How to Track Certified Mail

Trust is important in business, but smart business owners often live by the old Russian proverb, "Trust, but verify." If your livelihood depends on a particular document you're sending in the mail, wouldn't you breathe easier if you knew for certain when the envelope reached its destination? The United States post office offers just such a service. With certified mail tracking, you can follow your letter or package online to see what stops it makes and when it's in the hands of the right person.

What Is Certified Mail?

The USPS offers a special service for tracking letters and packages known as Certified Mail. It follows your mail to its ultimate destination and provides proof of delivery into the right hands. Using special codes and electronic tracking technology, the USPS will inform you exactly when your mailing was delivered or when a delivery was attempted but failed. You can also opt for additional services such as Return Receipt which requires the recipient to sign for the mailing and will provide you with a copy of the signed receipt.

Why Use Certified Mail?

For most cases of average business mail, certified mail is an unneeded expense. The post office will deliver your regular mail as promised, almost every time. When certain circumstances arise, though, it's important that you get the extra protection that Certified Mail offers.

  • Dealing with billing disputes.
  • Writing about any legal matters.
  • Shipping expensive merchandise.
  • Delivering products to P.O. boxes.

Take Advantage of Certified Mail Tracking

If you want to send something via Certified Mail, you have two options. All packages and letters can go directly from any USPS office. Also, there are options for sending a certified letter online, using one of many different services.

If you'd like to go the traditional route, go to your local post office and get Certified Mail form 3800, which includes a sticker with a barcode and tracking number. This form allows you to track your mailing through the post office. Fill out the form completely, including the recipient's name and address. Remove the backing from the sticker and place it on the top of the package or envelope. Take the mailing to the post office, pay the appropriate fee and hand over your mailing.

If you're only sending a letter, you have the option of delivering it digitally. A quick Google search will show you a wide variety of Sign up for one of the many online businesses that offer Certified Mail delivery. Write your letter on your computer, print it out and sign it. Scan your letter and upload it to your mail service website. The service will send a printed copy to your recipient.

Using Certified Letter Tracking

No matter how you sent your Certified Mail, you'll always have a receipt that contains a long tracking number. Each tracking number is unique and will only be used once.

When you want to find out where your letter or package is, you have many options. You can use the USPS website or one of a long list of other mail services, all of which allow you to track your Certified Mail items. Go to your website of choice and navigate to the Certified Mail tracking page. Enter the exact tracking number into the designated box, making sure to get all the digits. Cutting and pasting are a better way to copy the number than trying to type it out.

Once you have input the correct tracking number, click on the button for tracking. You'll see a detailed listing of all the destinations your letter or package has visited. It's likely that the mailing will stop at multiple post offices before its final destination, and may take some seemingly illogical side trips, but you'll be able to track where it goes. When your letter or package has reached its destination, you'll be able to see it on the site.

If you need a bit of additional peace of mind, sign up for Informed Delivery on the USPS website. With this free service, you'll get an email or text message every time your package moves and a final message to verify that it's arrived at its destination.

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About the Author

Victoria Bailey has owned and operated businesses for 25 years, including an award-winning gourmet restaurant and a rare bookstore. She spent time as a corporate training manager in the third-largest restaurant chain in its niche, but her first love will always be small and independent businesses. Bailey has written for USAToday, Coldwell Banker, and various restaurant magazines, and is the ghostwriter for a nationally-known food safety training guru.