How to Get Mail by General Delivery

Postal worker delivering mail to a letterbox.
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Getting mail through general delivery is simple: locate the post office that handles general delivery in the area where you want to receive mail and have your mail directed to that address. You don't even need the street address of the post office, just the right ZIP code. The U.S. Postal Service implements a few basic rules governing general delivery, some of which are flexible, depending on the postmaster at the branch.

1 Find the Right Office

Typically, only one postal facility in an area with multiple branch locations will accept general delivery, though in some cities this rule is bypassed. Call to find out which facility accepts mail through general delivery. If you want to receive mail while on the road, select post office locations in key spots along the way.

2 Format It

The most important thing to remember is that you must use the ZIP code that corresponds to the post office receiving your general delivery mail. The ZIP code showing on a piece of mail addressed to general delivery tells the postmaster which office to send it to. Instruct anyone who will be sending mail to you -- from friends and family to creditors and businesses -- to format your address as follows: Your Name General Delivery Town, State and ZIP Code To play it safe, do a test to make sure you've gotten the right general delivery address. Simply address and mail a general delivery note to yourself and pick it up a few days later.

3 Pick it Up

Post offices usually won't hold general delivery mail longer than 30 days, according to the USPS. You can request that mail be held longer than this, but approving your request is entirely up to each postmaster. When you pick up your mail, be ready to provide identification, whether it's your driver's license or some other form of official photo ID. The postmaster has the right to refuse to hand over mail to anyone without proper ID.

4 Remember the Rules

There's no time limit for how long you can receive mail through general delivery, though a postmaster may terminate your right to receive it if you get so much mail the office can't reasonably hold it for you, or if you have a history of letting mail sit beyond the 30-day limit. Although presenting photo ID is usually required when receiving your mail, the USPS allows one exception to this rule: If the postmaster or another service representative knows you personally and knows you have no permanent address at the moment, you may be allowed to have your mail.

Brooke Julia has been a writer since 2009. Her work has been featured in regional magazines, including "She" and "Hagerstown Magazine," as well as national magazines, including "Pregnancy & Newborn" and "Fit Pregnancy."