You’re in a quandary. You have a very important notarized document that absolutely, positively must reach its intended destination. And you want or need signed proof of delivery.

You can’t take the chance of your item getting lost in the mail. But private shippers like UPS and FedEx are expensive for such items. You don’t want (or can’t afford) to spend a fortune on overnight delivery.

After all, you’re a money-conscious consumer who watches the bottom line.

So, what are your options?

The good folks at the US Postal Service (USPS) offer two choices for your circumstances as described: either Registered or Certified Mail. For the type of document you need to send and get proof of delivery, use Certified Mail.

But why? Both provide secure tracking numbers for your shipment. How do you choose which is best, Registered or Certified Mail?

Read on to learn how to make the right decision.

What Is Certified Mail?

The USPS added Certified Mail to the Registered Mail system in 1955. The idea was to allow customers to send important mail at a lower cost than Registered Mail.

These days, Certified Mail is regularly used to securely send valuable documents like legal notices and tax returns.

In the past, using Certified Mail meant a trip to the post office to wait in line.

Now, you can print labels from your own computer at your convenience. No more waiting in line! View this blog for more information on Certified Mail labels.

Certified Mail Benefits

Certified Mail provides many benefits to you, the sender. You get a mailing receipt, which is proof that you sent your item at a certain date and time.

You get tracking en route to the final destination, via the unique number on the receipt. Just go online to and type in that number to get location info.

Certified Mail moves at the speed of First Class or Priority Mail, so there aren’t any artificial delays introduced.

Finally, you can get online or phone verification that the article was delivered (date and time) or that a delivery attempt was made.

The delivery record (signature proof) is not automatically mailed back to you unless you purchased Return Receipt Service when you sent the item.

  • Return Receipt can be in the form of a postcard mailed back to you or sent electronically
  • The receiving Post Office keeps a record of delivery (including recipient’s signature) for 2 years from the mailing date

You can’t insure Certified Mail the way Registered Mail can be. That’s because Registered Mail is transported under lock-and-key and manually logged into every intermittent stop along the way to its final destination. Certified Mail isn’t.

There are additional options available for delivery of Certified Mail that places restrictions on who can accept and sign for delivery of the item. Check with the USPS for additional info on restricted delivery.

What Is Registered Mail?

Registered Mail is the original form of secured mail offered by the USPS. Registered Mail offers the most security available if you’re sending a valuable or irreplaceable item.

Let’s say you’ve packaged up a treasured family heirloom you want to send to your sister in Poughkeepsie. You’d choose Registered Mail for extra security.

The weight of the article determines the price for Registered Mail. You can choose Registered Mail when you send an item by First-Class Mail, First-Class Package Service, or Priority Mail.

Registered Mail Benefits

Registered Mail includes up to $50,000 in insurance against loss or damage. It provides a record of the chain of custody as your article moves toward its destination. The article remains under lock-and-key at all times until delivery.

As with Certified, you get a mailing receipt (proof that you sent an item at a certain date and time).

If you buy a Return Receipt service, you’ll get electronic verification that an article was delivered (date and time) or that a delivery attempt was made. You also get a signature upon delivery (proof of delivery).

NOTE: Tracking is not provided as the item is en route to the final destination. So unlike Certified, you can’t go to and track movement of the article. The chain of custody receipts to monitor progress along the way are not readily accessible to the sender.

You have the ability to send securely to military locations worldwide (APO/FPO/DPO). In fact, the Defense Department uses Registered Mail often to send classified material to ships and shore installations overseas.

Registered Mail does NOT provide expedited delivery or guaranteed delivery time, regardless of class. Registered Mail normally takes 10-14 days to arrive, and delays result from manual logging in at intermittent Post Offices en route.

So, you should not choose Registered Mail if delivery speed is important.

You can specify a restricted delivery service. This means that only the addressee can sign for the delivery. Check with the USPS for more info.

So, is it Registered or Certified Mail?

We’ve seen that both Registered and Certified Mail offer the security you get from proof of mailing and proof of delivery, including signature by the recipient.

We’ve also seen that Certified Mail is perfect for sending the majority of important documents, legal papers, and other valuables where the sender can check tracking along the way and expected delivery time.

We’ve also noted that Certified Mail is quicker than Registered Mail, so if a faster pace of movement is more important to you than ultimate security, go with Certified.

We’ve determined that Registered Mail is the better choice when you need that extra measure of security for an extremely valuable or irreplaceable article, with insurance protection up to $50,000 and transportation of said article under lock-and-key.

It’s an added benefit that either of these methods is less expensive than private shippers like UPS and FedEx, which can provide proof of mailing and delivery as well as secure tracking – but at a higher price.

So, especially if you are running a business that tends to ship a lot of important documents or packages, it makes fiscal sense to use the USPS over private competitors.

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