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Unraveling the Mystery: A Guide to USPS Shipping Labels & Their Abbreviations

Navigating the world of USPS shipping labels can feel like deciphering a foreign language. You’re left scratching your head, wondering what “FC” or “RD” actually mean, or how to make sense of the jumble of numbers and abbreviations. Fear not, fellow package-senders! This comprehensive guide will equip you with the knowledge to decode those USPS shipping labels like a pro.

Table of Contents:

  • Essential Abbreviations and Their Meanings
  • Understanding USPS Shipping Labels
  • Common USPS Terms & Their Meanings
  • Beyond the Label: Additional Resources
  • FAQ Section
  • Conclusion

Essential Abbreviations and Their Meanings

USPS shipping labels are packed with information, often conveyed through a series of abbreviations. Let’s break down the most common ones, grouped by category:

Address & Location:

  • ST: Street – This indicates a street address.
  • APT: Apartment – Used to identify a specific apartment within a building.
  • PO BOX: Post Office Box – Used for mail delivered to a post office box.
  • ZIP: Zone Improvement Plan – The postal code used for efficient mail sorting (e.g., 12345).
  • ATTN: Attention – Directs mail to a specific person or department within an organization.

Shipping Information:

  • USPS: United States Postal Service – The primary postal service in the US.
  • FC: First-Class Mail – The most basic USPS service for letters, packages, and flats.
  • PM: Priority Mail – A faster service for packages, offering tracking and insurance.
  • EE: Express Mail – The fastest USPS service, typically for urgent deliveries.
  • INTL: International – Denotes international mail, shipped outside of the US.
  • DOM: Domestic – Indicates mail shipped within the United States.

Tracking & Delivery:

  • TRK: Tracking Number – A unique identifier assigned to each package for tracking its journey.
  • DEL: Delivery – Indicates the package has been delivered to its destination.
  • ARR: Arrival – Indicates the package has arrived at a particular sorting facility.
  • DEP: Departure – Indicates the package has left a sorting facility.
  • SC: Service Connect – Delivery confirmation, providing proof of delivery.
  • RD: Restricted Delivery – Requires a signature upon delivery, ensuring the package is received by the intended recipient.
  • S/H: Shipping & Handling – Covers the costs associated with shipping and processing a package.

Special Services:

  • INS: Insurance – Provides coverage for lost or damaged packages.
  • CP: Certified Mail – Requires a signature upon delivery and provides proof of mailing.
  • RR: Registered Mail – Offers the highest level of security and tracking, often used for valuable items.
  • R/L: Return to Sender – Instructions for the package to be sent back to the original sender.
  • FWD: Forwarding Address – Indicates the package should be delivered to a different address.
  • HOLD: Hold for Pickup – Instructions to hold the package at a local post office for pickup.

Understanding USPS Shipping Labels

Now that you’ve got a grasp on common abbreviations, let’s dive into the structure of the label itself:

  • Label Layout: USPS shipping labels typically have distinct sections for the sender’s and recipient’s addresses, postage information, and tracking details.
  • Reading the Label: Start by locating the tracking number, which is usually a string of numbers and letters prominently displayed. Next, scan for the delivery date, often displayed as “DEL” followed by a date. Look for any special service indicators like “INS,” “CP,” or “RD,” which reveal additional services included with the shipment.
  • Decoding Barcodes: The barcodes on labels aren’t just fancy designs. They are crucial for automated sorting and tracking. These codes contain vital information that allows USPS systems to quickly identify and route packages.

Common USPS Terms & Their Meanings

While abbreviations are prevalent, there are key terms you should know:

  • Delivery Confirmation: This service provides proof of delivery, confirming that the package reached its destination. It doesn’t require a signature, but it does generate a notification when the package is delivered.
  • Signature Confirmation: This service requires the recipient to sign for the package, ensuring it was delivered to the correct person. It provides extra security and proof of delivery.
  • Insurance: This service protects you against loss or damage to your package. If your package is lost or damaged, you can file a claim with USPS to receive compensation up to the insured amount.
  • Forwarding Address: If you’re moving, you can update your forwarding address with USPS. This ensures that any mail sent to your old address will be automatically redirected to your new one.
  • Hold for Pickup: This service allows you to hold a package at a local post office for pickup. This can be helpful if you’re not available to receive the package at your address or if you want to pick it up at a more convenient location.

Beyond the Label: Additional Resources

The USPS website is your one-stop shop for information on all things shipping:

  • USPS Website: Visit for comprehensive information on shipping rates, services, tracking, and more.
  • USPS Tracking Tool: Use the USPS tracking tool at to track your packages and get real-time updates on their status.
  • USPS Customer Service: For help with shipping-related inquiries, contact USPS customer service at 1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-275-8777).

FAQ Section

  • Q: What does “Delivered, In-Transit” mean?
  • A: This status indicates that the package has arrived at its final destination but is still being processed and prepared for final delivery. It’s a temporary status, and the package should be delivered shortly.

  • Q: Why is my package marked as “Delayed”?

  • A: Delays can occur due to various factors, including weather conditions, high shipping volume, or unexpected events. Check the USPS tracking information for estimated delivery updates.

  • Q: What happens if a package is marked “Returned to Sender”?

  • A: This usually means there was an issue with the delivery address or the recipient was unavailable to receive the package. Contact USPS for more information and to resolve the issue.

  • Q: Can I get a refund if my package is lost or damaged?

  • A: Yes, if you purchased insurance for your package, you can file a claim with USPS. Visit the USPS website for detailed information on filing a claim.

  • Q: How can I find my package if it’s missing?

  • A: Begin by checking the tracking information for your package. If you can’t locate it, contact USPS with your tracking number. If you can’t find the package, you can file a claim with USPS.


By understanding the common abbreviations, terms, and the layout of USPS shipping labels, you’ll be able to navigate the shipping process with confidence. Remember to bookmark this guide for future reference, and share your own experiences with decoding USPS labels in the comments below!