mail to send important documents. The legal, repossession, real estate, and medical industries often use Certified Mail as it offers tracking, proof of mail, and delivery confirmation. Certified Mail offers many advantages over other mail types.

With Certified Mail, you'll have peace of mind knowing exactly where your document is at any given time. Delivery confirmation can help when keeping archival records of the sending and receiving of important documents.

Certified Mail also provides additional security and confidentiality, because it requires the recipient to provide a signature upon delivery. Because of this increased security, Certified Mail is often used for sending legal documents and other documents that are important to the parties involved. It's less likely to get stolen by someone who wasn't the intended recipient.

While sending through Certified Mail helps to ensure that your mail isn't delivered to the wrong person, it also helps the recipient see the mail as important. The recipient has to sign for it. Therefore, a piece of Certified Mail won't be buried in a large pile of junk mail.

What Is a Return Receipt?

Rather than being a completely separate service from Certified Mail, the "Return Receipt Requested" is an add-on service. You can use it to get additional verification that a recipient receives the Certified letter.

When a traditional Return Receipt by mail is requested, a green card will be included with the mail piece. The recipient will need to sign it to show that the mail has reached its destination successfully. The sender will have the recipient's signature sent back to them and they can then file it away in their records.

The signature on the Return Receipt serves as verification that the recipient truly received the piece of Certified Mail. With the signature, you'll also get information regarding the date and time of delivery and the delivery address. The Return Receipt provides the sender with an additional piece of proof that the mail was delivered and can be useful in a variety of situations.

A more efficient alternative to requesting a traditional Return Receipt at the Post Office which is delivered to the sender by physical mail, is a Return Receipt Electronic. In this case, senders receive a copy of the recipient's signature via email. Not only will you skip the trip to the Post Office, but you'll receive the Return Receipt signature immediately, rather than waiting for the original Green Card Receipt (PS Form 3811) signature in the mail.

Certified Mail Labels | Certified Mail vs Return Receipt


Costs of Certified Mail

As of January 2024, the rate of Certified Mail is $4.85. You'll find that the cost of Certified Mailing is well worth the additional fee as it provides additional verification and tracking. Certified Mail gives you peace of mind that your mail has been delivered successfully and is useful for sending important documents and letters.

Keep in mind that requesting a Return Receipt will cost more, whether you choose to get an electronic return receipt or the traditional mailed receipt. However, in many instances having a copy of the recipient’s signature is beneficial for personal and business purposes.

Can You Send Certified Mail Online?

Yes! Certified Mail is incredibly beneficial for a variety of reasons. However, a trip of the Post Office every time you want to send Certified Mail is inconvenient. Not to mention, expensive. Fortunately, you can send Certified Mail online and save $3.15 per letter with Certified Mail Labels.

Easily print and send Certified Mail labels from home with Certified Mail Labels. Just log in, address, print, and mail. There are no monthly fees, contracts, or special equipment.

Print and send Certified Mail without a trip to the Post Office. Users get email notifications with Electronic Delivery Confirmations, Return Receipt Signatures, tracking, and access to our 10-year, complimentary compliance archive.

Understanding Certified Mail Vs Return Receipt Options

Certified Mail and Return Receipt add verification when sending important mail and both provide peace of mind. Keep in mind, return receipt is an add-on to the Certified Mail service which provides a copy of the recipient's signature.

Save time and money with Certified Mail Labels. Our Certified Mail automation is used by Fortune 500 companies as well as federal, state, and government agencies. We proudly provide services 24/7, 365 days a year.

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Additional Resources:

How long does it take to get Certified Mail?
What's the United States Postal Rates for Certified Mail?
How to order USPS Certified Mail envelopes online?
What does restricted delivery on Certified Mail mean?