How to Choose the Best Way of Mailing Important Documents via the USPS

Shipping Documents via the USPS Using regular mail to send important documents is always a bit of a gamble, but there are ways to reduce the risk of your documents getting lost or damaged. You just need to choose the right shipping method and look into additional services that are designed to protect sensitive, expensive, and/or irreplaceable shipments. Let us offer a few tips for mailing important documents via the United States Postal Service (USPS).

Although First-Class Mail service is usually considered the go-to mailing service for shipping large envelopes weighing up to 13 oz within the United States due to its affordable prices, it’s not the best solution for quick shipping of important documents for a few reasons.

First, First-Class Mail shipments take 1 to 5 business days to arrive, which may be not the ideal speed when you’re shipping time-sensitive documents. Second, it does not include tracking or insurance unless you buy additional services. Third, this service can be used to ship only soft envelopes of a certain size and shape. Oversized, non-rectangular, and/or rigid (unbendable) large envelopes are treated as packages, shipped via USPS Ground Advantage, and charged accordingly.

Thus, if you don’t want your important documents to take too long to arrive, First-Class Mail is probably not the best choice. However, if you can wait and are intent on choosing it due to its affordability, you should pay a little extra for add-on services that will help to keep your documents safe. Your best option is Certified Mail; this service will provide you with a mailing receipt with a tracking number, and electronic verification of delivery or a delivery attempt.

If it is crucial that your documents are delivered only to the addressee or their authorized agent, you can combine Certified Mail with Restricted Delivery. Keep in mind that neither Certified Mail nor Restricted Delivery includes automatic insurance, so if you need your documents to be insured, you will have to purchase insurance in addition to paying for Certified Mail and/or Restricted Delivery.

Priority Mail is a better way to mail important documents domestically because it is faster (estimated delivery time is 1–3 business days), as well as includes tracking and insurance (up to $100 coverage included in shipping price; extra insurance coverage up to $5,000 can be purchased additionally).

To keep a peace of mind, you can pay a little extra for Signature Confirmation; this service requires that the recipient be present to sign for the documents. You can also purchase Certified Mail as an add-on to Priority Mail for proof of mailing and delivery.

If your documents are not time-sensitive, Priority Mail is a great combination of speed, affordability, and reliability. But what if you cannot afford to wait? In this case, you should opt for Priority Mail Express. Just like Priority Mail, it includes tracking and insurance, but your documents will arrive the next day or in two days. Although Priority Mail Express is not cheap, it is the best way to mail urgent documents via the USPS.

And what about mailing documents internationally? If you want to mail them via the USPS, you have several options: First-Class Mail International (for documents weighing under 1 lb), Priority Mail International, Priority Mail Express International and Global Express Guaranteed. First-Class Mail International has similar drawbacks to its domestic counterpart: delivery time is not specified and varies by destination, and tracking and insurance are not available.

If you want to save money and are willing to wait, you can combine First-Class Mail International with Registered Mail International. Registered Mail International is a service similar to Certified Mail (which is unavailable for international shipments) that provides proof of shipping and delivery (a mailing receipt and tracking), as well as additional security and protection. Like Certified Mail, this service is provided for an extra fee; due to higher security, it is more expensive.

However, First-Class Mail International is not an option for urgent shipments. When shipping time-sensitive documents internationally, you should choose from Priority Mail International, Priority Mail Express International, and Global Express Guaranteed. All three services include tracking and up to $100 insurance (with the opportunity to purchase additional coverage). Note that these three mail types are not eligible for Registered Mail International.

The main difference between them is delivery time: 6–10 business days for Priority Mail International, 3–5 business days for Priority Mail Express International, and 1–3 business days for Global Express Guaranteed. Choose Priority Mail International if you’re not in a hurry but still want your documents to arrive within a set time frame, Priority Mail Express International if you need your documents to arrive within a week, and Global Express Guaranteed if you need your documents to arrive in a few days.

Shipping cost will depend on delivery time: Global Express Guaranteed is the most expensive service, whereas Priority Mail International is the most affordable one. Priority Mail International and Priority Mail Express International have flat rate pricing; a flat rate envelope with documents can weigh up to 4 lbs.