What Is A Master Key USPS? (+ Other Common FAQs)

USPS handles millions of mail pieces a year and has access to every mailbox in the country so that they can distribute all of that mail.

So, it makes sense that USPS would have a master key- but what is it, and how does it work? If you’d like to find out, keep reading!

What Is A Master Key At USPS In [currentyear]?

A USPS master key (also known as an arrow key) is a special type of key that’s specific to a certain postal route and geographical area in [currentyear]. The arrow key for a given route gives the carrier access to gated communities and restricted buildings, as well as all of the blue collection boxes and apartment/ condo mailbox panels on the route.

There’s a lot of power behind just one key, so be sure to keep reading to find out how these keys are protected and who is allowed to have one!

What Does A USPS Master Key Do?

A USPS master key is also referred to as an arrow key, which is arguably one of the most important things a carrier can have on them, as it allows them access to all of the places on their route.

Arrow keys are designed specifically for a given route in a certain geographic area, and the arrow key for each route will always be different.

The arrow key for any given route allows the carrier access to a myriad of places, such as apartment and condo mailbox panels.

This can contain hundreds of mailboxes, as well as the blue collection boxes along their route and even gated communities and restricted buildings.

An arrow key allows for the fast, accurate, and efficient dispersal of mail by a mail carrier and enables millions of Americans the comfort and ease of a timely, reliable postal service.

In the wrong hands, however, arrow keys can result in thousands of cases of stolen identities using the personal information in someone’s mailbox. Material theft, breaking and entering and stalking are also possibilities.

Do All USPS Mailmen Have Master Keys?

Not all USPS mailmen or carriers have master keys on hand all the time, though many of them do.

This largely depends on the route a mail carrier is working- for example, a carrier on a more rural route wouldn’t need an arrow key if they’re delivering mail to residential boxes along a country road.

For more densely populated, urban areas, however, an arrow key becomes more critical because there are more apartment buildings, mailbox panels, and collection boxes a carrier would need access to.

Therefore, in order to maintain the safety of mail carriers and the integrity of the arrow key system, carriers with arrow keys are required to wear them on a chain attached to their clothes at all times.

Carriers are also required to sign out keys every morning and sign them back into their place in the evenings so that they could all be accounted for.

When the arrow keys aren’t on a carrier’s person or being counted by a clerk, they’re kept in locked safes at the post office, typically with both alarm codes and cameras on standby past the regular lock system.

Can You Get Fired For Losing A USPS Master Key?

Can You Get Fired For Losing A USPS Master Key?

It’s unlikely you’ll get fired for losing a USPS arrow/master key, and there are several reasons for this.

The first reason is, depending on the post office you’re working at, arrow key security can be more lax than it should be and the post office often has multiples of each key on hand.

Therefore, they may not notice it’s gone and you’ll still have access to a key that will work for your route.

Another more likely reason that you don’t need to worry about losing your job is that USPS values people.

The USPS handbooks state that, while there is a certain set of instructions for how to proceed when you’ve lost a key, the most important thing stressed is that you need to report it and stay safe.

There have been multiple reports of injuries and even deaths because a USPS carrier tried to prevent someone from taking their arrow key- ultimately, it’s just a key, and your life and wellbeing are far more important.

If you want to read more on the updated Standard Operating Procedure from USPS on how to report a lost arrow key, proper handling of an arrow key, and more, you can check out the USPS updated handbook on arrow keys.

Can You Make Copies Of A USPS Master Key?

You can’t make a copy of an arrow key, as this is a felony and comes with serious jail time. As well, there’s no reason you would need a copy, as USPS already has copies of all of the arrow keys in their possession.

It’s also important to note that all arrow keys have “do not replicate” listed on them, which means if you take them anywhere to be copied, it’s likely the key will be confiscated from you.

If you want to learn more, you can also read our posts on PSE mail processing clerk USPS, USPS carrier facility, and how long does USPS forwards mail.


A USPS master key, also known as an arrow key, is a key that is specific to a certain postal route and geographic area.

Arrow keys are intended to open collection boxes, apartment/ condo mailbox panels, and allow carriers access to gated communities along their route.

Arrow keys have a strict safety process, including being chained to a carrier when they’re on duty, being signed in and out of a locked office when in use, and returned to a well-guarded safe when not in use.

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Marques Thomas

Marques Thomas graduated with a MBA in 2011. Since then, Marques has worked in the retail and consumer service industry as a manager, advisor, and marketer. Marques is also the head writer and founder of QuerySprout.com.

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