How long does USPS Priority Mail take?

Priority mail is a convenient and cost-effective method for shipping letters and packages in a timely manner. Using the service is easy and uncomplicated.

by Earth Class Mail
updated May 11, 2023 ·  7min read

Most individuals and small businesses make frequent visits to the post office. Especially small business owners often send goods, advertise their services, or send invoices. USPS offers them a very important service—Priority Mail.

It's one of the most convenient and cost-effective methods for shipping letters and packages in a timely manner. Using the service is easy and uncomplicated. Priority Mail helps customers ship packages without wasting time or putting in lots of effort. So, what is USPS Priority Mail? How long does USPS Priority Mail take?

A white U.S. Postal Service box with red letters reads, "Priority Mail."

What is USPS Priority Mail?

USPS Priority Mail is one of the fastest mail services offered by the Postal Service. It is a domestic service; therefore, it can be transported both in the United States and from the United States to U.S. territories and U.S. military and diplomatic posts. It provides customers with an option of sending mail based on weight and dimensions or via fixed-price envelopes and boxes.

Many people compare USPS Priority Mail to UPS and FedEx packages. They weigh less than 10 pounds and fit in a mailbox. Priority Mail includes insurance—the amount covered depends on how you purchased the label (usually up to $50 or $100 insurance for retail customers). Also, customers have the option to purchase extra features such as a return receipt. When you use USPS Priority Mail services, you also get access to the following features:

  • Free USPS Priority Mail tracking.
  • Package pickup and Pickup on Demand.
  • Packages can be forwarded or returned for free.
  • Mail packages from any local post office station, or hand prepaid packages to your letter carrier at your normal delivery time.
  • You can pay postage by stamps or postage meter.

Most of the above-mentioned extra features are at no additional charge. The USPS Priority Mail is both convenient (you can use any post office station to send your mail, as well as personally give the package to your local mailman when they deliver your daily mail) and flexible (there are many payment options)

The USPS offers these Priority Mail services:

  • Priority Mail Commercial Base Prices available to commercial customers at a discount from retail prices.
  • Priority Mail Commercial Plus Prices available to commercial customers at a further discounted rate from retail prices.
  • Priority Mail Commercial Plus Cubic Pricing.
  • Priority Mail Regional Rate Box.

In the USPS services priorities, Priority Mail is ranked after USPS Priority Mail Express and before First-Class Mail, USPS Retail Ground, and Media Mail. Priority Mail is divided into two categories: Priority Mail Flat Rate and Priority Mail Retail/Commercial.

How does Priority Mail work?

Priority Mail works like any other mail by the U.S. Postal Service. You can drop your mail in a collection box or leave it at your courier for pickup. You can also drop it at selected authorized retailers or even give it to a clerk at the post office station window. As with any other USPS mail, your letter or package will be sorted by the class at each facility that receives mail, then forwarded to the processing center.

The next step is processing the mail according to the specific procedures for the particular mailing class. Shipping mail is dependent on priority. It means that if e.g. mail is being loaded into a plane with limited space and weight allowance, priority plays a key role. In the case of ground shipping, Priority Mail is the last loaded onto the truck. It means that when the truck arrives at its destination, Priority Mail is the first to unload.

This way, processing can start instantly. Once your Priority Mail is processed, it will be delivered just like all other mail is. It can be either put into your P.O. Box or delivered by the mail carrier. Priority Mail often travels on the same transportation network as USPS Priority Mail Express service items. It is delivered six days a week (Monday through Saturday). There is no extra charge for Saturday delivery.

Priority Mail vs First-Class Mail—which one is faster?

Very often, customers choose between those two types of services. However, First-Class Mail is more for sending letters, postcards, and packages up to 13 ounces. Anything larger is considered to be Priority Mail. Both Priority Mail and First-Class Mail take an average of one to three days. The most important difference between them is that Priority Mail comes with benefits like insurance and tracking.

USPS Priority Mail prices

Priority Mail doesn't cost much more than standard mail. You can send packages based on weight and size, or via Priority Mail flat-rate envelopes (they don't qualify for dimensional weight or balloon rate pricing). If you send Priority Mail packages, the price will depend on how the piece is packaged.

They are charged based on weight and zone (zones depend on the shipping origin and destination). If you decide to send an item packaged in a flat-rate envelope or box, you have to pay a set price independent of the item's weight or destination. You don't need to weigh shipments that are under 70 pounds.

USPS allows Priority Mail envelopes smaller than the 12.5" x 9.5" Priority Mail Flat Rate envelope to be sent at the flat rate envelope's price. If the package is within Flat Rate envelopes or small box sizes, it's much cheaper than USPS Regional Rate boxes, no matter the weight and zone. Postal for Priority Mail, as well as shipping labels, can be purchased online and starts at $7.50.

Keep in mind that tracking and insurance (up to $50) are always included in the price of USPS Priority Mail, which is a great benefit. When you opt for Priority Mail online, you receive a free pickup at your home or office. Delivery can take place in residential and rural areas. Delivery is also available on Saturday without any extra fee.

There are some requirements USPS Priority Mail must meet. First, the maximum weight is 70 pounds. Then, the maximum combined length and width is 108". Finally, when sealing a Flat Rate Envelope or Box, the container flaps must be able to close within the normal folds.

If you are not sure if your shipment is eligible, you can always contact the USPS. As with other types of mail, Priority Mail can be also tracked via the official USPS tracking website. Once you submit your shipping request, you will receive a shipping receipt that should contain the tracking number that you can look up later.

If you are still looking for a better and more convenient way to ship your priority mail, you can switch to a virtual mailbox from Earth Class Mail, a LegalZoom company. You can choose a Personal Mailbox, Shared Mailbox, or Premium Mailbox. Using a virtual box is as easy as 1, 2, 3. You can control your postal mail in the easiest and most secure way and manage your paper mail online, which allows you to scale and grow your business. See how it works here.

Is Priority Mail a guaranteed service?

Yes, Priority Mail is a guaranteed service. It means that one- and two-day delivery is guaranteed. If your Priority Mail package is not delivered on time, you are entitled to get a refund. One-day delivery guarantees that your mail will be delivered on the next day, and 2-day delivery—that your package will be delivered two days later. Delivery guarantee is considered to be satisfied if delivery is attempted at the destination but not received, it arrived at the pickup point, or it is forwarded to a destination not indicated on the label.

USPS Priority Mail time: How long does it take?

USPS Priority Mail is always delivered between one and three days. However, the exact delivery time depends on where you are shipping from and to. On the USPS website, you will find a helpful map that allows you to add in your ZIP code and estimate the delivery time to the destination address. Once you enter your ZIP code area, you will be able to instantly zoom in on the state your package is expected to arrive. If your mail sent via Priority Mail is delayed or doesn't arrive by the schedule, you can be interested in a money-back guarantee. In such cases, you can request a refund through the USPS website. The guaranteed one- to three-day delivery is based on where and when the mail piece was dropped off, plus the delivery ZIP code. Keep in mind that Priority Mail is not delivered on Sundays and holidays.

To learn more about Earth Class Mail's offerings, go here.

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This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of the author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.