The United States Postal Service relies on a network of hundreds upon hundreds of Post offices and distribution centers to deliver mail six days a week.
Mail today reaches its destination thanks to a well-oiled system of machines and numbers. One of the latter you may have heard of is the article number.
So, what is the USPS article number? Here is the answer you seek.
What Is a USPS Article Number?
The USPS article number is known to customers as the tracking number, which is used to trace a mailpiece’s journey end-to-end. However, for USPS employees, the article number also conveys a wealth of information, such as the sender’s contact info and payment status.
To learn more about how the USPS article numbers work, where you can find your package’s article number, how they’re formatted, and even some troubleshooting for when they aren’t working, keep reading!
How Do USPS Article Numbers Work?
When a United States Postal Service employee or customer creates a shipping label, USPS assigns that label an article number.
For customers, this is referred to as a tracking number.
However, for USPS employees and staff, the article number also includes extra information about the transaction.
This is information that the recipient obviously doesn’t need – for example, the payment status of the parcel.
But USPS employees can use it to help when there are questions or disputes with a shipment.
Article numbers are included with many USPS services; the only glaring omission is First-Class mail (or “regular” mail, like letters, bills, etc.)
Article numbers can be used to track for free when you use Priority Mail and Priority Express, First-Class Package, and Parcel Select (and more).
The article numbers correspond to a barcode on your shipment.
When your item is run through the scanning machine upon arrival to or departure from a USPS facility, whatever action is being performed is applied to the unique article number.
Then, when you go to track your mailpiece using that number, you can see where your package is.
You can also use your article number if you need to locate your package or dispute something.
In your correspondence with the Postal Service, you can refer to the article number so they know what package you’re talking about and where their records show it last was.
Where Can You Find a USPS Article Number?
The USPS article number is located in a variety of places, including:
- On the parcel label
- On the receipt (if postage was purchased at the Post Office)
- In the confirmation email, if postage was purchased online
I believe Post Offices now offer a receipt option when checking out in-store; you can enter your email address and have a copy sent there.
This is a great option for people who tend to lose or misplace paper receipts. Just make sure you don’t accidentally delete it from your inbox!
If you are a buyer awaiting a package, the seller should provide you with the article/tracking number.
Additionally, if you are a recipient expecting a package from a friend or family member, you can ask them to email you the shipping confirmation with the article number.
They can elect to do this while creating the label if they’re using Click-N-Ship online. The email that is generated and sent to you will contain the article/tracking number.
If you are wondering where the number is physically on a package, I got you.
Look for the barcode – it’s a series of black lines of various thicknesses. Right underneath, you will see a series of numbers.
Unless it’s an international shipment, the number series will start with a 9. That is your article number.
What Does a USPS Article Number Look Like?
There are a few different formats for USPS article numbers, though they are all specific to USPS (UPS, FedEx, and the others have their own proprietary formats).
Domestic tracking numbers are 22 characters in length; as you will see below, international tracking numbers do not follow that format.
Some examples from USPS.com:
- USPS Tracking: 9400 1000 0000 0000 0000 00
- Priority Mail: 9205 5000 0000 0000 0000 00
- Priority Express: 9270 1000 0000 0000 0000 00 / EA 000 000 000 US
- Priority International: CP 000 000 000 US
- Certified Mail: 9407 3000 0000 0000 0000 00
- Global Express Gr: 82 000 000 00
Domestic article numbers all start with 9, and you can see how Priority-grouped services start with 92. Certified and regular USPS Tracking mail starts with 94.
Can You Track a Package With a USPS Article Number?
Article numbers are the same as tracking numbers, so yes, you can track a package using an article number!
It’s just a matter of terminology – Postal employees might be more likely to use the phrase “article number” amongst themselves.
But these numbers are presented to USPS customers as tracking numbers because that is what we use them for.
Postal Service employees, on the other hand, use them for more than that behind the scenes, so it makes sense that they would refer to them differently.
To use the article/tracking number, navigate to USPS.com, and in the upper right corner, there is a magnifying glass icon.
Click it, and a little drop-down menu will appear. You can just copy and paste the article/tracking number into the search area that materializes and hit enter.
The website will immediately hook you up with the USPS Tracking information that is available.
Why Isn’t Your USPS Article Number Working?
USPS article numbers that are being used for tracking might not work as soon as you receive them.
This is because, though the label has been created and the article/tracking number has been assigned, the package itself hasn’t reached the Postal Service.
Thus, they have nothing to scan into their system (or rather, feed through the scanning/sorting machine).
Give it about 24 hours, and you should see information start to appear as the parcel begins its journey.