2 December 20227 minute read

How to Look Up Tracking Numbers


Most of us know how the process goes by now. 

You open the delivery tracking tool sent to you over email or text by your online shopping platform and enter all the relevant information in a hurry. 

You’re asked to fill in the order tracking or reference number. But what exactly is this tracking number? And how does it help you find your package?

I’ll break down tracking numbers for you and tell you the best ways to look up tracking numbers for your next online retailer order.

Track any package in the world, in seconds, with Circuit Package Tracker. Click here to start tracking.

What is a tracking number?

As the term suggests, a tracking number is a unique code that helps both you and shipping service providers identify each package shipment. 

The number acts as an identification code that’s checked and registered during each step of the delivery process. 

A tracking number can be a simple serial number, a barcode, or a QR code that’s automatically scanned at each delivery checkpoint. 

Let’s understand the process with the help of an example. 

Your package is being shipped from San Francisco, California, to Salem, Massachusetts. Once collected, your package is stamped with a tracking number (and a few other identification details like a delivery address), which, in this instance, is a scannable QR code. 

The package is then sent to the central sorting facility in Oklahoma, where it’s automatically scanned upon arrival. 

It’s sorted and sent to the Massachusetts sorting center, where it’s scanned again before heading out on its way to you. 

Scanning the package at all these checkpoints helps the delivery service update you about your order. 

Every time the tracking code is scanned at a facility, you might get a push notification that looks something like: “Package in transit: Released from sorting center.”

These notifications help you keep a watchful eye on your delivery and monitor its progress. 

You can also visit the package tracker link and enter the tracking number manually to track your delivery at any given time. 

Circuit Package Tracker also helps you track all your deliveries in real time. 

You get detailed package tracking information at your fingertips. Our easy-to-use interface, a handy map view, and customized tracking alerts make package tracking quick and simple. 

Where to look up tracking numbers

You’ll typically get a unique tracking number each time you place an online order. 

You can get your package tracking code details in a number of ways. 

For example, this number could be sent to you through a confirmation email (be sure to check the spam folder). 

Or the seller might choose to give you an on-page or text link. These tracking numbers are usually embedded in your order confirmation message. 

Scan the message thoroughly and jot down your order tracking number and other important details. 

The code you get is usually eight to 40 characters with a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. 

What you need to do with the code depends on the specific delivery service and its tracking process. 

You can also usually enter the tracking number in a third-party tracking app like Circuit Package Tracker.

USPS tracking number lookup 

Your USPS tracking number can look very different depending on the type of delivery service you selected. 

Priority Mail, Certified Mail, Collect On Delivery, and Hold For Pickup all come with 22-character tracking numbers, whereas special Global Express Guaranteed orders come with 10-digit codes. 

These numbers signify your selected service, courier company (which, in this case, is USPS), and other delivery information. 

You can copy and paste your tracking code into the search box on the USPS tracking website and click “Track” to find your package.

You’ll find an option to leave delivery instructions on the tracking results page. 

This is a handy tool for people who might want their package delivered to a different address after they’ve placed the order. 

However, this tool might not work in some situations.

If it’s payment on receipt, you’ll have to pay the delivery driver for your package. 

If your shipping address is also your billing address, you may be unable to change it. 

And if your package has already left the post office and is on its last-mile delivery route, you may be unable to change the delivery address.

USPS’s free Informed Delivery service sends package delivery updates at each delivery checkpoint. 

FedEx tracking number lookup 

Using the FedEx tracking tool, you can look up your package’s whereabouts using a tracking or reference number. 

The process is pretty much the same as the other services. The only difference is that with FedEx, you can use the reference number to locate your package if you don’t have a tracking number. 

In case of delivery discrepancies, this tool also allows you to obtain proof of delivery, including the recipient’s signature. 

FedEx gives you multiple options to track your shipment, like advanced tracking, email tracking, detailed tracking, and international shipment tracking.

UPS tracking number lookup 

With UPS, you can get details of your inbound and outbound shipments even without a tracking number. 

All you need to do is visit the UPS website, create a “My Choice” account, and use the dashboard tools to locate your package. 

