Definitions of Certified Mail and Registered Mail

by Contributing Writer - Updated September 26, 2017
There are several ways to send a letter.

When you have a letter that requires more than just a stamp, there are several ways you can send it. Two of these methods are certified mail and registered mail. Both methods offer extra protection to make sure your letter arrives how you would like it to arrive. There are significant differences, though, between the two services.


Use certified mail when you want to be certain that your letter or package arrives at its destination. Use registered mail when you are sending valuable or irreplaceable items.


Certified mail service guarantees arrival of your letter or package by the post office. It generates a unique article number and provides verification of signature upon delivery. You can check the status of the delivery online and a record is kept by the post office.

Registered mail guarantees extra secure mail service and insures your letter or package up to $25,000 against loss or damage. The service allows you to check online to see the date and time of delivery or if there are multiple delivery attempts.

For an additional fee on either service, you can get a "return receipt," which is a copy of the signature record. You can also add a "restricted delivery" service if you only want a specific person to receive the mail.

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The main benefit of certified mail is you don't have to worry that an article will be lost or that the intended recipient will claim that he never received it. You can also track it online as it nears its destination. You can also send certified mail from your desktop using the U.S. Postal Service's Click2Mail service.

The main benefit of registered mail is you can send valuable things through the mail and have the peace of mind that comes with an insurance policy.

Time Frame

Both certified and registered mail can be sent via either first-class mail or priority mail. Delivery time for both types averages two to three days. If you want to get your letter or package there faster, you should send it via "express mail" and add either insurance or a return receipt.


When you send your article via certified or registered mail, the post office will give you a small receipt with a tracking number. On the article itself, the post office will attach a similar postage receipt that is stamped, dated and shows the same tracking number. The stamped receipt will state that it is either certified or registered.

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