In the old days, we dropped off our important letters and precious packages at the post office and crossed our fingers that they’d arrive at their destinations promptly. Thanks to end-to-end tracking, we don’t have to rely on luck.
That’s all well and good, but you might be wondering how long your tracking number is valid. If you want to find out, then read on!
Do USPS Tracking Numbers Expire?
USPS tracking numbers do expire after a specified period. This period depends on the type of mail service used. Tracking numbers for Priority Mail and First-Class Mail have the shortest lifespan (120 days). Adult Signature Restricted Delivery Mail and Adult Signature Required tracking numbers last up to 2 years.
Keep reading to learn more about USPS tracking numbers’ lifespan.
How Long Does a USPS Tracking Number Stay Active?
USPS maintains tracking number records in its internal database for a specified period.
Usually, this period is enough for customers to verify that their package was delivered safely.
Usually, throwing an old tracking number away is no big deal, but what if your package gets rerouted or lost in transit? This situation makes people wonder how long their tracking number will stay valid.
Tracking numbers for First-Class and Priority Mail stay active for 120 days. For letters or packages sent with signature confirmation service, USPS maintains records for tracking and delivery confirmation for up to 1 year.
Certified Mail, Numbered International Mail, Priority Mail Express, and Registered Mail tracking numbers stay active for up to 2 years.
Adult Signature Restricted Delivery Mail or Adult Signature Required tracking numbers also last up to 2 years.
Does USPS Reuse Old Tracking Numbers?
Because USPS tracking numbers expire after months or years, it stands to reason that they reuse old tracking numbers.
In most cases, USPS will reuse a tracking number after about a year following its last use.
It’s not always clear that you have a recycled tracking number. USPS’ system is designed so that customers checking tracking numbers will only see the latest package updates.
However, sometimes there are glitches. You’ll know that’s the case if you enter your tracking number and see that your package was delivered months ago to an address that doesn’t belong to you.
If that’s the case, wait a few more days. Usually, the tracking number will get updated once the package is scanned in another location.
What Happens If Your USPS Tracking Number Expires?
Seeing an “expired” status when you check your USPS tracking number could mean a few things.
First, it could mean the seller created a mailing label but never sent the package. Contact the seller for more information if you suspect that’s the case.
An “expired” status may also appear if there haven’t been any new updates on your package for one month. This also happens if your parcel hasn’t been delivered in over two months.
If that’s the case, contact the post office where you sent the package. They can advise you on the following steps to take.
Can I Request an Old USPS Tracking Number?
As mentioned above, USPS keeps records of tracking numbers for a finite period. If you’re having trouble tracking or locating your package within that time frame, USPS may be able to help you.
If your package has been missing for longer than the specified periods, USPS will most likely not be able to pull up an old tracking number. Moreover, they may have already recycled the tracking number for a new package.
Because USPS does not keep indefinite tracking records, keeping tabs on when you send and receive packages is essential. This will help you better resolve tracking issues.
How Do I Find an Old USPS Tracking Number?
If you believe you have lost or misplaced a tracking number, there are a few things you can do to try to find it.
If you’re the sender, check for the tracking number on:
- Your mailing receipt
- Your sales receipt
- Your email confirmation if you purchased shipping from usps.com
- Your online label record if you purchased postage online (e.g., through Click-N-Ship®, eBay, or another service)
- Below is the barcode placed on the mailed item
- Self-service kiosk eReceipt
- On the online dashboard, if you’re an Informed Delivery subscriber.
If you’re the recipient, ask the sender for the tracking number or check your online dashboard if you’re an Informed Delivery subscriber.
If you’re still unable to find your tracking number, unfortunately, there’s not much else you can do unless you send your item with Priority Mail Express.
Local post offices can look up tracking information for Priority Mail Express items, but they don’t have access to tracking information for items mailed with other services.
Do USPS Shipping Labels Expire?
While USPS maintains tracking number records for months or years, shipping labels have a shorter shelf life. USPS policy states that shipping labels “expire” 28 days after purchase.
Day 28 is the official cutoff date, but this is more theory than practice. In many cases, USPS will give you 2 to 3 extra days to mail using your label.
That being said, each post office can enforce shipping label expiration dates as they see fit.
Some locations may accept labels weeks after purchase, while others will reject a label just one day over the 28-day limit.