Anyone who has used the United States Postal Service (USPS) – or any postal service, for that matter – understands that it is not always clear when your mail will arrive. Where your mail is. Why (for example) your package has been sitting for five days in the Jamaica, New York processing facility. As frustrating as this uncertainty may be, there are ways to answer these questions without having to wait on-hold for hours. For more information on how to stay in the loop on the progress of your mail, read on. 

How to easily track flat rate shipping packages

First you need to find your tracking number

Your tracking number will be printed onto the receipt you receive at the Post Office that is processing your mail. The tracking number is long and easy to forget, so we suggest you keep an eye on this receipt.

If you ship your mail with USPS, you will receive an email confirmation with your tracking number. There is also a peel-off portion on the USPS Tracking label that will have your tracking number typed on it.

USPS first class mail label

Note: some post offices will require you to pay an extra few dollars for a tracking number. The clerk will often ask; ‘will that be with tracking?’ If you wish to track your package, you must ensure that tracking is included. With USPS, no additional fee is required for a tracking number. 

Note: not all classes of mail come with tracking numbers. If you are sending a postcard, First-Class Mail, or Marketing Mail, chances are high that you will not receive a tracking number.

When mail is picked up from the post office and is taken toward its destination, it will – almost always – make stops along the way in other post offices. The mail-stream is often a zig-zagging and circuitous route.

The tracking number will provide instantaneous updates on what post offices (or sorting facility) your mail is at, and when it arrived there. Based on its progress, you will receive an estimated time of delivery.

To view this for yourself, visit: 

Once you have entered your tracking number into the search bar, you will receive additional information, such as if the item was delivered, along with the date and time of delivery. It may also state the location of the item – reception desk, mailbox, etc.

It could also say that the item delivery was attempted but was not successful – this could happen if the receiver of the item was not home. This happens when the item requires a signature.

How long does flat rate shipping take?

The typical time frame for Priority Mail Flat Rate is 1 to 3 business days

This time frame is the estimated time of delivery. Meaning that a piece of mail could take longer to be delivered. A major factor that could cause a delay is the distance to your desired destination. The distance is measured by zones

Shipping zones vary from ‘zone 1’ (local) to ‘zone 9’ (very far away). With most mail, a far-away shipping zone would incur a higher charge. With Priority Flat Rate Mail, the price stays the same regardless of the distance.

Another factor that could delay your delivery time is holidays. Christmas time – December – is a period where your mail will likely be delayed. Other national holidays, such as Easter, are not considered business days. 

If you choose to send your Flat Rate shipping with USPS, you might receive a message about the Expected Delivery Window (ExDW). On the day that your mail is slated to be delivered, the ExDW is the 2-hour time slot that you can expect your mail to arrive.

Note: delivery within that slot of time is not guaranteed. Your mail may arrive later than the ExDW. 

What if my flat rate priority mail is not delivered when expected?

To know if your mail is considered late, you must make sure that you know what class type of mail you chose in the first place. 

If you chose USPS Priority Mail, or First-Class, or First-Class Package Service, we suggest that if your package has not arrived by the end of day five – from the date of mailing – that you contact customer service.

By “end of the day” means 5:00 pm, local time – Monday to Saturday. There is no way of knowing when the delivery person will arrive.

For a postal service as big as USPS, it is not uncommon for mail to be delayed – delivery volumes go through waves. If your Priority Mail arrives after the standard 1-3 business days, chances are that it isn’t lost but simply still in transit.

Extra services to protect your USPS priority flat rate mail

Lost, damaged, or missing mail items are rare, but if you want to protect the value of your mail piece, you can purchase Standard Shipping Insurance with USPS.

With Standard Shipping Insurance, you will receive insurance coverage for your mail or package for up to $5,000 dollars in indemnity. 

Note: insurance will cover the value of your item. The value of which you will declare beforehand. So, for example, if you say the turtleneck you are sending is worth $100, and it is lost or damaged, you will receive $100. No more, no less.

Note: to be eligible for Standard Shipping Insurance, your mail must have received one USPS processing scan (this would either happen at the post office where you submitted the mail, OR on USPS’s website). 

It doesn’t matter where you decide to do it, as long as a USPS tracking number has been digitized – which can be done online.

Note: if the declared value of your insured item is valued at more than $500 dollars, you may have to show identification before USPS can grant you insurance on the item. This would mean going to the post office.

For more information on Standard Shipping Insurance, visit:

Postal services like the United States Postal Service and Fed-Ex process tens-of-millions of pieces of Flat Rate mail a year – mail occasionally gets delayed in the waves. It sometimes may seem that your mail piece is lost, but chances are it’s just taking longer than expected.

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