Do Mailmen Carry Stamps?

  It is hard not to think about mail without thinking about stamps. Especially when in 2019, 16.5 billion U.S. postage stamps were printed. But, how many times have you found yourself without a stamp to add to your envelope? In our case, more than what we would want to admit!  

So, it got us thinking: do mail carriers sell stamps? The short answer is no. Mail carriers do not carry or sell stamps. Nonetheless, in some particular cases, a post officer might carry stamps. For instance, along rural routes, some mail carriers sell stamps. Or, if you have previously ordered them, your postman will deliver them to your door.  

Below we will go over the reasons why mail carrier does not sell or give out stamps. Additionally, we will share valuable tips on how to go about sending your mail when you are short of postage.  

Reasons Why Post Officers Do Not Carry Stamps 

Like we mentioned before, mail carriers do not typically sell or carry stamps. Back in the day, postmen (and even bus drivers) sold stamps or even gave them away if a customer needed one. However, long gone are those days for various reasons, including: 

Increased Mail Volume 

Do Mailmen Carry Stamps?

It is no secret that millions of letters are mailed, processed, and delivered each day by the United States Postal Service (USPS). The average mailman delivers approximately 1,611 pieces of mail per day in the United States. Thus, your carrier can’t be able to give away or be responsible for that many stamps.  

Hypothetically speaking, if only one-fourth of the letters he/she handles require stamps, your average mail carrier would need to have 402 stamps available every day!  

Added Responsibility

Some people might think that postal officers are only responsible for delivering the mail when, in reality, they have a long list of chores that come with the job description, including: 

  • Planning routes
  • Collecting and delivering mail
  • Obtaining signatures
  • Answering customer questions about postal regulations 
  • And more

Thus, selling stamps or having to add postage to an unmarked envelope would: slow down routes, add additional tasks to their already busy schedule, and result in extra responsibilities.  

Plus, deciding not to allow mail carriers to be responsible for stamps is also a way for the USPS to minimize liabilities. Imagine if your mailman forgets to add a stamp to an envelope he/she picked up before taking it back to the postal office or runs out of stamps mid-route. Consequently, the letter might never reach its destination or could be returned to the sender.  

Now imagine if said letter is, for example, your utility paycheck. As a result, the service company does not receive your payment on time, and your service gets disconnected.  

As you can see, handling mail is a huge responsibility. Plus, when you think about all the documents, checks, and sensitive information that is sent daily through the degree of accountability is even higher. Hence, it is only reasonable for the USPS to try to lighten the load (figuratively and literally.) 


As you know, your average postage stamp costs only 55 cents. However, depending on whathow, and where you are mailing, you may require a different kind of postage.  

Do Mailmen Carry Stamps?

The most commonly used stamps include 1-ounce First-Class™ Mail, 2-ounce First-Class™ Mail, Presorted First-Class Mail®, Priority Mail®, Priority Mail Express®, stamped envelopes, and cards. Therefore, if mail carriers were to sell or carry stamps, they would need to have all of these options available.  

Plus, note that each of these stamps has a fixed price attached to them. Thus, the mail carrier would also need to have an adequate chance to give back to customers who do not have the exact amount payable.  

As a result, the USPS would have to develop very complex logistics and regulations to ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of the service.  

Cases in Which a Postal Officer Carries Stamps 

As expected, with every rule comes an exception. Hence, there are cases in which a postal officer may carry or sell stamps: 

  • Rural Routes

In general, residents in very small towns in the country are considered rural areas. As a result, they do not always receive residential mail delivery from the USPS. However, certain post offices include a few rural routes. So, to make it easier for their clients, mail carriers still have stamps available.  

  • Pre-payed/Pre-ordered stamps

If you decide to pre-pay or pre-order your stamps online, your postman will, without a doubt, be able to deliver them to your mailbox.  

To do so, follow these simple steps: 

  1. Register through the USPS’s official portal 
  2. Create an account 
  3. Click on the button ‘buy stamps’ 
  4. Choose the quantity, style, and type of stamp you want 
  5. Add them to your online cart 
  6. Click ‘checkout.’ 

Within a few days, your stamps will be delivered to the address you requested.  

  • Side-job

Sometimes a mail carrier might sell or handle stamps on their own. Even though he/she is not officially required to do so. In these cases, your mailman could be offering an additional service to collect a little extra money. Or because he/she simply does not mind having the added responsibility.  

However, know that if this is the case, the USPS cannot be held accountable for missing mail or incorrect use of postage.  

Wondering if mail carriers have keys to all mailboxes? Check out this article:

How to Send Mail Without a Stamp 

Overall, sending mail without a stamp is not recommended. Nonetheless, if you forget to add a stamp to your mail piece, two things can happen: 

  1. Your mail piece gets returned to your mailbox a few days later 
  2. The receiver will have to pay the postage. In other words, the mail piece will have a ‘postage due’ mark, and the person receiving it will have to pay for it.  

Although this second scenario is very uncommon, it is possible — especially when there is no return address associated with the mail piece. 

There are other very interesting exemptions where you can send mail without stamps such as: 

  • If you are a member of the Congress 

One privilege that our congressmen have that you might not be aware of is that they can send mail without having to use stamps. This is known as ‘franking.’ 

  • Mailing a ballot 

In an effort to make voting ‘easier,’ the U.S. government decided that citizens can send absentee ballots without having to use a postage stamp.  

  • If you are returning unsolicited mail  
Do Mailmen Carry Stamps?

In case you received letters or mail you do not care for, you can simply put them back in your mailbox. As a result, the next time the postman swings by, he/she will return the mail piece to its original sender.  

Aside from these three exemptions, you are required to add adequate postage to every piece of mail you wish to send.  

Wrapping it up! 

Today we learned that every mail piece going through USPS requires a stamp and that there are plenty of valid reasons as to why your mail carrier does not sell or distribute stamps.  

The good news is that there are many other ways in which you can get stamps delivered to your door (i.e., online ordering.) And, if you ever run out of stamps and cannot wait for them to be delivered, there is always the option of visiting your nearest post office to buy a stamp and mail your piece from there.  

Related Questions

Below two of the most frequently asked questions related to stamps and additional postage:

Why do some letters require extra postage?

There are many cases where a piece of mail or letter might require additional postage (or more than one stamp). Nonetheless, the most common scenario is because the envelope/card has a particular shape or size that is difficult to process on the mail sorting machines. Another reason is when the mail piece weights more than the average envelope (an ounce or less.)  

And, if you are unsure if you need to add an extra stamp, we recommend you visit the USPS’s official website for more information. By doing so, you will make sure your mail gets delivered to its destination without any hassle. 

Do packages/large boxes need stamps?

We all know that envelopes require stamps, but it is sometimes unclear as to whether packages need stamps or a shipping label will suffix. So, to clear up any doubts, know that if your package weighs less than 13 ounces, you can stamp it and leave it in your mailbox with the correct number of stamps.  

However, remember that the number of stamps needed on your package will be determined by its weight, class, and destination. And if your package weighs 13 ounces or more, stamps will not cut it! In these cases, you will need to take the box to the post office to be able to ship it. Here, a postal worker will let you know how to go about it and what you need for it to reach its destination.  

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Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.