Marketing Automation

Ultimate Guide on What is Certified Mail and How to Use It

May 5, 2020
Author
Inkit Team

When in 1955, they launched certified mail as an alternative to pricey registered mail, it allowed many people to send important letters at a more affordable cost. Despite a slight decline in the 2010s, certified mail still carries out essential legal and business functions. Around 200 million certified mail pieces are sent every year across the US.

What is certified mail and what makes it so popular? The certified mail signature is the main difference between certified and registered mail. By sending a letter via certified mail, individuals get official proof of delivery and, hence, certainty.

Read our guide to learn more about sending certified mail, regular vs. registered mail vs. certified mail, and other essentials. It also explains how to send certified mail and how to do certified mail automatically.

What is Certified Mail? Regular vs. Registered Mail v.s Certified Mail

What is certified mail? Certified mail is a program launched by the USPS to provide senders with proof of mailing or delivery attempts. When such a mail piece is delivered to the recipient, the mail carrier asks them to provide a signature confirmation. The USPS stores this signature in its database for two years and can also send an electronic or physical copy of the signature to the sender. In this case, the sender is additionally charged for the Return Receipt service.

mail letter

Certified vs. regular mail

Now when you know what is certified mail, it's easy to understand how it differs from regular mailings. Individuals and businesses learn how to send certified mail when they need something official. The certified mail envelope format is usually preferred over regular mail for government and business communications. It makes mail delivery highly reliable and perfectly works for sending official documentation. Although certified mail is slightly more expensive than regular mail, having delivery proof frequently pays off.

Certified vs. registered mail

What is the difference between registered and certified mail? The difference between certified and registered mail is more subtle. Since the certified mail service evolved from registered mail, many people think registered mail vs. certified mail is the same. In both cases, a sender receives a mailing receipt and can separately request a delivery confirmation (green card). The key point is that, unlike certified mailings, the post office records registered mail at every stage of the delivery cycle, not only upon the delivery. Another difference between certified and registered mail is that they process registered documents separately and more slowly, whereas certified mail is handled as ordinary mail.

Read First-Class Mail: How Much Does it Cost?

Certified Mail Examples

56% of Americans have sent certified mail at least once in their lives are aware of how to send a certified letter. Even though most ways to send certified mail are used by businesses, many individuals also use certified mail for personal goals. Here are the most common certified mail examples when people and organizations prefer sending certified mail over other alternatives:

  • Bank documents. Financial organizations need to ensure that the documents they deliver reach the destination. And, vice versa, people who send something to banks order proof of delivery for tracking and peace of mind. These are the classic certified mail examples.
  • Default notices. Before any punitive measures, lenders must inform debtors about the money they owe. They also must be able to confirm that the person has received the default notice. The simple certified mail is enough to do that.
  • Tax returns. Tax authorities that provide taxpayers with tax return documents should also learn how to mail certified mail. They need the recipients' signatures to verify the delivery for internal record-keeping and compliance.
  • Healthcare communications. Healthcare notices and reports contain lots of personal information. Therefore, both senders and recipients need mail tracking to guarantee no communication ends up in the wrong hands.
  • Documents necessary for regulatory compliance. Businesses, organizations, and individuals should have evidence that every document critical for regulatory compliance is sent.
  • Time-sensitive communications. Comparing certified vs. registered mail, the first one is faster. Therefore, it's the best option for urgent communications containing personal information or official notices.
  • Personal identity records. Anything that includes personal details requires reliable delivery, making certified mail options one of the choices.

The certified mail envelope format is the most frequently used by banks, healthcare services, financial organizations, governmental bodies, tax authorities, and businesses. Recent research has shown that nearly half of businesses sending certified mail use it at least several times per month. This reflects the importance of certified mail for effective business communication and regulatory compliance.

5 Reasons to Learn How to Mail Certified Mail

Anyone who delivers official communications should know how to process certified mail. Sending certified mail brings a range of advantages, from location tracking to cost-effectiveness. That's why when you prefer certified mail options over the standard mailing, you enjoy:

Certified Mail Signature

The previous section lists some common certified mail examples, but you can order this service for any mailing. Certified mail signature is a convenient way to ensure the critical mail piece has reached its destination. Otherwise, you drop the letter at the post office without tracking or confirmation and hope for the best.

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Location Tracking

Signature is not the only reason to learn how to do certified mail. Tracking is another significant benefit. It's by default included in the package. The sender or the recipient can check the item's location by sending a text message with a tracking number to the phone number "28777". It takes up to 30 seconds to get the automated reply.

