When in 1955, certified mail was launched 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 important legal and business functions. Around 200 million certified mail pieces are sent every year across the US.
What makes it so popular? By sending a letter via certified mail, individuals get official proof of delivery and, hence, certainty. They can be sure that the recipient has received the notification and won’t have any related claims.
Besides, certified mail offers a great price-quality ratio and convenient certified letter tracking. You can organize mailing single-handedly through the United States Postal Service or even fully automate the process with software. Keep reading to understand which option works for you and find out more about:
- What is certified mail? How does it differ from regular and registered mail?
- Who uses certified mail and for what cases?
- How to send certified mail: Mail envelope format, pricing, and mailing vendors
- Hints and tips on regular and automated certified letter tracking
What is Certified Mail? How Does It Differ from Regular and Registered 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 2 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.
Certified mail vs regular mail
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 the regular one, having proof of delivery frequently pays off.
Certified mail vs registered mail
Since the certified mail service evolved from registered mail, many people don’t differentiate between them. In both cases, a sender receives a mailing receipt and can separately request a delivery confirmation (green card). The key difference is that unlike certified mailings, registered mail is recorded at every stage of the delivery cycle, not only upon the delivery. In addition, registered documents are processed separately and more slowly, whereas certified mail is handled as ordinary mail.
Who Uses Certified Mail and When?
56% of Americans have sent certified mail at least at some point in their lives, and 87% are aware of its features. Even though such mail services are widely used by businesses, many individuals also send certified mail for personal goals. Here are the most common cases when people and organizations prefer the certified mail envelope format over other alternatives:
- Bank documents
- Tax returns
- Healthcare communications
- Documents important for regulatory compliance
- Time-sensitive communications
- Personal identity records
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.
Note that to choose the right mail envelope format and to avoid being overcharged for certified letter tracking, you need to follow some mailing rules. More about them below.
How to Send Certified Mail: Mail Envelope Format, Pricing, and Mailing Vendors
Let’s start with the basics. 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, which is 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, follow a sequence of simple steps to send certified mail.
- Addressing an envelope, remember about address formatting and 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 street address of the recipient with an apartment or suite number and the return address.
- Choose the type of delivery and mail add-ons. If you only pay for certified mail ($3.55), 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 one of the additional certified mailing opportunities.
Basic Certified Mail$3.55Mail Return Receipt Service$2.85Email Return Receipt Service (PDF)$1.70Return Receipt for Merchandise and Special Handling$4.30Certificate of Mailing$1.50
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).
- Hand in the selected mail forms 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.
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 mail outsourcing and certified letter tracking. This may be a great option if you want to reduce your role in manual chores and receive advanced tracking opportunities.
Direct mail automation is another alternative. Apart from easy mailing and tracking, you can fully automate the mailing process. This means that the system will automatically obtain data from your customer database, web 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.
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.
As a mail automation provider, Inkit is a great alternative to traditional certified letter tracking. The tool automatically renders and stores all bills, statements, and other documents as PDF files for record-keeping and regulatory compliance. You can also track mail delivery within the dashboard to make sure the mailpieces reached 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 now.