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The Difference Between Registered and Certified Mail

After 20 years in the mail delivery business we often get asked, “What’s the difference between Certified and Registered mail services provided by the USPS?” As an owner of a small business or healthcare practice it’s critical to understand the different mailing services offered by the United States Postal Service. In this video we will cover the major differences between Certified Mail and Registered Mail USPS services. From a high-level view, the primary differences between Certified Mail and Registered Mail involve mail handling and the level of security used to protect mail from loss, damage or theft. But let’s take a deeper dive into these two services.

Certified Mail

Small business owners can purchase Certified Mail service for First-Class Mail, First-Class Package Service or Priority Mail. This service includes a mailing receipt with a required signature on file as proof of delivery for two years from the date of mailing. Certified Mail allows one to receive a copy of the signature, or equivalent signature stamp, by purchasing Return Receipt service when the mail is sent. However, if the Return Receipt service is not purchased, request delivery proof by purchasing Return Receipt After Mailing, also known as Duplicate Return Receipt service, can be purchased for up to two years.

From a tracking and delivery standpoint, electronic delivery confirmation is available on the USPS Track & Confirm website. Certified Mail utilizes a 20 digit ID number provided on the mail receipt. Certified Mail service travels at the same rate as normal first class mail and can take up to five business days to reach its destination. If Certified Mail doesn’t reach its destination, additional information can be requested by contacting the USPS directly at 800-222-1811.

Certified mail is commonly utilized for time sensitive communications with debtors or creditors, bank documents, tax returns, healthcare records, personal identity records, and important compliance related documents.

Registered Mail

As with Certified Mail, the Registered Mail service can be purchased for First-Class Mail, First-Class Package Service or Priority Mail, and a mail receipt is provided at the time of sending. Also, the recipient must sign to receive the mail,and if proof of delivery is required, Return Receipt service or Return Receipt After Mailing is available for purchase. Unlike Certified Mail, Registered Mail offers another level of security, protection, and care. This includes locked cages, safes or sealed containers, and a chain of custody with electronic or physical insurance coverage up to $25,000 based on the value of the item mailed.

Tracking and delivery for Registered Mail is more intricate than with Certified Mail. The receipt number for Registered Mail is alphanumeric and 13 characters long. Mail sent via Registered Mail can take up to 15 days to reach its destination, 21 days with insurance. Registered Mail also has an option to Collect on Delivery which can take upwards of 45 days. If Registered Mail doesn’t reach its destination a request for investigation or claim can be submitted to using Form 1000, Domestic or International Claim, to the USPS.

Registered mail may be used to send classified material up to the second-highest clearance or Secret classified level. Information is classified Secret when its unauthorized disclosure would cause "serious damage" to national security. Most information that is classified is held at the secret sensitivity.

It’s important that owners of small-businesses and medical practices understand the differences between Registered and Certified mail. On the surface they may seem similar, but in reality both services are distinct from each other.

For more information on Registered or Certified Mail Management, delivery, and tracking contact us by clicking here.