Record Retention

Since the post office keeps certified mail records for two years, you can always request them. It's possible to obtain the mailing and delivery date months or years after the shipment. Note that in other cases, USPS stores the records for four month only.

Quick Delivery

When time matters, simple certified mail is a solution. It's as fast as priority and first-class services. A certified sticker adds extra priority to your mailing so that it will arrive at the destination as soon as possible.

Extra Security

How to do certified mail? Choose it to prevent mail identity theft. Since these letters are handed over personally, the risk that someone steals them is minimized. It protects individuals and organizations from fraud and other personal data misuse.

Tax return

Step-by-Step Instructions On How to Send a Certified Letter

How to send a certified letter? It's easy even if you have never done that before. Here are the concise instructions on how to send certified mail to follow.

How to send certified mail step #1. Get the Certified Mail Form 3800

A visit to a local post office is the most traditional way of sending certified mail. Go there to get a Certified Mail Form 3800, the standard certified mail envelope format. This form has a white and green sticker with the USPS tracking number, perforated receipt, and contact fields. Once you obtain the form, fill in the delivery details.

How to send certified mail step #2. Fill in the mailing details

Addressing an envelope, remember the rules of address formatting, including the correct location of the certified mail sticker. Attach the sticker along the top of the envelope, leaving space for postage at the top right. Indicate the recipient's street address with an apartment or suite number and the return address. You will also need to choose the type of delivery and certified mail add-ons. For example, you can decide to order the restricted delivery service to request a signature from the recipients in addition to delivery confirmation. Or ask the post office to send you a return receipt by email or mail.

How to send certified mail step #3. Send everything and keep the records

Hand in the mail form with all the necessary details and keep the receipts. Once the USPS system starts processing the mailing, you will be able to track its status online. When the mail is delivered, you will get notified.

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Mailing Vendors To Outsource Automated and Simple Certified Mail

Even though the United States Postal Service is a market regulator, it leaves a lot of space for third-party vendors. Such mailing providers offer services for certified letter outsourcing and tracking.

Direct mail automation is among the advanced third-party alternatives. Apart from easy mailing and tracking, it fully automates the mailing process. This means that the system will automatically obtain data from your customer database, print custom letters, and engage a local postal service to mail the documents. In this case, you can even substitute certified mail with cheaper mailing options since the software will keep track of all mailings anyway.

In particular, Inkit Send API makes no differences between direct mail types. It tailors every mail piece based on the recipient's details and delivers it within the shortest time. While the mail is on its way, you can check the progress. Most importantly, Send records every delivery in the system, which serves as reliable proof that the communication has reached the right hands and facilitates compliance.

mail letter

How Much Does It Cost to Send Certified Mail

Wonder how much does it cost to send certified mail? If you only pay for certified mail ($3.75), you won't get physical signature confirmation. The USPS will just record the shipment or a delivery attempt in its system. If you want to obtain proof of delivery or some other benefits, consider using additional certified mailing opportunities. They allow you to choose between an electronic and offline confirmation receipt and other adds-on.

Basic Certified Mail $3.75
Mail Return Receipt Service $3.05
Email Return Receipt Service (PDF) $1.85
Electronic Delivery Confirmation Receipt $0.85
Certificate of Mailing $1.65


Note. The certified mail service is a fee charged in addition to first-class mail and priority mail delivery. First-class mail is suitable for packages that weigh up to 13 ounces, whereas priority mail is preferable for quick delivery (2-3 business days).

Hints and Tips on Regular and Automated Certified Letter Tracking

Depending on the type of mailing vendor, you basically have three certified letter tracking options. The first one is controlling mail with the help of the USPS tracking number entered on the official USPS website. Choose this certified letter tracking method for one-time and rare mailers you don't plan to regularly repeat.

The second and third approaches are widely used among businesses, financial organizations, and other large-scope mailers that cannot handle mail manually. If you are one of them, you can either subscribe to independent online tools for certified letter tracking or use full automation through API integration.

As a mail automation provider, Inkit is a great alternative to traditional certified letter tracking. The Render tool automatically renders and stores all bills, statements, and other documents as PDF files for record-keeping and regulatory compliance. You can also arrange and track automated mail delivery with Send to make sure the mailpieces reach the recipients. Since all the processes happen automatically, you won't have to arrange certified letter tracking separately. Just open the dashboard whenever you need to pull the data.

Want to enjoy the benefits of certified mail without extra charges and mailing challenges?

Automate your mailings with Inkit API now.

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