What Is the Difference Between Certified Mail and Registered Mail?

Certified Mail vs Registered Mail When you print shipping labels online, you need to be aware of additional services offered by postal and courier companies because they can make your life so much easier! For example, most carriers offer a service which provides the sender with a proof that their shipment was mailed and delivered (or that a delivery attempt was made). In fact, the USPS offers two services of such kind: Registered Mail and Certified Mail. What is the difference between the two and which one should you choose when you need proof of delivery?

In the most general sense of the term, registered mail is a mail service which allows the sender to get proof of mailing and delivery. However, the United States Postal Services makes a distinction between two registered mail services called Registered Mail and Certified Mail. Although some people use the terms “registered mail” and “certified mail” interchangeably, there are differences between the two.

The USPS originally introduced registered mail (in the general sense) in 1855. To provide the sender with proof of delivery, a piece of mail was accompanied by a “green card” to be signed by the recipient and then returned to the sender. The introduction of registered mail paved the way to for new additional services such as Postal Money Order Service and Collect on Delivery.

In 1955, exactly a hundred years after the introduction of registered mail, the USPS introduced Certified Mail. But why introduce a similar service to one you already offer? While Certified Mail and Registered Mail are similar in that both services provide proof of mailing and delivery or delivery attempt, there are a number of differences between them.

Certified Mail is the most basic version of registered mail, or, in other words, the modern equivalent of the original registered mail). It provides the sender with a mailing receipt, a tracking number, and electronic verification of delivery or delivery attempt. A record of delivery is stored at the delivery Post Office for two years from the mailing date.

Registered Mail provides the services of Certified Mail (proof of mailing and delivery) and offers additional protection for high-value and/or irreplaceable items. Additional security features include protection by safes, cages, sealed containers, locks, and keys, as well as extra insurance, location updates every step of the shipping process, and verifiable chain of custody.

Registered Mail is considered so secure that it can be used to deliver classified materials (up to the second-highest level of classification, Secret) and extremely expensive items. For example, in 1958 the famous Hope Diamond was sent to the Smithsonian National Museum of National History through Registered Mail. It was insured for $1 million and mailed at a cost of $145.29.

Both services come at a fee, but Registered Mail is understandably more expensive than Certified Mail. Registered Mail is also slower than Certified Mail because it has to be handled in a special way and processed manually, whereas Certified Mail shipments are processed automatically.

Certified Mail and Registered Mail are available for First-Class Mail, USPS Ground Advantage, and Priority Mail items. However, Certified Mail is restricted to domestic shipments (including military mail), while Registered Mail is available for international shipments.

Certified Mail can be combined with three other services: Restricted Delivery (direct delivery only to the addressee or their authorized agent), Adult Signature Required (direct delivery only to someone aged 21 or older), and Adult Signature Restricted Delivery (the combination of the above two services). The third service is available to commercial senders only. Registered Mail can be combined with Restricted Delivery.

So, which one of the two services should you choose? This depends on your situation. If you simply need to mail items that require proof of delivery, such as legal documents, you can make do with Certified Mail. However, if the items you’re mailing are expensive or cannot be replaced if something happens to them, you should choose Registered Mail. Delivery will be slower and more expensive, but it’s not a big price to pay for added security and your peace of mind.