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What Can I Place and Not Place in a Mailbox?

Putting mail in a mailbox

When it comes to mailing packages or even putting promotional materials in a mailbox, it’s good to know what’s allowed and what isn’t. After all, the USPS is a federal agency and therefore subject to federal rules.

It’s well known that regular mail is acceptable for placing inside mailboxes, but what about flyers, gifts, and other items? The rules also may be more complicated for shipping out larger packages and international mail.

For Regular Outgoing Mailboxes

These mailboxes can be curbside mailboxes or outgoing mail slots found in some centralized mail systems. Slots will of course limit the size of what you place inside, and you should be careful to place only outgoing mail in these boxes.

This outgoing mail can include your mail, or a neighbor’s mail if it was accidentally placed in your mailbox. This will ensure that a postal employee delivers it to the right address.

What can’t you place in these mailboxes? It’s important to know that even if a mailbox is on your property, it is still considered federal property. Mailbox vandalism and theft from mailboxes is taken seriously, and so is placing the wrong items inside.

For this reason and to protect mail security, only the postal service is allowed to place incoming mail into a mailbox, and this mail must have the right paid postage. The reasoning is to prevent mail theft, which is a common issue, because having someone other than the owner or the postal service accessing a mailbox can greatly increase the chances of this.

Other items placed in a mailbox, such as a gift or a “drop-off” can also clog mailboxes and prevent the delivery of regular mail. This applies to incoming and outgoing drop-offs.

For this reason, businesses cannot place flyers, promotional materials, or other items inside a mailbox. This may seem like a convenient way to advertise a business or a cause, but this can compromise the security of mailboxes, and is a punishable offense that can lead to arrest.

Buying gifts for your USPS employee is a great way to show appreciation but avoid placing these in your mailbox as well. Gifts such as chocolates can melt inside a hot mailbox, attracting insects and bees and making a mess. This can be dangerous for the USPS, and cause obstructions to mail. If giving a gift, speak with your postal employee directly, and remain professional and give gifts sparingly. This includes thank you cards and small items.

Avoid placing anything besides outgoing packages and mail in a mailbox, and this should be your own mailbox. It’s technically not legal to place your outgoing mail in the mailbox of another unless it’s a public collection box.

One exception does exist. Newspapers can be placed in a mailbox only on Sundays when the mail does not normally run. If you receive publications during any other day of the week, consider adding a newspaper receptacle to your mailbox, and do not attach it directly to the mailbox itself. Be sure not to have any advertising on the receptacle except for the publication’s name.

For Collection Boxes

Collection boxes are those familiar blue boxes that are most often found outside of post offices, though some apartment complexes and commercial properties may still have them. They aren’t as common as they used to be, but it’s important to know what can and can’t go into these units.

The USPS allows most types of mail to be deposited here, provided you’ve included enough postage. This can include regular stamped envelopes, business reply mail, and metered mail. Domestic mail and international mail must weigh less than ten ounces and also be less than a half inch thick. The international mail must not require a customs form to be dropped in a collection box.

Mail to APO/DPO/FPO locations (military and diplomatic locations) is also allowed, provided it follows the same regulations as above. These packages can go up to 16 ounces if paid for with a method besides postage stamps.

What isn’t allowed? Collection boxes don’t accept international mail where the customs forms haven’t been completed, and they don’t accept domestic or international mail that weighs more than twelve ounces or is bigger than a half inch thick.

For international packages that are Priority Mail International Express, you’ll need PS Form 2976-B to drop them in a collection box. Be sure the form is filled out completely before dropping it in a mailbox, and if you are unsure, ask a postal employee for help.

If in doubt about what you can place in a collection box, go inside the post office and deliver your mail from there. They will know the correct forms and postage amounts, and you can be sure your mail will get delivered.

What If I Get a Neighbor’s Mail?

This happens sometimes: you check your mail and find that you’ve received a neighbor’s bill, advertisement, or package by mistake. These mistakes are more common in communities that use centralized mail delivery, where all mailboxes are contained inside a cabinet and look identical.

One easy solution is to simply take the misdirected mail to the neighbor if you are comfortable doing so. If your neighbor is not home, you can place the mail in an outgoing mail slot, and the postal service will re-deliver the mail.

While it’s technically illegal to place this mail in the neighbor’s mailbox, you likely won’t be prosecuted for doing so. It’s still best to avoid doing this as you don’t want to compromise any other mail in someone else’s mailbox.

Protect Your Mail Today

USPS regulations go a long way towards protecting our mail, but the customer or the property manager can also help. Purchasing the right type of mailbox for your property can help stop mail and package theft, and we’re here to answer your questions and help you find the right type of mailbox.