Think everyone uses email to correspond? It may surprise you to learn that the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) delivered 149.5 billion pieces of mail last year. That’s 47% of the world’s mail.

So why are people using email?

Despite the ease and speed of online communication, sometimes regular mail is better. An original business contract isn’t an original if it’s an email copy. You can’t send a family heirloom in an email.

Sometimes it makes sense to send a contract, legal notice, or an original document via snail mail. The USPS has secure Certified and Registered Mail for private and business customers.

Do you have important documents or merchandise to send to your clients? Then you should understand the differences between registered mail vs. certified mail. We take a look at the specifics of each service below.

Registered Mail

Registered Mail is the original USPS secured mail. If you’re sending a valuable or irreplaceable item, choose Registered Mail for extra security.

The weight of the package determines the price. Like we mentioned, Registered Mail also provides up to $50,000 in insurance against loss or damage.

You can choose Registered Mail when you send a mail piece by:

• First-Class Mail

• First-Class Package Service

• Priority Mail

You get a Registered Mail receipt when you first mail your item. The recipient must sign for it.

If you want proof of delivery you can buy a Return Receipt service or Return Receipt After Mailing. You’ll get electronic verification of delivery or a delivery attempt.

Another option is to specify a restricted delivery service. This means only the addressee can receive the mail.

Registered Mail adds a level of security and protection. Your mail stays in a locked cage, safe, or sealed container while it’s transported. Electronic and physical signatures at each USPS facility show the chain of custody, so you know where the piece is every step of the way.

Registered Mail uses specific packaging and sealing methods to keep mail safe and secure. When a Registered Mail piece isn’t in transit, it’s stored in a secure safe, cage, or room away from other mail.

Certified Mail

Certified Mail was added to the Registered Mail system in 1955. The USPS introduced it for people to send important mail for less than Registered Mail. Today it’s used to transport important documents like tax returns and legal notices.

Certified Mail promises USPS delivery of your letter or package. You receive a unique article number to prove the piece mailed which you can use to track the status of the delivery online. When the piece gets delivered, you’re notified of the time and date of delivery.

Certified Mail gives you proof of delivery. If someone claims they didn’t receive your package, you can prove it got delivered.

You can’t insure Certified Mail the way you can with Registered Mail. Certified Mail isn’t transported in a locked compartment the way Registered Mail is.

Benefits of Registered Mail vs. Certified Mail

There are many benefits to both Registered Mail and Certified Mail. Let’s look at the main reasons consumers and businesses use them.

Proof of Mailing

If the date you send a document is important, you want proof of mailing. In business, time-sensitive mailing is essential for many deals.

When you put a letter into a regular mailbox, there’s no way to show you sent it. If the letter gets lost, you can’t prove when and where you mailed it. You also won’t know when it reaches its destination.

Certified and Registered Mail provides this proof.

Location Tracking

Mail tracking is a great benefit. You can track the item on the USPS Track and Manage website. All you need is the identification number on your receipt.

The recipient will know when to expect delivery. You’ll know where the mail is in the system.

This isn’t exclusive to Registered and Certified Mail, however. You can add tracking to other types of mail, but you must pay more for it.

Proof of Delivery

A Return Receipt gives you confirmation that your letter or package got delivered. You can request a postcard receipt or electronic delivery of the receipt.

The receipt shows the recipient’s signature and the delivery date. When your item gets delivered, the postcard receipt gets mailed to you. If you choose electronic delivery of the receipt, you’ll get an emailed copy of it.

This is a valuable tool when you send or need documentation that a person took delivery of legal papers. If you send Certified Mail to a post office box, a notice goes inside the box. Then, like a hand delivery, the person must sign for the item before receiving it.

Like tracking services, you can buy proof of delivery for any kind of mail. It will cost more to add it to other kinds of mail but it’s included in Certified and Registered Mail.

Prioritized Delivery

Need to ship merchandise to a customer? Certified Mail delivers in the same timeframe as First Class or Priority Mail.

Yet, due to the security measures during transport and handling, Registered Mail travels slower the usual. If you need secure, but not fast delivery, use Registered Mail over Certified.

Electronic delivery confirmation for Certified Mail or Registered Mail is available online. Go to the USPS website and use the identification number from your receipt to track and confirm delivery.

If your mail doesn’t arrive at its destination, contact the USPS at 800-222-1811 or via their online claim department. The insurance on Registered Mail service means you can make a claim or request an investigation. You can submit a claim or ask for an investigation for both domestic or international mail.


The USPS keeps Certified Mail records for two years. That’s much longer than the four months they keep tracking numbers for other services.

Sometimes, delivery information is relevant months or years after the fact. Certified Mail guarantees you have proof of delivery when you need it. You can also access this information on the USPS website.

Labels Available On Demand

In the past, using Certified Mail was inconvenient. It meant an extra trip to the post office to wait in line.

Now, services are available online. You can print labels from your own computer at your convenience. View here for more information on Certified Mail labels.

Protection Against Loss or Theft

Everyone worries about lost or stolen mail. With 493.4 million pieces traveling through the USPS’ system, it happens.

But, Certified Mail protects your letter or package because there’s a record of everyone who handles it.

Because a signature is required, the letter or package isn’t left in a vulnerable mailbox. The item must go right to the recipient, giving an added layer of protection.

Less Expensive Than Private Shipping

It’s true that you get some of these benefits from private shipping services. But, it’s less expensive when you use the USPS. If you send a lot of important documents or packages, you don’t want to pay more for the same service.

The reasonable pricing makes shipping affordable for both startup entrepreneurs and established businesses.

Delivery Times

The U.S. Postal Service offers speedy delivery services, like Express and Priority Mail. But, Certified Mail and Registered Mail are about security, not exactly speed. Secure transportation, signatures, and return receipts simply take longer to process.

Registered Mail can take up to 10-14 days for delivery. The Collect on Delivery option available with Registered Mail can take up to 45 days.

As mentioned, Certified Mail travels at the same speed as First Class or Priority Mail. If no one is available to sign for mail at the first delivery attempt, the USPS leaves a notice for the recipient.

The undelivered Certified Mail stays at the local Post Office for the recipient to claim it for up to 15 business days. After that, it’s considered unclaimed and returned to the sender. It’s possible for a piece of Certified Mail to go several weeks without delivery.

Use Registered and Certified Mail for Valuables

So, when do you use registered mail vs. certified mail?

Certified Mail proves you sent it. It shows mail delivered or there was a delivery attempt.

Plus, you can get a copy of the recipient’s signature and a return receipt. There’s no question about the delivery.

Registered Mail does what Certified Mail can, plus it insures your valuables for up to $50,000. Treasures and vital documents will travel under lock and key and stay safe until they reach their destination.

Both options are great tools whether you mail documents or merchandise.

Want to combine convenience, savings, and guaranteed delivery? Choose Certified and Registered Mail for your business.

For more helpful tips, check out our business blog.