How to Send a Certified Letter (and Why You'd Need To)

How to Send a Certified Letter (and Why You’d Need To)


A stack of certified mail slips from the USPS

Photo: LisaCarter (Shutterstock)

This one goes out to everybody who has resigned themselves to the fact that the gym they haven’t been to in years will be pulling a chunk of money from their checking account every month for the rest of their lives. Many gyms require would-be quitters to cancel memberships by showing up in person or sending a certified letter, and if you don’t have time to trek there or don’t know how to mail a certified letter, a monthly tribute to the corporate fitness gods may seem like your only option.

It’s not! You don’t have to live like this. Sending a certified letter is really easy.

When do you need to send certified mail?

Certified mail isn’t only for gym cancellations. It can be used to send tax returns and legal notices, too, as well as all manner of sensitive documents. The benefit of paying for a certified letter is that you’ll get a receipt and, for an extra fee, you can get a copy of the recipient’s signature once they get it. It helps you cover all your bases in situations where you might need to prove you really sent something and the other party really got it—or didn’t.

A certified letter is a form of registered mail. Registered mail gives the sender a receipt and records of the mail’s location, but costs more than certified mail. There is a little more security associated with registered mail, so always check which option is more appropriate for your unique situation. Think about cost-effectiveness, too—registered mail is insured while certified mail can be insured, for an extra fee. Add up the various fees required for either option to figure out which will meet your needs while taking safety and cost into consideration.

You can send certified mail from any post office

Your first option for sending certified mail is the old-fashioned one: Get to your local post office and ask for a Certified Mail Form 3800. You’ll know it by the green and white sticker, which contains a barcode that will help you track your parcel.

Carefully and neatly fill out all the information on the form. You’ll be writing down the recipient’s name and address, so make sure you get it right and that your writing is legible. After that, turn your attention back to the green and white sticker. You have a few more choices to make, but they’re outlined clearly for you. All you do is check boxes and write your initials to dictate whether you want restricted delivery service—which makes sure that a specific person gets and signs for the mail—or you want to buy return receipt service so you can get a copy of the recipient’s signature.

Attach the sticker to your envelope above the recipient’s address, but leave room for stamps on the right side. Add your stamps or postage, then pay the certified mail fees. These can include the $3.35 it costs to send the certified letter as well as the charge for the return receipt, known as PS Form 3811, which will cost $2.75, plus any other options you’ve chosen. (These rates are as of this writing, naturally.)

There’s a perforated receipt in there. You’ll see it, so don’t worry. You need to keep it. That’s kind of the whole point of this.

How to send certified mail online

Of course, if you can’t find time to go to your old gym and cancel that membership, you might not have time to go to the post office to do it, either. Don’t worry—we’re living in the future, baby, and you can send a certified letter online.

There are a few sites that offer this service. They have pretty obvious names, like onlinecertifiedmail.com. Labels you can print at home are an option. Again, find them at sites with names like certifiedmaillabels.com.

As with any website, check that whichever one you select is legitimate and offers what you need, like next-day USPS tracking and proof of delivery.

Now, write your letter in Word or a similar program, or fill out whatever form you’re supposed to be sending. If you need to sign it, obviously make sure you do that. There’s no point paying to send a document that you didn’t fill out correctly! Use DocuSign or a program like it, or even print, sign, and scan a physical document. Whatever you do, make sure you dotted your Is and crossed your Ts, figuratively and literally.

Upload the document to your chosen certified mail website, put in your payment details, and follow through as you would with any online purchase. The letter should be addressed, printed, and mailed by the service the same business day you upload it.

Now you just refresh that tracking page over and over until your little nightmare ends.

 



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