Courier Services vs Postal Services – Understanding the difference

Are you confused about what is a courier service and what is a postal service? Then you have come to the right place. Let’s explore more.


If you are looking out for an apt courier service for your eCommerce business, then you are likely gonna stumble upon 400 plus couriers in operation around the world. It can be truly overwhelming to choose which one suits your business needs. The best way to find out the right courier service for your business is by knowing all about the courier services and the pros and cons of using them and then finally arriving at the decision upon which is the best. Here we take a look at the basic difference between postal services and courier services that will come handy when you develop the shipping strategy for your business.

What is a Courier service?

A courier service is usually a private firm that lets you ship important documents or parcels. They are mainly specialized in a certain type of shipping within a specific destination. They offer same-day delivery, or regional shipping etc., or they might cover an array of shipping services across various regions worldwide.

A courier service offers to deliver small to medium size packages in the same region or even internationally. They are also experts in handling bulk shipments. Also, they offer insurance on packages, which makes them ideal for shipping important and urgent shipments.

Types of Courier services

Depending on the types of services they offer, these couriers are divided into a few types:

Time Sensitive shipping: These types of courier services aim to deliver within specific time frames like 3-6 business days, 1-2 business days etc. Also, they target their delivery within a specific time during the day, for example between 8-10 pm. Popular ones are DHL, USPS, UPS, FedEx etc. 

Local Shipping: These courier services offer spontaneous services in and around the local area they function. They offer speedy, same-day delivery within the region they work or within certain regions of the metropolitan city. 

International Shipping: Couriers which operate their shipping to international locations fall in this category. These couriers also have services to track taxes and duties etc., while shipping cross-border, to ensure the parcels reach the customers without much hassle. Aramex, DTDC etc., are some of the couriers that fit into this category.

When to choose a Courier Service?

You can choose a courier service in certain cases like:

  • When you need the tracking information.
  • When you are sending temperature-sensitive items, medical supplies etc.
  • When it is supposed to arrive at a particular date or there is an urgency.

What is the Postal service?

In olden times, before the internet and other mediums of communication existed, postal service was prevailing in most of the countries. They are owned by the respective national governments and are mostly used to deliver parcels or sometimes important documents across locations. But since they are not as quick as the courier services, they are mostly contacted to ship not so urgent letters or parcels. Some of the popular postal services are United States Postal Services, Australia Post, China Post etc.

When to choose a Postal Service?

Postal service is ideal in certain cases like:

  • When the delivery is not business-critical.
  • When you don’t need the tracking information.
  • When you want to ship at a regular price.
  • When you are shipping items that are not perishable, temperature-sensitive, etc.

Is USPS a courier service?

USPS or United States Postal Service is an independent agency run by the United States federal government responsible for providing postal service in the United States and is great for shipping personal mails as well as packages across locations.USPS does let you post letters, or pick up packages or even drop off packages at their offices or drop boxes available across locations. USPS works with Universal Postal Union (UPU) to facilitate smooth international shipping. Moreover, the USPS Priority Mail Express does have their swift courier options to deliver to domestic locations overnight itself, which makes it qualify as a courier service.

USPS has several classifications when it comes to postal services. These are classified in terms of the service type, postage prices, features etc. They are:

Priority Mail Express: Shipping merchandise, mailable items, letters etc.

Priority Mail: Mailable items, letters, merchandise, bills etc.

First Class Mail: Cards, letters, personal correspondences etc.

Periodicals: For newsletters, magazines, regular subscription items.

USPS Marketing Mail: Marketing material items like brochures, newsletters, periodical publications, etc.

Package Services and USPS Retail Ground: For gifts, merchandise, printed matters, library mails etc.

FedEx courier Services

FedEx is one among the popular courier services with a plethora of services that makes it quite popular among the eCommerce businesses as well. They are well known for their effective time-sensitive shipping services worldwide. Popular services from FedEx include:

  • FedEx International First.
  • FedEx International Priority.
  • FedEx International Economy:
  • FedEx International Priority Freight
  • And much more.

They offer smart options when it comes to shipping anywhere in the world with quick and efficient tracking systems, customs cleared shipping, the effective packaging and much more.

Courier services vs Postal services

Despite the advancements in technology, people still make use of the postal services to send important documents, letters, deeds etc. Courier services have their share of advantages, which is why they are subjected to certain kinds of services.

Here are some of the basic features compared: 


Postal services are relatively cheaper when it comes to shipping. It is simple and all you need to pay is the shipping cost.

Courier services are fast and their services are directly reflected in the price they charge for shipping. If you need quick and instant options, you surely need to pay higher.

Quality of Service

Postal services do not have extravagant tracking options or proper customer service, hence you might need to have loads of patience in terms of waiting for your parcels or letters. They also have longer delivery times. But again, some countries do have excellent postal services which are prompt and reliable.

Courier services on the other hand are quite pricey when it comes to offering services. They offer insurance coverage, tracking options and much more to keep the transit safe and informed. The charges they levy on the shipping will include fuel surcharges, parcel handling charges, and even remote area surcharges. But again these charges do add value to the business. 

How does International Shipping work?

The main advantage of handling international shipping with courier services is that it works around every aspect like taxes, duties to pay, cross-border conflicts, restriction on goods and also on how to ship certain items, especially which are temperature sensitive etc. The courier services do all the necessary work when it comes to shipping and you can be relieved completely from the small worries that might arise when you are seeking the service of the postal department for international shipping. 

Hence when you are shipping using courier services, it streamlines all the processes and steps to be taken when it comes to shipping the items to the required location until it reaches the destination country. 

Whereas, when it comes to postal services, due to the nature of their services you need to be extra cautious in what you are sending. If there are duties and taxes to be paid on your postage, then the postal services cannot handle these things entirely. In such cases, the postal service will contact the recipient and then once the taxes and duties are settled, the package will be sent to the recipient. 

Tracking of the shipments

Postal services have relatively poor tracking options when it comes to shipping. It is hard to find out where exactly the postage went astray when you are tracking for lost packages.

Courier services do have smart tracking options, which are also available online, which makes it easy for the customers to keep track of the shipments. 

Packaging Services

Packaging might sound like a minor aspect when it comes to shipping packages. But again packaging is quite essential when you are shipping packages as you would want to ensure that your items are packaged properly and reach the destination damage-free. 

As for the courier service, you can find numerous ways to pack your items safely so that they arrive at the destination without any damage. Even the customer care at the courier services can offer you plenty of ideas concerning the packaging. A postal service might as well reject a poorly packaged package at the first glance. This is where a courier service is advisable when you are looking for add-on services.

Real-Time Tracking

Every customer is enthusiastic about the arrival of the package. The postal service does not entertain such aspects, as they do not have any real-time tracking options. But again courier service does have an efficient tracking system which is again beneficial for eCommerce businesses when they are shipping of items to their customers. Courier service can make use of the tracking number to keep track of the shipments in transit. 

If you are running a WooCommerce store, then you can incorporate tracking of popular couriers like FedEx, USPS, UPS etc., on your store to keep your customers informed using a simple WooCommerce shipping plugin. Moreover, you can easily obtain real-time shipping rates on your store using these plugins.

Which is better: Postal Services Vs Courier Services

As explained above, the postal services do lack certain aspects when it comes to sending important and larger items across locations, they are still preferred by many for sending letters, deeds and much more. However, in the case of businesses, it is ideal to look into the best option that suits your business needs. When you are into running an eCommerce business, then you need to worry about long delays and promptness of deliveries, hence you need to choose the right service that fits your business.

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