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9 Things You Never Knew About the Post Office

From passports to fundraising, these facts may surprise you

United States Post Office signage is displayed during a job fair hiring new postal workers and mail carrier assistants at a United States Postal Service (USPS) post office on July 18, 2022 in Inglewood, California. (Photo by Patrick T. FALLON / AFP) (Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)
PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

The post office is more than just a place to purchase stamps and send packages. From the slew of services it offers to the many ways it gives back to the community, there’s a lot you may not know about this nearly 250-year-old institution.

Take the services it offers beyond delivering mail and hawking Forever stamps. It brought in $77 billion in operating revenue last year and has 233,171 delivery routes across the U.S. Its menu of offerings, including these five, may surprise you.​

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1. Passports: Need a passport for a holiday trip or business travel? Your post office can help. Thousands of post offices across the country accept first-time passport applications. Most of the locations will even take the passport photo for you. How’s that for one-stop shopping? ​

2. Money orders: Banks, convenience stores and check-cashing outlets aren’t the only places to get money orders. The post office also offers them at an affordable rate. A bonus: They never expire. A $100 money order at a convenience store can cost as much as $2.99. At the post office, it's $1.65. ​

3. Informed delivery: The Postal Service is high tech, offering customers the ability to preview incoming mail, leave delivery instructions and track mail on a smartphone or computer — all for free. You’ll never be left wondering if the check is really in the mail or out for delivery. ​

4. E-commerce: There’s lots you can do online with the Postal Service, whether you want to buy gear or merchandise like shirts, toys, holiday ornaments or artwork, or order stamps and packaging supplies to be delivered free to your home. The USPS Click-N-Ship service lets you print postage and arrange mail pickup without leaving your home. ​

5. Banking: The Postal Service is piloting a program in select post offices that enables customers to cash payroll and business checks up to $500 for a flat fee of $5.95. For now you have to live near Washington, D.C., Falls Church, Virginia, or the Bronx, New York, to cash checks. If the pilots go well, the service could come to more post offices around the country. Other potential banking services on the list for the future include the ability to pay bills, deposit and withdraw cash, and send money to other post offices. ​

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Giving to the community 

The Postal Service has a strong history of charitable giving, including these four programs: ​

6. The USPS raises money. To help Americans support charities near and dear to their hearts, the Postal Service sells semipostal stamps, which are first-class stamps sold for a few cents above the regular cost of postage. Those pennies add up. The Breast Cancer Research semipostal stamp has raised over $93.9 million since 1998, with more than 1.09 billion Breast Cancer Research stamps sold. The Postal Service has raised $6.6 million since 2011 for vanishing species and $1.2 million since 2017 for Alzheimer’s research. Its biggest haul: the Healing PTSD semipostal stamp, which has raised $1.4 billion since 2019. ​

7. It takes care of older Americans. Through its Carrier Alert Program, which was created in 1982 to help older and disabled customers, mail carriers are taught to be aware of any unusual signs that could signal trouble, such as uncollected mail or a change in a customer’s behavior. If carriers notice something unusual, they will alert emergency services. Over the years, the Postal Service says, the program has saved many lives. ​

8. It gives back. For over 100 years, the Postal Service has run USPS Operation Santa, which grants holiday wishes to families and children in need. Last year customers adopted 24,972 letters and shipped 21,443 packages. Through the Operation Santa website, customers can read through letters and choose a family to help. ​

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9. The Postal Service is green. From recycling to using green modes of transportation, the Postal Service is doing its part to fight climate change. Last year it recycled 361,000 gallons of used oil, equal to saving over 15 million gallons of crude oil. It also recycles batteries, cardboard, plastics, electronics and metals. Last year it recycled 277,994 tons of solid waste. In Arizona and Florida, letter carriers deliver mail by bicycle on more than 50 routes. The Postal Service operates a fleet of 34,300 ethanol-powered vehicles, and it has 100 hybrid 2-ton vehicles. All of this is designed to reduce its emissions footprint on the road.

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