What Is Certified Mail?

by Shelley Moore - Updated September 26, 2017

Certified mail is a service provided by the United States Postal Service in which the sender of an envelope or package receives a proof of delivery postcard after the item has been delivered, signed by the recipient. The postcard includes the date and time. The sender then knows the item has been received by the addressee.

Tracking

The USPS maintains a record of certified mail delivery, which the sender can track through the USPS website using a unique code.

Considerations

The certified mail service can only be used with first class or priority mail. As of 2009, certified mail cost $2.70.

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Delivery

If a carrier attempts to deliver certified mail when the addressee is not home, the carrier leaves a notification slip to pick up the item at the post office or to call the office for re-delivery.

Common Uses

Legal documents are commonly sent by certified mail, and the Internal Revenue Service uses certified mail to send overdue notices.

Certified Mail vs. Delivery Confirmation

The signature on certified mail confirms the item has been received by the addressee and not only delivered to the address, as denoted by the less expensive and more frequently-used USPS service called delivery confirmation.

About the Author

Shelley Moore is a journalist and award-winning short-story writer. She specializes in writing about personal development, health, careers and personal finance. Moore has been published in "Family Circle" magazine and the "Milwaukee Sentinel" newspaper, along with numerous other national and regional magazines, daily and weekly newspapers and corporate publications. She has a Bachelor of Science in psychology.

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