How to Track a Letter in the Mail

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The United States Postal Service (USPS) offers a tracking service that allows people to get updates on their mail as it travels through the system to its final destination. With a tracking number, a customer can see whether the mail is still in transit, out for delivery or has been delivered. Customers can also see if there was an attempted delivery; if there have been several unsuccessful attempts; or if the mail has been returned to the sender. Other postal carriers, such as FedEx and UPS, have their own tracking systems.

Getting USPS Tracking on Mail

USPS' tracking service is automatically included at no extra cost when certain mail services, such as priority mail and certified mail, are chosen. Customers sending these types of mail simply have to pay for the service's specified postage, whether online or at the post office, in order to get a tracking number in return. Customers sending first-class mail need to purchase an extra service, such as return receipt, in order to get tracking numbers. Post office employees can advise customers on which mail service to select in order to get tracking.

Finding the USPS Tracking Number

A mailing's tracking number can be found on the post office's shipping or sales receipt; the email confirmation if the mail was shipped from USPS.com; the shipping confirmation email from the online retailer if an online retailer was used; and the bottom peel-off portion of the USPS tracking label.

What the tracking number looks like depends on the type of service that was used to send the mail. First-class mail, priority mail and certified mail have tracking numbers that consist of 20 to 22 numbers. Tracking numbers for mail sent via collect on delivery service with the hold-for-pickup option added, registered mail and signature confirmation also follow this format.

Tracking numbers for mail sent with global express guaranteed service consist of 10 numbers. Mail sent using USPS' international services, priority mail express international and priority mail international, have 13-digit tracking numbers consisting of both letters and numbers. Tracking numbers for mail sent with priority mail express service can be either 20 to 22 numbers or, similar to priority mail express international and priority mail international, be 13 digits long and consist of both letters and numbers.

Tracking USPS Mail Online and by Phone

For both domestic and international mail, people can enter tracking numbers on USPS' website, www.usps.com, to get updates. Up to 35 tracking numbers can be entered in the search box at the same time so long as they are separated by commas. Customers can also look up tracking information on the USPS mobile app. The app is available for both iPhone and Android operating systems.

Those without internet access can call 800-222-1811 to get updates. Customer service representatives are available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. EST and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST. Automated information is available 24 hours/seven days per week.

Read More: How to Track a Piece of Mail

USPS Text Tracking

Customers can also get tracking information by text message via USPS' text tracking service. Most major wireless carriers participate in the service. Upon first using USPS' text tracking, customers are asked to opt-in to the service, meaning they agree to pay for any message and data charges from their wireless carrier.

Customers who want this service must send a text to 28777 (2USPS) with their mail's tracking number as the message's content. In response, USPS will send a text back that includes: the sender (USPS); the mail's tracking number; the status of the mail (whether it's in transit, delivered or if a notice was left); the date, time and location of delivery or attempted delivery; and instructions on how to stop receiving further messages. For example, the customer may receive in return a text that looks like this: USPS 01123456789123456789, expected delivery by: Monday, September 11, 2017 Reply STOP to cancel.

If USPS cannot provide an update for whatever reason, the customer will still get a text message back stating that the request was received. For example, the customer may get a text looking like this: USPS Text Tracking: Alert update has been applied to 01123456789123456789.

Tracking With Other Carriers

Other carriers, such as UPS and FedEx, have their own tracking systems. Both UPS and FedEx assign a tracking number to every package sent using its service. As with USPS, both UPS and FedEx allow customers to look up tracking information online on their websites, via mobile apps or by calling customer service numbers.