There are many questions that come up when deciding which carrier to use for your company’s shipping needs. Which is the most cost-effective? How quickly will the customer receive their package? And how dependable is the carrier? USPS is a popular option, with the carrier shipping 5.7 billion packages in 2017. The carrier has also become a popular option for other leading carriers, such as FedEx and UPS, to handle their “last leg” of delivery with greater efficiency.
One important consideration when shipping, however, is insurance. Should you purchase insurance, and if so, how much will it cost? Most packages that ship will arrive at their destination as expected, but when a package doesn’t arrive or arrives damaged, it’s helpful to have insurance in place. Here is a guide to understanding USPS shipping insurance, what you need to know, and what to expect if a package goes missing.
Why Purchase Shipping Insurance?
Shipping mishaps occur, even with the best carriers. According to one study, up to 11 percent of major-carrier packages are damaged in transit, with USPS having a damage rate of 10 percent.
Shipping is a key component of the customer experience, and if something goes awry, such as a missing package or damaged item, the first priority is always to take care of the customer. Doing this well positively affects reputation, ratings, and repeat orders. But after the dust settles, it’s critical to recover some of those costs. Shipping insurance is a tool that helps you accomplish this task.
Every carrier has a set of rules, processes and procedures, and by understanding those factors before purchasing insurance, you can better plan for these situations. A good starting point is understanding what type of insurance comes with your package and what you may need to pay extra for when shipping.
Understanding Shipping Insurance
USPS allows you to purchase shipping insurance up to $5,000 to protect against potential loss. The fee for purchasing insurance varies, based on the declared value of the package (more on this shortly). Some USPS services already have insurance included in the product pricing, so you don’t need to pay extra.
For example, USPS Priority Mail Express offers up to $100 of insurance, and priority mail shipments include up to $50. If the value exceeds this amount, you may want to purchase additional insurance. An insurance comparison guide is available at USPS’s site to help guide that decision.
Insurance is also available on some items sent internationally. For example, Global Express Guaranteed Insurance automatically covers up to $100 in loss or damage. If the value of the package exceeds this amount, USPS will allow you to purchase up to $2,499 in additional insurance.
The carrier also offers Priority Express International insurance, which includes up to $200 for merchandise at no cost for lost, damaged, or missing contents. Additional coverage may be available, but there may be restrictions for some countries.
When purchasing insurance, there are a few additional safeguards available that provide added protection, such as the following:
- Signature confirmation. Adding signature confirmation allows you to track when an item was delivered and when an attempt was made to deliver it. This delivery method is available via USPS electronically or by email upon request.
- Collect on delivery. COD allows customers to pay for the package upon receiving it. You also get insurance coverage up to $1,000 with this option based on the amount collected or the selected insurance coverage (whichever is higher).
- Return receipt. This option allows you to get an electronic or hardcopy delivery record that shows the recipient’s signature.
Some USPS services do not offer insurance in the label price, including first-class mail, media mail, and parcel select. Additionally, when using a service that does include insurance, there are some limitations on what is covered.
Pricing for USPS Insurance
Pricing is an important consideration for purchasing insurance. The fee to purchase additional insurance is minimal; however, it’s important to consider the risks and costs when shipping large volumes of packages.
Pricing is based on the “declared value” of the package. This is basically what you state the contents are worth; if you need to file a claim, USPS will require proof of that value. Here is a quick summary of what to expect for pricing based on the stated value of the package. The pricing below is for service options that don’t offer no-cost insurance, so you’re footing the entire bill.
- Value up to $50 is $1.65
- $50.01 to $100 is $2.05
- $100.01 to $200 is $2.45
- $200.01 to $300 is $4.60
- The price per additional $100 of insurance, valued over $300 up to $5,000, is $4.60 plus $0.90 per each $100 or fraction thereof
Some of USPS’s services, such as Express Mail, include the first $100 of coverage at no cost. Pricing for additional insurance includes the following:
- The first $100 of value is included
- Value over $100 up to $200 is $0.75
- $200.01 to $500 is $2.10
- $500.01 to $5,000 is $2.10 plus $1.35 per each $100 or fraction thereof
Purchasing insurance is a step in the right direction to protect your company from loss, and in most cases, you won’t need to use it. But in the rare case that you do need to use the insurance, it’s important to know what to expect and what documentation is required.
Filing a Claim With USPS
Filing a claim with USPS is easy and can be accomplished online. The online claim process allows you to upload files with any supporting documentation and includes the following steps:
- Visit the USPS website. Once there, sign into the online claims site using your USPS username and password. If you don’t have an account, you can create it online.
