What Does Return To Sender Mean USPS? (+ Other FAQs)

The USPS tracking tool is easily one of the most convenient features that USPS offers, and it updates you every step of the way as your package gets to its final destination.

But what does it mean when you get a notification that says “return to sender,” and what can you do about it? If you’d like to find out, keep reading to see what I learned!

What Does Return To Sender Mean at USPS in 2022?

The USPS notification “return to sender” can occur either through the tracking feature or by a postal worker putting a yellow sticker on the package. Additionally, return to sender means that the mail was undeliverable because the address was incorrect/ missing information, the receiver refused the package, or two delivery attempts were made with no success.

If you want to find out what to do when your mail is returned to sender and how this process works, be sure to read the rest of this article for more useful facts and tips!

What Happens When USPS Returns Mail To Sender?

The first thing that happens when your mail is returned to the sender is that a postal worker will separate it from the rest of the mail and either stamp it or place a large, yellow sticker on the package that says “return to sender”.

Depending on the reason the package is returned, the post office will either hold it for 15 days to see if the mail is claimed by its rightful owner, or the mail will be immediately sent back towards the return address.

Why Does Mail Get Returned To Sender?

Mail gets returned to sender for a variety of reasons, the most common of which is due to an issue with how the address is written.

If an address is written incorrectly or is missing information such as a zip code, the post office will not be able to deliver it because they won’t be able to accurately locate the address.

Therefore, rather than trying to guess where the piece of mail is supposed to go, the postal worker will write “return to sender” on the piece of mail and begin the process of returning it.

Another reason mail is returned to sender is because there were two or more delivery attempts made with no success.

For example, if a piece of mail requires a delivery signature, it can only be marked as ‘delivered’ once someone at the written address signs for the mail.

If a postal worker makes two attempts to deliver the mail but is unable to get a signature on both deliveries, the mail will return to the post office with a label that says “return to sender” and begin the process of being returned.

Finally, another reason mail is returned to the sender is because the recipient of the piece of mail refused to accept it.

This commonly happens when mail is sent to the wrong address and the person at the householder returns it to the post office, in order for the package to be sent to the correct person.

How Long Does It Take For Mail To Be Returned To Sender?

How Long Does It Take For Mail To Be Returned To Sender? USPS

The amount of time it takes for “return to sender” packages to be returned depends on the reason the mail is being returned in the first place.

For example, if a package is being returned to the sender because the written address is incorrect or missing information, it’s usually returned quickly, as postal workers generally catch incorrect addresses before the mail is transported out of the post office.

However, when mail is being returned because of failed delivery attempts or when it’s refused by the recipient, the process generally takes much longer.

Standard USPS policy for returned mail is for the mail to be held at the post office for 15 days so that the recipient has the opportunity to claim their package. .

If the mail isn’t claimed after 15 days, however, then it’s put on a truck to be shipped back to the sender, which will then take an additional 2-5 days depending on the type of mail service used.

This typically occurs at no extra charge, though USPS may charge additional costs if a return attempt was made more than once.

What Do I Do If My Mail Was Returned To Sender?

If your mail was returned to you, this doesn’t mean anything drastic is wrong, but rather it means that the address was written incorrectly. Therefore, be sure to double and triple-check that the written address is correct before sending.

If you’re not sure why your mail was returned, you can always ask the courier or call your local post office to make sure you update the correct information so that when you send your package again, it arrives at the intended destination.

Another good rule of thumb when you get mail sent back to you is to make sure you remove the return to sender sticker.

The return to sender sticker is made to be eye-catching, and postal workers are trained to refuse the mail when they see that sticker.

Therefore, unless you can effectively black it out while still being able to get all of the correct information on the package, it’s best to re-package your mail.

Further, if you received the “return to sender” tracking notification on a package you ordered but did not receive, it’s best to reach out to the sender of the package, whether it’s a merchant or a friend/family member, to see what the issue was.

It’s also a good idea to call your local post office, since they’ll hold packages that were returned to the sender for 15 days before reloading them onto a truck to be returned.

It’s also important to note that if you need to go to the post office to claim a package, be sure to bring a valid form of ID so they can verify that you’re the rightful owner of the package.

Do You Get A Refund If Your Mail Is Returned To Sender?

USPS does not issue refunds for mail that is returned to sender. However, if a package that was supposed to be delivered to you was returned to sender, you may be able to get a refund from the merchant you ordered the package from.

However, if the package you sent out was returned to you, you simply have to repackage it and send it again with the proper information.

In some instances, though, you may not need to repackage your mail, provided you can effectively remove or negate the “return to sender” sticker, which will save you money by not having to pay for extra postage.

To know more about USPS, you can also see our related posts on what does available for pick up mean in USPS, what does offer phase ext mean for USPS, and what does forwarded mean in USPS.


Return to sender means that a package was undeliverable due to an address that was incorrect/ missing information, the mail was refused by the receiver, or two unsuccessful delivery attempts were made.

If a piece of mail you were expecting gets returned to sender, you can go to your local post office with a valid ID to claim the mail, as undeliverable mail will be held for 15 days before being returned.

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