Express mail is a type of expedited postal service that is usually designed to deliver important mail within a short period of time. Domestically, the postal systems in different countries typically have some form of express delivery mail that guarantees delivery of the package or letter within anywhere from twenty-four to forty-eight hours. There are also international versions of express mail service that are designed to speed the delivery of packages mailed from one country but sent to an address in a different country. In most cases, there is an additional charge for this type of mail service.
While the exact structure of an express mail product offering varies from one country to another, the underlying premise is to deliver the mail within a shorter period of time that is offered with standard mail services. Businesses may choose to use this mailing option when there is a need to deliver products to a customer within one or two business days, or when the mailing includes documents that must be in the hands of the recipient within a very short period of time. Individuals may also make use of express mail services, such as when mailing holiday or birthday gifts. Both individuals and businesses may utilize express mail to forward payments to creditors, thus assuring the payments arrive prior to the due date and allowing the debtor to avoid incurring late fees or other types of finance charges.
Along with the postal systems operating in various countries, express mail options are often supplied by privately owned courier services that operate on both a domestic and an international scale. Services of this type are sometimes favored over traditional postal systems, and often provide rates that are very competitive with those offered by the traditional systems. In some countries, a courier may interline with the national postal system to accomplish the delivery of the item, or manage the delivery using its own resources.
While various forms of electronic communications have made it possible to transmit documents and remit payments in real time, express mail services remain very popular. This is particularly true with situations involving international commerce. In order to assure customers of some degree of uniformity and quality, members of the Universal Postal Union created what is known as Express Mail Service, or EMS, during the closing years of the 20th century. Over 150 postal administrations around the world utilize this express service, with the postal systems in several other countries providing support services that make it possible to receive and deliver items mailed using the EMS system.