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7 Useful Services of the Post Office (Besides Mail Delivery)

Kristie Leong M.D. is a family practitioner who believes in the power of nutrition and a healthy lifestyle to prevent and fight illness.

You may think of your local U.S. post office only as a place to buy stamps, mail a letter, and maybe pick up a package or two. You may never have considered the post office is in business to serve you—the public—and that it does so by providing an array of wonderful services for its customers.

This article explores the many services your local post office can provide to help save you time, money, and extra steps.

1. Alert You That a Package Has Been Delivered

If you're waiting for a package, sign up for text message alerts with USPS Informed Delivery that let you know when the item will be delivered, as well as provide photos of its mail contents. The service will also allow you to schedule redelivery if you'll be out of town when the package arrives.

You can sign up for this service online and receive delivery notifications via email or text messages for free. The USPS Informed Delivery service will allow you to track your letters and packages by sending a notification before they arrive each day, as well as providing digital scans of the fronts of your letters so you know what's on the way.

2. Passport Services

Did you know that the U.S. Postal Service can help you get your passport? Many post offices offer walk-in passport services, but only some of them participate. You can see if your local post office does it by calling ahead or checking online. You can apply for your passport at any post office that offers passport services. These operations are open Monday through Saturday during normal business hours.

The application process takes about six weeks, although it can be as long as 11 weeks during busy periods. Therefore, applying sooner rather than later is a good idea if you're planning a trip soon. While processing times vary depending on how busy the post office is, you can pay an extra fee for expedited processing and get your passport as quickly as three to five weeks after you apply.

3. Shop at the Post Office

Not only can you buy shipping supplies at the post office, but some also sell collectible stamps, cards, postcards, and even stamp-themed gifts. The post office also offers some free shipping supplies. If you enjoy stamps and their history, there's a lot you can learn at the post office and you may even find a gift for a stamp lover or stamp collector.

4. Holding Mail When You're on Vacation

USPS will hold your mail while you're away—a great option if you don't want someone else to have access to it while you're gone. To put in a vacation hold request, submit the form online or at your local USPS post office. That comes in handy when you don't want the mail to pile up while you're out of town, signaling to intruders that you're not at home.

5. Get a Money Order

Not only can you buy money orders at the post office, but also cash them there (some restrictions apply). For example, if someone wants to send you money but has no bank account, they can buy a money order and send it to you by mail. You can then cash it at the post office without paying high fees.

6. Notary Services

The post office is a federal office and can't offer notary services since that's a state function. However, the USPS contracts with businesses that offer this service to make it easier for customers. If you need something notarized and are at the post office, ask the clerk if they can recommend a notary close by. In some post offices, it's in the same building.

7. Rent Post Office Boxes

You may not have room for your mail at home or have safety concerns about having your name on public lettering outside your house. Many post offices rent postal boxes of various sizes that give more privacy and security. Boxes come in various sizes to accommodate your needs, from small mail slots to large boxes capable of holding multiple parcels simultaneously.

You can rent a P.O. box online through the USPS website or at your local post office branch (a list of locations is also online). The cost of a P.O. box varies, depending on its size and location, but generally starts around $10 per month for a small box, with discounts available if you pay for six months or a year in advance.

Your Post Office Is a Useful Resource

You're probably aware of the most popular postal services. But it offers lesser known but equally valuable services that can save you time, money, and steps. Find out how your local post office can make your own life easier!

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