- Enter details about the package. The site will request details, such as the tracking label, number, shipping date, address information, and other claim details.
- Select the reason for filing a claim. For example, is the package missing or stolen, or are the contents of the package missing upon arrival? Clarify what happened to the package and the reason for the claim.
- Upload a proof of value. When you purchase insurance, you declare the value, but when you file a claim, you’ll need to show proof, such as a relevant receipt or invoice.
- Upload evidence of insurance. Make sure to keep your receipt that shows the purchase of insurance, because you may be required to upload the purchase evidence. It’s also important to note that USPS does not keep a record of who purchases insurance, so they have no way to look this information up.
Additionally, if the item was damaged, it’s important to keep the damaged item, packaging and any other package contents until the claim is resolved. USPS says the following:
“If a claim is filed because some or all of the contents are missing or damaged, the addressees must retain the mailing container, including any damaged articles, all packaging and any contents receipted. Upon written request by the USPS, the addressee must make this proof available to the local post office for inspection, retention and disposition in accordance with the claims decision. Failure to do so will result in denial of the claim.”
Once a decision is made on the claim, getting payment is quick. Typically, payment is sent within seven to 10 business days from a claim decision.
On a package basis, the cost of insurance is minimal, but when you’re a company sending a large volume of packages, the costs add up fast. As a result, it’s important to know any special considerations for insurance so you can prepare for those ahead of time. Here are a few factors to consider when deciding if purchasing extra insurance is right for your situation.
The payout may be subject to depreciation. USPS will only pay out on the depreciated value of the item. “If your lost or damaged items were purchased used, or you no longer have the purchase receipt, your claim may be denied.”
Photos of damaged items may be required. If the item was damaged, photos may be required during the claims process. Ask the customer to take photos of the item right away to ensure that you can recover from the loss.
Packing items are important. As highlighted before, packing matters. If USPS determines the item was improperly packed and that contributed to the damage, this may affect payment of the claim. Ask the customer to keep packing materials and take photos until the claim is resolved.
Claims should be made quickly. Unlike UPS, which gives you nine months to make a claim, USPS gives you 60 days. Additionally, you can’t file sooner than a predetermined number of days. For example, for Priority Mail Express, you can’t file sooner than seven days after the item is lost, damaged or stolen. If the customer has a problem, start collecting the required information and documents immediately and file once the claim period opens.
Fragile items may be excluded. According to USPS DMM 609, “Filing Indemnity Claims for Loss or Damage,” USPS is exempt from paying insurance claims if the “fragile nature of the article prevented its safe carriage into the mail, regardless of packaging.” If you’re shipping fragile items, check if they are excluded from coverage.
Once a customer signs for a package, they have officially accepted it as being in satisfactory condition. If the package requires a signature, ask the customer to inspect it carefully for damage before signing. Once the customer has signed for the package, it makes recovery more difficult because the customer is essentially accepting the package in its current condition.
Keep the original insurance slip. USPS doesn’t keep computer records of post-office-purchased insurance, so if the slip is lost, it’s challenging to prove that coverage was purchased.
Shipping multiple items is efficient, but this has implications. A customer might purchase several items from your company, and to maximize efficiency, you might ship those items together. But keep in mind that if you’re getting $100 in coverage, it will include the entire package, so the insurance may not go as far. You may want to purchase additional insurance or break up shipments for insurance purposes.
Moving Forward with Greater Security
The most important consideration in any transaction is the customer experience. How can you keep the customer happy? If an item is lost or stolen, you might have a basic process for getting that item replaced, but on the back end, you must recover a portion of those expenses.
Insurance is a valuable tool for filling the gap. And in many situations, the no-cost USPS insurance is enough to offset any potential losses. But it’s important to have a process in place to handle any issues that come up. For example, do team members know what to request from customers so you have everything that is required to file a claim?
Establishing policies helps create consistency, not only in the customer experience, but also when gathering the proper documentation to ensure maximum recovery. As a result, you’ll leave the customer happy, while ensuring that your company continues to thrive and minimize loss in the future.
Shipware delivers volume parcel and less-than-truckload shippers intelligent and innovative distribution solutions and strategies. Whether you ship with FedEx, UPS, USPS or regional carriers, our contract negotiation and invoice audit services are guaranteed to reduce your parcel and LTL shipping costs by 10 to 30 percent, with no disruption to current operations. Our team of experts has over 200 combined years of carrier pricing experience. We have negotiated thousands of FedEx, UPS and LTL contracts – saving our clients an average of 19 percent of their annual shipping spend.