What is a Mail Stop?

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  • Written By: David White
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 25 November 2018
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There are approximately 32 million Americans, or 14% of the adult population, who are functionally illiterate.  more...

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Under the category of those things that most people simply accept even though they don't know why they're there is the mail stop. This is a four-digit code that shows up after a ZIP code in a US postal address. That four-digit code designates a specific part of a mail delivery area.

A city might have a few ZIP codes to divide it into mail delivery areas. Those mail delivery areas are usually further subdivided into smaller areas, each with a mail stop. For example, the ZIP code of 33004 might have four mail stops: 33004-0001, 33004-0002, 33004-0003, and 33004-0004.

A college or university might have its own ZIP code, especially if the institution is within a city's boundaries. In this case, each department might be given its own mail stop. If the college's ZIP code is 66124 and the mail stop of the chancellor's office is 0100, then the full ZIP code of the chancellor's office would be 66124-0100.

In the case of a college or university or a large business that has its own ZIP code, the mail stop is a physical place as well as a set of numbers. The mail that is to be delivered to the chancellor's office in the above example will be delivered to stop 0100. In some cases, this is just the office; in other cases, it is the central sorting facility for something like a large college department. In this case, the location is literally where the mail stops.


This literal designation of the mail stop refers to the inner workings of a post office as well. The ZIP code 33004-0002 is labeled 0002 within the 33004 section of the post office sorting facility, and all the mail designated to be delivered to 33004-0002 "stops" there. The postal service will certainly deliver mail that does not list the last four numbers. Like the ZIP code, however, they help mail delivery folks sort and deliver mail more quickly and efficiently. Failure to include the mail stop in a ZIP code could delay delivery of mail.


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Post 9

And that the mail stop is the same as the PO Box number is very helpful when the post office requires you to have a PO box because you reside too close to make it worth their while to drive your mail to you. Too many times a shipper has required me to remove my PO Box because it isn't supported in their system, but then they send it via USPS anyway, and the folks at the PO flag it as an undeliverable address, give me a pink slip, call me back, tell me I need to put the PO on the address line 1, etc. At least including the 4-digit mail stop will help to make their life a little easier, anyway.

Post 8

I can see how adding the mail stop number makes it much easier to sort and deliver mail. This would help at the sorting stations for the post office as well as the mail room at large organizations.

Years ago I worked in a mail room before they used the mail stop numbers. This would be a better way to make sure the mail gets to the right place the first time.

Receiving a piece of mail without a ZIP code wasn't that frustrating for me, but I can see how it would be for someone who worked at the post office. It would really slow things up if someone had to manually look up the correct ZIP code for a location.

Post 7

If I have a mail stop number written down for easy access, I will use it, but I never go out of my way to find out what it is. Now that I understand how this helps mail be delivered more efficiently, I will probably make more of an effort to use it. I just figured it was something that pertained more to large places of business than it did for personal mail.

Post 6

I never really knew why they added the mail stop number, and never even knew what it was called. I just remember when they added 4 extra digits to the end of your zip code. I am sure everyone has their ZIP code memorized, but I wonder how many people know what their mail stop number is?

I have no idea what my mail stop number is without looking at a piece of mail. When it comes to sending out personal mail, this is something I rarely use and just go with the traditional ZIP code.

Post 5

@empanadas-- I have a P.O. Box and never realized the mail stop number on my mail was the same as my box number. I really never gave it much thought, but when you know the story behind it, you can see how it makes sense.

Post 4

thank you very much for that article. --Cleeon

Post 2

You will often find that a mail stop is the same as a P.O. Box number. For instance, if you're P.O. number is 5090, you will see your zip code like this: 75858-5090, which will indicated exactly which P.O. Box to drop it at on that mail stop.

Post 1

Interesting information. Never knew what it exactly meant, or that the four digit actually had a name.

I actually thought that mail stop and mail hold could be used interchangeably.

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