When you need to mail something in a hurry, the United States Postal Service offers a variety of fast shipping options.
But what if you need a letter or padded envelope to make it to the recipient faster than fast – like overnight? Then Priority Express is the option for you.
But how long does overnight shipping take USPS in reality? Is that just a catchy buzzword they use to sucker you in and take your money? I’ve got the real answer you need.
How Long Does Overnight Shipping Take USPS?
Overnight shipping is available through the United States Postal Service’s Priority Mail Express service, but only within certain locations. If an address is outside of USPS’s next-day delivery capabilities, it will arrive in two days. In both cases, deliveries are guaranteed by 6 p.m. or the sender receives their money back.
To learn more about how USPS overnight shipping works, if it’s really overnight in most cases, what the cut-off time is to access overnight shipping and much more, keep reading!
How Does USPS Overnight Work?
USPS overnight shipping can be purchased via the Priority Mail Express service.
This is the fastest, and in some cases, one of the most expensive shipping options the Postal Service offers.
Additionally, for items that can fit in a legal-size envelope, there is flat-rate shipping available, for a very reasonable price (about $28), up to 70 pounds of weight.
Domestically Priority Express only supports Flat-Rate letters and large envelopes; anything that won’t fit in one of those goes into a box and the price is calculated by weight and distance.
Now, the most important thing to keep in mind is that overnight shipping – true overnight shipping – can only be applied to certain distances from you.
So if you’re in Pittsburgh and you wanted to overnight something to Los Angeles, that is unfortunately beyond the realm of USPS’s capabilities.
You would instead have to settle for 2-day shipping (which is still pretty fast).
The best way to check and see if your item qualifies for true overnight shipping is to use the USPS.com price calculator.
(Sometimes, if your item doesn’t have that far to go, it qualifies for 1-day shipping with Priority Mail, which is cheaper – but doesn’t come with a money-back guarantee.)
As an additional boon, Priority Express can be delivered on Sundays or on bank holidays, when mail normally isn’t delivered.
You will pay $12.50 for the rush, but when something absolutely has to be in someone’s hands by the next day, it’s worth every penny.
Other benefits to using Priority Mail Express include:
- The aforementioned money-back guarantee that your mailpiece will arrive by the stated date, by 6 p.m. or earlier
- Free/included USPS Tracking
- Insurance up to $100 included (or pay the going rate for a higher insurance amount)
- Free package pick-up, so you don’t even have to go to the Post Office for your mailpiece
Overall, I find overnight shipping via Priority Express to be very reliable – I haven’t gotten my money back yet!
Even with the overall mail delivery slow-down, premium services like Priority Express maintain their exceptional speed – because after all, you’re paying premium rates.
Is USPS Overnight Shipping Really Overnight?
USPS overnight shipping is really overnight via Priority Mail Express if your destination is within a certain distance.
Unfortunately, USPS cannot guarantee or offer next-day shipping to certain distances from the starting point; their operations simply do not allow for it.
To find out if your intended destination falls within the eligibility for next-day shipping, try filling out USPS.com’s price calculator.
If your mailpiece is eligible, you will find it under the results for Priority Mail Express; pay close attention to whether it says next-day or two-day.
What Is The Cut-Off Time for Overnight USPS?
According to my research, these days there is no set cut-off time for overnight shipping with USPS Priority Mail Express.
I tried a number of combinations in the price calculator and found that, when shipping between two locations about 100 miles apart, there was no cut-off time.
The only limit was when the Post Office closed up shop for the day.
Now that’s not to say that you can just ship something overnight at any given moment that the Post Office is open.
It’s always best to investigate and double-check ahead of time, using the postage calculator or by calling or visiting your local Post Office and speaking to someone.
How Much Is USPS Overnight Shipping?
There are two ways you can pay for USPS overnight shipping through Priority Mail Express.
First, if the item you want to ship will fit in a legal envelope, you can send it flat-rate.
This is especially cost-effective if it’s also heavy (like a plaque of some sort, or a figurine, etc.).
A regular Flat-Rate envelope costs $27.10 to ship; a legal Flat-Rate envelope costs $27.25; and a padded Flat-Rate envelope is just 45 cents more, at $27.70.
However, if what you want to ship Priority Express won’t fit into an envelope, you’ll have to box it up and ship it based on distance and weight.
These prices start comparable to the Flat-Rate envelopes – $26.60 for a half-pound parcel – and can cost as much as $654.85 for a 70-lb. parcel shipping to Zone 9.
(A Zone 9 shipment is almost always going to require two-day Priority Express shipping.)
Check out the Postal Prices list here for the full chart or use the USPS.com price calculator.
To know more about USPS, you can also read our related posts on what are USPS shipping zones, if USPS ships to Puerto Rico, and if USPS ships to Canada.
In many cases, the Postal Service can deliver overnight via Priority Mail Express, their fastest shipping service, with a money-back guarantee by 6 p.m.
However, customers should be aware that some distances are physically impossible for USPS to traverse in one day, and may require two-day shipping instead.