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We may live in the digital age, but sometimes postal mail is a necessary part of running a business. There are some documents, like contracts, payments or legal papers, that you can’t send via email. This is where Certified Mail comes in – but how do you choose between Certified Mail vs. return receipt requested? Can you even send Certified Mail without a return receipt in the first place? What’s the difference between Certified Mail and Registered Mail?
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
Certified Mail can be sent without a return receipt, but adding the return receipt offers extra protection.
What Is Certified Mail?
Certified Mail is an add-on option that often requires a handwritten form, though a number of services make it easy to print out Certified Mail documents. You can also send Certified Mail without a return receipt or with it – it isn’t always necessary.
All certified mail does come with a tracking number that’s scanned along its journey. You can use this number to see if your mail was delivered, if any delivery attempts were made or if it’s still in transit.
Why Use Certified Mail?
Certified Mail is commonly used to help assure that legal documents – especially time-sensitive legal documents – are mailed by their specific deadline. Small business owners commonly use the service to send tax returns on or around the April 15 deadline because the form acts as legal evidence that you didn't hand things in late, even if the IRS happens to receive your papers days later.
Certified Mail is also a popular way to mail legal notices because there is proof that the recipient actually received your warning. Want to send a cease and desist to someone infringing on your copyright? Certified Mail is the proof you need before you can send the situation to court.
Certified Mail With Return Receipt
Since all Certified Mail comes with proof of delivery, whether you use regular Certified Mail vs. return receipt requested is wholly up to you. Sometimes, a document requires the return receipt, or sometimes, you might want the extra assurance, especially if you’re mailing a legal document.
Return receipts are an add-on service at a minimal extra cost. You mail your piece via regular Certified Mail and then get an extra green card to attach to your package or letter. This card is signed by the recipient upon delivery and is mailed back to you as proof that the package was received.
Two Types Of Return Receipt Requested
If your Certified Mail must be sent with a return receipt requested, you can choose from two different types of return receipts: a physical return receipt or an electronic return receipt. The physical receipt is the signed green card that’s mailed back to your address after a package is delivered. For electronic return receipts, the recipient signs electronically with the mail carrier, and it’s logged in the USPS database. You can go to the USPS track and confirm page to have the receipt emailed to you.
Electronic return receipts are less expensive and obviously more instant than a physical receipt, but they’re not always admissible in court. They’re certainly better than Certified Mail without a return receipt, but not every jurisdiction accepts electronic proof. Check with your local government before deciding on which option is the best for your business.
What’s the Difference Between Certified Mail and Registered Mail?
Regardless of whether or not you have a return receipt, you might want to ditch Certified Mail altogether for Registered Mail. What's the difference between Certified Mail and Registered Mail? The security.
Registered Mail allows for up to $25,000 of insurance and it's tracked every single step of the way, not just when it's out for delivery. It's a much safer way to mail valuable items.
Mariel Loveland is a small business owner, content strategist and writer from New Jersey. Throughout her career, she's worked with numerous startups creating content to help small business owners bridge the gap between technology and sales. Her work has been featured in publications like Business Insider and Vice.