UPS, FedEx, DHL, & More

Express couriers vs postal services - Understanding the difference

Michelle Mondonedo

by Michelle Mondonedo

On 2018 M08 22

by Michelle Mondonedo

With over 400 couriers in the world, it can be overwhelming to make a choice.

One way to compare services between couriers is to determine whether they are a postal or express service.


A postal service is a shipping company that’s normally operated by national governments.

Express couriers are companies that are not government-owned, have courier networks around the world, and operate globally.

Examples of postal services include: United States Postal Service (USPS), Hong Kong Post, SingPost, Australia Post

Express couriers include: UPS, FedEx, DPEX, DHL Express


The main difference between these two are pricing.

Postal services are simple and relatively affordable: you mostly pay for the shipping costs.

Express couriers provide fast and reliable delivery services - at a price.

Service quality

While postal services do provide affordable shipping rates, you run the risk of getting what you pay for - longer delivery times, infrequent tracking, and lack of customer service.

Also worth noting is that not all postal services are created equal - some countries will have a more reliable service than others.

Express couriers offer pricier services which include additional costs such as fuel surcharges, remote area surcharges, and parcel-handling fees.

Still, these pricier offerings can provide a lot of value to your business. You should consider if it’s worth paying to ensure that your product is handled correctly and gets where it needs to be in the given timeframe.

How international shipping works

When you use an express courier to ship something internationally, they will be responsible for handling your package from the origin country all the way to the destination country.

The process is slightly different for postal services. For example, if you use USPS to ship something to Hong Kong, USPS will handle the delivery up until the package is received in the customs department at the destination country. Once it passes customs, the destination country’s postal service will handle the rest of the delivery.

Drawbacks of using the postal service to shipping internationally

Due to the nature of postal services, there are a few things you should consider when shipping internationally.

If there are problems with the delivery of your parcel, it could be difficult to get assistance. Since a country’s postal service doesn’t handle the entire delivery of your item and tracking may not be consistent across postal services, it may be a challenge to find a customer service rep who can figure out where your package went astray.

On the other hand, as express couriers are responsible for delivering your package for the entire journey, it’ll be easier to find a customer service rep who can tell you exactly what’s happening.

Using postal services can also be troublesome if duties and taxes apply to your shipment. Many express couriers offer services (at an additional cost) to pre-pay duties and taxes for a smoother delivery experience.

Postal services do not offer this feature, which means that the customs department will have to contact the recipient directly and wait for payment. Until payment is settled, the shipment will not be delivered.


Now that you know the differences between postal and express couriers, you are now prepared to find the right courier for your shipment! Think about your shipping goals and what you expect from them (such as speed, cost, service quality, and tracking) and you are good to go.

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