What Is a Certified Mail Receipt?

Helen Akers

A certified mail receipt provides a way for senders to verify that recipients received a mailed letter or document. Each piece of certified mail has a unique tracking number that is printed on the receipt. A receipt is filled out with the sender's name, the recipient's name and address, and the total postage fees. Once the recipient signs for the letter, the sender receives a copy of the signature and date of delivery.

With certified mail receipt, senders receive confirmation when a piece of mail is delivered.
With certified mail receipt, senders receive confirmation when a piece of mail is delivered.

Industries that deal with legal documents and notices, such as real estate, need to obtain proof that those documents and notices were received by their intended recipients. For example, a landlord needs proof that late rent and eviction notices were received in order to proceed with the next course of action. Lease language usually gives the tenant some sort of protection, such as three days' notice to pay back rent owed, before an eviction can take place. Since certified mail requires a signature in order to be delivered, it is a way to obtain written documentation that the tenant received the notice.

A receipt is filled out with the sender's name, the recipient's name and address, and the total postage fees.
A receipt is filled out with the sender's name, the recipient's name and address, and the total postage fees.

The United States Post Office delivers and distributes certified mail. A certified mail receipt can be obtained from any U.S. post office location or through the agency's online store. It does not cost anything to obtain certified mailing supplies, but it does cost extra postage fees to send certified mail.

Someone who sends Certified Mail will receive delivery confirmation.
Someone who sends Certified Mail will receive delivery confirmation.

Filling out a certified mail receipt is fairly simple. The receipt is attached to the side of the mailing envelope, with the certified barcode and tracking number remaining on the mail piece. A perforated portion is filled out with the applicable postage fees and recipient's name and address. Green in color, a certified mail receipt contains the tracking number on both portions.

Return receipt labels can be attached to the back of the mailing envelope. This is what is returned to the sender once the recipient's signature is obtained. On the return receipt label will be the name of the sender and the name of the recipient. At the bottom is a place for the mail recipient to sign.

Proof of delivery is not the only benefit of a certified mail receipt. Senders can use the tracking number to see if the notice was delivered in case the return receipt gets lost in the mail or the sender does not want to pay for the return receipt service. Certified mail is somewhat equivalent to delivering a document through an official courier.

Certified mail receipts may require a signature to be collected by the courier.
Certified mail receipts may require a signature to be collected by the courier.

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Discussion Comments


When sending something certified, if the person receiving the mail is not home when it is delivered, how many times does the post office try to deliver it before it is returned to the sender?


Wouldn't this type of receipt only prove that "somebody" at the "designated address" signed for the docs. Not necessarily the actual person listed?


Certified mail return receipt requested sounds like a great way to protect yourself if you're a business owner. In the example the article gave, an eviction, you would have proof that you gave your tenant the proper notice.

I assume this same thing could be beneficial in a lot of other businesses too. For instance, if someone was really overdue in paying you, you could send them a bill by certified mail. It seems more official, and then there would be no way they could say they didn't receive it!


@JaneAir - Interesting. I had no idea that there was a specific procedure to follow if a doctors office wanted to drop a patient. But then again, why wouldn't there be?

I've never personally sent or received certified mail, but I'm looking into sending something using certified mail soon. I was wondering how to track certified mail, and the article make it seem pretty easy.

If you get a tracking number and a receipt once the person gets the letter, you will definitely know when the person gets your correspondence!


@seag47 - I'm glad your brothers girlfriend enjoyed being proposed to by USPS certified mail. I personally would not! I think that I will require an in-person proposal before I will agree to marry someone. I mean, if they don't have the guts to propose to me in person, they're probably not husband material!

Anyway, certified mail is useful for a lot of other (non-romantic) stuff. I actually took some medical assistant classes awhile ago, and I learned that doctors offices have to send certified mail sometimes!

If you want to discontinue treating a patient, you must give them 30 days notice by certified mail! If you don't notify them by certified mail, you can't drop them as a patient.


There have been debates in my family about how romantic this is, but my brother sent his girlfriend an engagement ring via certified mail. Some of us think this was totally dry and cold, but others say they would love to be proposed to in this way.

He was too nervous to propose in person, so he wrote a beautiful proposal and looped the paper through the ring. Luckily, his girlfriend melted at the sight and loved the gesture.

If it weren't for certified mail receipts, he would not have been able to propose in this way. I'm sure he would never send something as expensive and important as an engagement ring without being able to know with certainty that she received it.


If you are ever sending a big check through the mail, it is best to use certified mail. This is the only way you can have peace of mind that your check has gone to the correct recipient.

My dad once bought an expensive piece of equipment from a man he met online. He did not send the check through certified mail, so there was no receipt to serve as proof that he got it, but the check got cashed, and the man claimed he never got it.

There was no way for us to know if it really did fall into the wrong hands along the way or if the man was just dishonest. My dad was out all that money, and if he had just spent $5 on certified mail, this would not have happened.


@wavy58 – A business that I ordered a product from harassed me through certified mail for awhile. It was so annoying!

I made four payments on the item I ordered, but after I made the final payment, they kept insisting that I still owed the money. Even though I wrote them a certified letter in return and sent copies of the checks from me that they had cashed, they continued to act as though they had never received anything from me.

I had to call the president of the company to get the certified mail bills and threats to end. He apologized profusely, and I may never know why it happened. I'm just glad I have finally stopped receiving certified mail from this company.


After a rough breakup with my boyfriend, he started sending me certified mail. He wrote long love letters and desperate pleas for me to come back to him, and he wanted to be certain that I was receiving them.

I accepted the first two letters out of curiosity. I met with him in person and told him to stop writing me, and I made it very clear that our relationship was over.

He couldn't accept it, so he continued to send me certified letters. I just stopped signing for them, so I guess he finally got the point.

Has anyone else ever been pestered by someone through certified mail? It's kind of a tricky way to get the recipient interested in the letter.


There have been a few times in my life when I have been given notice that I have a piece of certified mail to sign for at the post office.

If I am not expecting this, it always makes me a little bit nervous seeing this green card in the mail. I am always curious enough to know what it is about so I drive to the post office as soon as I can.

I do know that you are not required to sign for and receive the certified mail. Just because the postal service as sent certified mail, doesn't mean someone has to receive it.

That is when the tracking service is also beneficial. If someone you send a certified mail receipt to does not accept it, I believe you can receive notification that it was refused.


I work in a real estate office, and we send certified mail with a return receipt many times during the course of a week.

Because it is so imperative we know that the correct documents are received by the right people, this is a service we rely on all the time.

It is just another way to ensure that we have done what is needed on our part to send proper documentation and meet the required deadlines.

I have no idea how much we spend a year on fees for sending certified mail. I am sure it has saved us much more in the end than the cost of sending the certified mail.


@andee - The last time I sent a certified letter through the United States postal service it cost me between $5.00 and $6.00 dollars. You would need to check with the postal service to get the current certified mail return receipt rates.

I wouldn't want to spend this every time I send an important letter, but there are certain situations when it is worth it.

It doesn't seem like too high of a price when you consider it an official courier service.

I didn't know you could also do this through the post office online. In the past when I needed to send something with certified mail postage, I would just walk in to any post office and they would take care of it for me.


How much does it cost to send a letter by certified mail? I have a document that I need to send to someone, and want to have proof they received this document.

I think sending a USPS certified mail receipt would be the best thing to do. This is something I have never used. It sounds like once I receive the certified mail return receipt, than I have proof that the person I sent the letter to actually received it and signed for it.

I assume if you never receive the signed receipt back in the mail, either they didn't receive it or refused to sign for it?

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