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Online Shipping and Other Extra Services

FedEx, UPS, and the U.S. Postal Service all offer extra services free of charge.

Depending on your needs, these freebies may help you determine which provider to use.

Online Shipping.

All three courier services let customers go online to order shipping supplies, print shipping documents and labels, and schedule pickups. The Postal Service offers lower rates to customers who opt for online shipping instead of visiting the post office, promising discounts of 16 percent or more through its Click-N-Ship program. For example, we found that shipping a 10-pound package from New York to San Francisco via Priority Mail Express would cost $83.25 at the post office but only $57.32 through USPS.com. Click-N-Ship applies to Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express but not to Media Mail or Standard Post. Priority Mail Regional Rate boxes are available only online, with free pickup when mailing the package. Both FedEx and UPS advertise savings of up to 16 percent for small businesses that create accounts online.

Delivery Tracking.

All FedEx and UPS services automatically come with tracking numbers. With the Postal Service, recent upgrades in service mean most delivery methods now include USPS Tracking. This convenience comes standard on Priority Mail, Priority Mail Express, and Standard Post. For other methods, shippers must pony up 20 cents to 90 cents for tracking depending on whether they pay online or at a post office.

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Free Shipping Supplies.

What makes cheap shipping even cheaper? Free shipping supplies. As mentioned above, consumers can order complimentary shipping supplies from all three couriers online and have them delivered for free. Generally this applies to overnight and two- or three-day services, rather than ground delivery. Most UPS and FedEx drop boxes provide envelopes and shipping labels. The post office dispenses free Priority Mail Express and Priority Mail supplies, including flat-rate boxes.

Free Saturday Delivery.

The Postal Service is the only provider that does not charge extra for Saturday delivery regardless of the type of postage or package, although recommendations to cut back to five-day delivery surface periodically. FedEx offers free Saturday delivery for packages shipped via the Home Delivery service; First Overnight, Priority Overnight, and 2Day deliveries require an additional $15 fee. UPS also charges an extra $15 for any Saturday delivery.

Guaranteed Delivery.

UPS and FedEx guarantee on-time delivery for all shipments within the U.S. and will refund shipping costs if the package arrives even one minute late. The customer must request the refund within 15 days and, of course, certain limitations and exceptions apply (everything from an incorrect address to a force majeure, so be sure to read the fine print). The companies also suspend or amend these guarantees at the height of the holiday rush. The Postal Service offers delivery commitments and a money-back guarantee to most destinations only for Priority Mail Express.

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Liability for Lost or Damaged Packages.

UPS and FedEx automatically assume a maximum liability of $100 for packages with no declared value. The Postal Service does the same for Priority Mail Express and includes $50 in coverage for Priority Mail. For packages with declared values exceeding $100, consumers must pay an additional fee. UPS charges 90 cents per $100 (or portion thereof) declared beyond the initial $100, with a minimum fee of $2.55. FedEx charges 80 cents per $100 of value with a minimum of $2.40. Rates are similar with the Postal Service, which caps the maximum declared value at $5,000 compared with the maximum $50,000 at UPS and FedEx. All three assume far less liability for items such as jewelry and art, however, by limiting the allowable maximum declared value.

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