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Certified Mail - How it Works

Oct 07, 2010

What is Certified Mail?

Essentially, Certified Mail is an "extra" domestic mail service that assigns a unique tracking number to each article mailed and provides the sender with a legally recognized proof of both mailing and delivery.

Why use Certified Mail?

There are a number of benefits to using Certified Mail. When the recipient has to physically sign for the letter or package, it creates not only a sense of urgency (i.e. "Someone really wants me to read this, I better open it now.") but it also makes the mailer more official (i.e. "This is legitimate business - not junk mail - I better pay attention to this."). Additionally, it's traceable given that the recipient (or someone on their behalf) must sign for it. More on that later.

Many companies use Certified Mail for important communications such as: sending a product recall notice, a delivery-required message to their customers, annual reports, shareholder statements, and other official communications with clients and partners. In some cases, legal requirements for notification via Certified Mail even specify its use. If you're mailing any of these items - or other official communication - consider the benefits of Certified Mail. It might be for you.

How does Certified Mail work?

Upon delivery of your Certified Mail, U.S. Postal Service (USPS) regulations require that the signature of the addressee (or authorized agent) be obtained before the addressee can receive and open the letter. The USPS maintains official delivery records for two years. 

Of course, there are options. Below are the different ways you can send Certified Mail via Click2Mail as well as the recipient signature requirements for each option.

Certified Mail. Provides a unique tracking number that you can check online to confirm that your mailpiece arrived at its destination. With this option, the letter carrier is allowed to deliver the mail to anyone who receives mail at the given address.

Certified Mail with Return Receipt (the green card). For an additional fee, a return receipt green card is attached to the mailpiece and then signed and dated by the recipient upon delivery and returned to you by mail.

Certified Mail with Electronic Return Receipt. For an additional fee ($1.00 less than the green card), an electronic version of the green card is captured as a PDF document that includes an image of the recipient's signature or an approved hand-stamp.

Certified Mail with Return Receipt and Restricted Delivery. The strictest of the Certified Mail options, adding restricted delivery service to the return receipt ensures delivery to the actual addressee or an authorized agent.

Because this process is time-consuming and dependent on a physical signature, plan on your Certified Mail taking three to ten business days for delivery. USPS cannot guarantee or specify an exact delivery date and time given that delivery depends on the recipient being home and available to sign for the mailpiece.  Certified Mail is sent First-Class Mail.

Why so time consuming? This is how the delivery works (and why there is an extra fee).
Step one - If you are mailing to a residential address and no one is home at the time of delivery, a delivery reminder slip is left in the mailbox by the letter carrier. This reminder informs them a USPS Certified Mail letter is being held at the local Post Office for pick-up.  They must go to the Post Office to sign for the letter and pick it up.  

Step one unsuccessful, step two - If no one picks up the letter after five to seven days, USPS attempts a second delivery.  Again the letter carrier will leave behind a delivery slip reminder if no one is at home.

Step two unsuccessful, step three - Finally, after 10 to 12 days the third and final delivery attempt is made to the delivery address.  After the final notice reminder is left, the letter is taken back to the Post Office and held for five to seven additional days.  This entire time frame can take 17 to 21 days if no one has claimed the letter. 

Step three unsuccessful, step four - USPS then marks the letter ‘Unclaimed' and the letter is returned to the sender. Unclaimed items will be returned to the sender after 30 days.

Remember USPS does not provide ‘in-route' letter tracking information.  You will not get updated delivery information until the USPS letter carrier has attempted or delivered the letter and scanned the letter or made an attempted delivery. 

How Click2Mail can help

Click2Mail provides an online interface that enables customers to send Certified Mail right from their computer. Customers upload their mailpiece and mailing list (or they can create one or both of these items online), and Click2Mail produces and posts the document to the USPS for delivery.  [Note that you cannot print postage for offline Certified Mail using the Click2Mail system.]

Each Certified Mailpiece is created using a unique USPS tracking number, allowing you to track its delivery status via your Click2Mail account page on, and which can also be used to check delivery status on the USPS website. It's as easy as that!

When sending Certified Mail, you can still benefit from all of the other benefits that Click2Mail offers: personalization of content using your recipients' name and personal information; mailing list standardization and online creation; next business day printing and mailing (if placed before 8 p.m. EST), and helpful customer support available eleven hours a day, five days a week. With that kind of support, it doesn't make sense to spend your time and money printing and stuffing your mailers, addressing the mailpieces, driving to the post office, and standing in line to mail them out.

Click2Mail saves you time and money while offering the all of the resources and support to make your Certified Mail more timely and hassle-free. Click here for additional information on Click2Mail Certified Mail products. If you have questions, contact our Customer Support at 866-665-2787 or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).  Live phone and online chat support is available Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST.