Should You Tip Your Mail Carrier During the Holidays?

Tipping your USPS mail carrier or package delivery person isn’t straightforward—here are some tips on how to do it by the books.
Holiday tipping can be a little complicated.
Holiday tipping can be a little complicated. / sturti/E+ via Getty Images
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Between the excitable dogs, blistering heat (or cold), and drab uniform, postal carriers are up against it. This is particularly true during the holidays, when a deluge of packages can make their jobs especially taxing. In a culture that endorses tipping for service, should mail workers be tipped, too?

The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that depending on how you tip, you and your mailperson might be violating a federal regulation.

Can you tip your USPS mail carrier?

According to the Ethics FAQ on the United States Postal Service (USPS) website, employees are not permitted to accept cash or cash equivalents (a check or generic Visa gift card, for example). To do so would apparently be a violation of the Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch.

USPS employees are, however, allowed to accept what the USPS dubs “non-cash” gifts. That might consist of a greeting card, a retail gift card valued at less than $20, or “modest food items, such as a cup of coffee, donut, or an appetizer not offered as a part of a meal.”

While these terms are specific and arguably ludicrous, there’s no doubt some mail carriers abide by them. Others, however, are more lenient. When Mental Floss spoke with a number of postal carriers about their experiences back in 2017, we were told by one that some employees can collect up to $2000 in cash or gift cards during the holidays. Another mentioned getting gifts including hand warmers.

Can you tip a UPS or FedEx delivery person?

But what about other workers experiencing a package crunch? Drivers for United Parcel Service (UPS) are technically allowed to accept tips, but according to spokesperson Dan McMacklin, who spoke with The New York Times in 2021, drivers are encouraged to turn them down. Customers will have to be “insistent,” McMacklin said, for them to accept. The Times also noted that FedEx employees are prohibited from receiving cash or gift cards, but they won’t turn down a snack. Amazon does not have a policy prohibiting tipping its delivery drivers.

Assuming the carrier will take the tip, should you tip? That’s highly subjective. But given the extra bustle of the holidays, it would probably be appreciated. If you want to offer a gratuity within the USPS guidelines, then a retail gift card worth up to $20 is a good bet. Just don’t offer them any leftovers.