The United States Postal Service handled 129.2 billion pieces of mail last year, of which 52.6 billion pieces were First Class.
With that staggering number in mind, it’s a wonder the organization runs as efficiently as it does, every single day. Still, many people like having the assurance of tracking with their mail.
You might be wondering: Does USPS First Class have tracking? Here’s what you need to know.
Does USPS First Class Have Tracking In 2023?
USPS First Class mail does come with tracking options that are available at no extra charge for First Class Package Retail and Commercial packages. However, First Class mail postcards, letters and flats are not eligible for tracking. Alternatively, Customers can add on additional services that offer some degree of tracking information.
To learn more about what First Class mail is automatically tracked, how much it costs to add tracking, and what kind of add-on services there are for First Class mail, keep reading below!
Is USPS First Class Mail Automatically Tracked?
USPS First Class mail is automatically tracked if the item shipped is a First Class Package.
First Class mail is what we think of as “regular” mail; it consists of three types: Letters, Flats (large envelopes) and Packages (or parcels).
Unfortunately, only the packages come with free tracking automatically applied when shipped First Class.
Letters and Flats can be tracked to a certain degree, but it is not to the same degree as actual tracking on a Package, and it costs extra to add on the service (see more below).
How Much Does It Cost To Add Tracking To First Class?
If you’re mailing a package First Class, the tracking is free!
Put more accurately, the cost is included in the price to ship.
Simply bring your package into the post office and let them know you’d like to ship it First Class. They’ll weigh it, and you’ll pay by the ounce.
Typically, pricing starts at $4 for 1-4 ounces of weight, then grows from there, up to 13 ounces max.
(You can find a good chart showing shipping prices here. Scroll down to First-Class Package Service – Retail, Retail Parcels.)
Per the USPS website, if you are mailing a large envelope and it exceeds the weight limit, it will get bumped up to parcel shipping.
While that does cost more, it also means that what you’re sending comes with free tracking.
How Do You Add Tracking To First Class Mail?
To add tracking to a First Class parcel or package, you can bring it into the post office or print a shipping label at home.
However, if you are printing the label at home, there are only a few different sites that have partnered with USPS and will allow you to do so.
In The Post Office
In the post office, go up to the front desk and say that you’d like to send the box via First Class.
(Otherwise, they will likely give you all your options for mailing it, along with prices.)
The postal worker will then weigh your parcel. Remember that items weighing 1 to 4 ounces start at $4, and then the price goes up incrementally from there.
If your item is more than 13 ounces, you won’t be able to ship it First Class; it will get bumped to a different USPS mailing service, like Priority or Priority Express.
(While these options are more expensive, they also come with tracking and delivery guarantees.)
The postal worker will print a label, you’ll pay and then you will leave with a receipt.
The receipt will contain your tracking information for the parcel. You can give that number to the recipient so that they also can track the item.
If you want to print a First Class parcel label at home, you have to be signed up with an approved vendor, such as eBay or PayPal, or an online mailing service like SendPro.
If you’re using a site like eBay or PayPal, they give you the convenience of creating and printing First Class shipping labels right on the site (but only if you’re approved to do so).
Whatever site you are using, you will receive an online receipt after you have paid and completed the process.
For First Class parcels, you will receive a tracking number with your online receipt in your transaction records, and likely in the confirmation email for your transaction.
That is what you will use to track the parcel, and what you can give your recipient so that they can follow the item on its journey as well.
Does this make you realize that you have probably purchased things online and tracked them with First Class tracking, without even realizing it?
How Do You Track A First Class Letter?
You cannot track a First Class letter the same way you can track a parcel, but USPS does offer add-on services that give the sender assurance that an item was received.
You won’t know where an item is on its journey, but you can have more assurance that it was delivered – sometimes right into the recipient’s hands.
The first option is Certified Mail.
Certified Mail is sent with a special green form attached to the envelope. It costs $3.75 currently.
With Certified Mail, the recipient signs the form, and that gets returned to the sender as confirmation that the mailpiece was received.
It also confirms the date the item was sent and the date it was received, making it especially useful for legal matters.
Another tracking-adjacent service for First Class letters or flat envelopes is Signature Confirmation.
This service can be purchased online or in post offices, and it gives sent mail an extra layer of security by ensuring, via signature, that the recipient received the item.
In fact, they have to present a valid ID to prove that they are the intended recipient.
USPS has a delivery record with the signature, and they can send it to you via email, fax or even through the mail.
This costs $3.45 in a post office, and only $2.90 when purchased online.
Unfortunately, these add-ons are more for the sender’s peace of mind, and do not benefit the recipient.
However, you can instruct your recipient to sign up for Informed Delivery. This is a free service from USPS where you sign up for an account and can view the incoming mail for the day.
You can either check online or have emails sent out daily.
It’s not tracking, but it’s a helpful way to get a head’s up on what’s coming your way.
To find out more about USPS delivery and tracking services, you might also be interested in reading up on whether or not USPS sends text messages, if USPS uses Apple Pay, and if USPS delivers to door.
USPS does offer tracking on First Class mail, but only on their small parcels, up to 13 ounces.
Letters and flat envelopes do not come with tracking and cannot be tracked (unless the shipping is upgraded, for a fee, to Priority or Priority Express).
However, USPS offers a number of add-on services that can assure the sender that the item made it into the recipient’s hands.