Snail mail still a thrill? Now get an early peek at it

USPS delivers scanned images via email

If you're like some people of a certain age, the daily trip to the mailbox is still something to look forward to. And if snail mail is important to you, waiting for it can be a drag. 

Now it doesn't have to be.

Informed Delivery, a service of the U.S. Postal Service, will send you an email with images of the envelopes to be delivered to your home that day. You can also track your incoming mail - just the bills, cards and letters right now - via digital dashboard or the USPS mobile app.

The post office began testing Informed Delivery in select metro zip codes in late 2015. It became available nationwide last month. The service is not available to businesses or, for now anyway, P.O. Box users.

You'll need to set up an account at USPS.com and sign in with username and password to use Informed Delivery. You'll also have to wait for a letter from USPS containing a verification code.

Subscribers receive an email digest by 9 a.m. (ET) with images of up to 10 pieces of mail; click a lick in the email to see the rest. The scanned images of your mail are also available for seven days on the dashboard at informeddelivery.usps.com.

The post office has been photographing every envelope and package that passes through its automated sorting system  - tens of billions of pieces a year - since at least 2001. The practice alarms some privacy advocates, but it's part of the post office's ongoing efforts to remain relevant.

“Informed Delivery engages customers where they want to be – in a mobile and digital environment,” Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan said in a 2016 speech showcasing the service. "It puts the power of mail onto digital channels.”

Informed Delivery can be useful for people who travel a lot. Subscribers can also keep an eye out for important mail, such as checks and time-sensitive materiel. And if you've ever suspected your mail is being stolen or tampered with, the service makes to easy to report problems to USPS.

The service can also help businesses connect more directly with customers. Informed Delivery allows marketers to include links and digital offers and messages on envelopes that allow subscribers to "interact" with the scanned images. 

For more information, check out this FAQ at USPS.com.