USPS Says You Shouldn't Put a Lost Wallet in the Mailbox—Here's Why
The agency recommends trying other methods to return someone's belongings.
There's no feeling of dread quite like realizing you've lost your wallet. Aside from the cash you may never see again, you also keep your driver's license and credit cards in there—and those can be a pain to get replaced. You may hope that your belongings are found by a Good Samaritan who tries returning it through the postal system, but as it turns out, that may not be your best bet. The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) actually advises against this common practice. Read on to find out why.
Many people recommend putting lost wallets in the mailbox.
If you've ever come across a lost wallet yourself, you might have dropped it in a USPS mailbox to get it back to its rightful owner. After all, people have been pushing this idea for years.
"If you find a lost wallet in the U.S., you can drop it in a USPS mailbox and they will return it to its owner free of charge," one Reddit user wrote in a 2018 post in the subreddit r/LifeProTips.
Another user commented on the thread, adding that this had worked for them when they lost their wallet. "Someone must have thrown it in the mailbox. The USPS put it in an envelope marked it as 'found in mailbox' and I got it back in a couple weeks," they wrote.
This even proved successful for New York City Mayor Eric Adams' top aide earlier this year.
"I lost my wallet while hiking but a couple days later someone found it. And returned it via mail. With all the money. And left a great note! People are pretty good sometimes," Maxwell Young, Adams' Communications Director, posted to X on Jan. 19.
In the note, the person who returned Young's lost wallet wrote that they were "dropping it USPS and [hoping] it's delivered to you safely."
But the USPS doesn't recommend you do this.
It's a nice thought to believe that a lost wallet could easily be returned through the simple action of putting it in a mailbox, and clearly it does happen. But in a Sept. 14 interview with CBS-affiliate WUSA9 in Washington, D.C., the Postal Service made it clear that this is not a method the agency advertises or advocates.
"We do not encourage customers to put lost items, including wallets, in collection boxes," a USPS spokesperson told the news outlet.
Best Life reached out to the USPS for more information, and we will update this story with their response.
You might have to pay for a lost wallet if it is returned through the mail.
Even though the USPS doesn't recommend it, postal workers will try their best to return a lost wallet if it it is dropped in the mail, WUSA9 reported. But it may not be free the way some people claim. As the USPS explains on its website, a wallet found in a collection box or mailbox is considered to be "nonmail matter," which is a type of dead mail.
"Dead mail is matter deposited in the mail that is undeliverable and cannot be returned to the sender," the agency states. "A reasonable effort is made to match articles found loose in the mail with the envelope or wrapper and to return or forward the articles."
According to the Postal Service, nonmail matter like a lost wallet will be "returned postage due at the single-piece First-Class Mail or Priority Mail price for keys and identification devices that is applicable based on the weight of the matter."
In other words, if your wallet pops back up in the mail, it may come with a notice that you owe a fee to the USPS.
The USPS recommends people use a different method.
In order to avoid any trouble, the USPS told WUSA9 that people should find another way to return found belongings instead of sticking them in a mailbox.
"If someone finds a wallet the best option is to turn it in to the local police," a company spokesperson advised. "The finder could also turn it in to a lost and found receptacle (if available) or look for an ID and contact the owner."
This might also help prevent any potential consequences on your end. A man from New York was arrested in 2019 after dropping off a lost wallet at a post office in Los Angeles, NBC Miami reported. The man said he found the wallet while leaving the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, but he was stopped days after returning it by the police and charged with petit theft.
While the charges were eventually dropped, police indicated that the wallet should have been returned to them.
"Money or property found at a Seminole Casino or on a Seminole Tribe Reservation should be turned over to uniformed security guards or officers," they said in a statement to NBC Miami.