If you’ve placed your order from a guest account, you can use the reference number that comes with your order to track your package.

UPS has a free plan that gives you primary features like delivery alerts and an estimated delivery date and time. 

The premium plan gives you access to many advanced features, like choosing delivery days, confirmed delivery time windows, and the option to change your delivery address.

Amazon tracking number lookup 

ECommerce website Amazon follows a tracking policy similar to UPS. 

Users who place their orders through a registered Amazon account (either a free account or a Prime subscription) can go to the “My Orders” section to track all their recent orders. 

Amazon doesn’t let users place orders without registering for a free account. 

DHL tracking number lookup 

DHL follows a straightforward order tracking process where customers can enter their order tracking number into the search page.

DHL lets you track up to 10 orders in a single click. 


How do you identify a tracking number by carrier?

A tracking or reference number is usually a distinctive, long-winding number on your order confirmation receipt. 

While different services follow different standard formats for these numbers, they’re usually eight to 40 characters long and contain small groups of characters separated by hyphens or spaces. 

Each group signifies a specific detail about the order, like the delivery service and location.

USPS tracking number format 

USPS’s Publication 199 offers detailed information on its standard tracking number format. 

Most auto-generated tracking numbers used by USPS contain five groups of four numbers each and a final group of two numbers, all separated by spaces. 

The first four numbers in this series signify your selected USPS service. 

For instance, 9205 5000 0000 0000 0000 00 is the standard format for Priority Mail, whereas all Registered Mail is marked using the format 9208 8000 0000 0000 0000 00. 

FedEx tracking number format

FedEx Ground and Express tracking numbers are usually 12 to 14 characters long. 

Less common tracking numbers used for special services can also be 20 to 22 characters long. 

These usually include three random four-digit sets followed by a special character or letters for special delivery orders. 

UPS tracking number format

The UPS follows an 18- to 22-character tracking number format, where the first two characters are marked 1Z for domestic deliveries. 

The four most common formats that UPS tracking numbers appear in are: 

  • 1Z9999999999999999
  • 999999999999
  • T9999999999
  • 999999999

DHL tracking number format

DHL follows a simple 10-digit tracking number format for both standard and express parcel deliveries. 

Tracking numbers for standard parcels start with 3S, JVGL, or JJD, whereas express service numbers start with 000, JJD01, JJD00, JVGL, or a similar variation.


Can you track a package without a tracking number?

Short answer, yes. 

Leading delivery companies like UPS, FedEx, and Amazon allow you to track your packages without long tracking or reference ID numbers. 

These services usually require you to register for a free account to keep track of all your packages. 

UPS’s My Choice, USPS’s Informed Delivery, and FedEx’s Delivery Manager are all examples of membership programs that allow users to track orders without using a reference ID. 

Most of these come with added benefits, like on-demand package tracking and customizable mobile alerts on your Android or iOS device.

Can you see what an order is from the tracking number?

No, tracking numbers can’t help you uncover what items are being delivered in an ordered package. 

As mentioned, any package being delivered to customers is stamped with several identification numbers that help both the customer and the delivery service check the tracking status of a package. 

The order number associated with the package is the best representation of the contents inside. 

Tracking numbers, on the other hand, are generated in bulk quantities and simply assigned in random order for the tracking system to accurately update the package’s location. 

How to get detailed tracking info for your package

Do you have multiple tracking numbers from multiple couriers that you need to track? 

With Circuit Package Tracker, simply copy and paste your tracking code into the search box and click on “Track my package” to find your package. 

Our app works with many of the world’s leading courier and postal services, including Australia Post, China Post, Canada Post, Royal Mail, FedEx, EMS, and DHL

So, you don’t have to go to each website to learn your order statuses.

Our mobile app also shows you a detailed map depicting the exact route your package is expected to take to get to you in your destination country. 

You’ll get notifications for any delays or changes in the shipping schedule. 

What’s better? You can customize your notification alerts so you only get important changes in the delivery schedule. 

Track any package in the world, in seconds, with Circuit Package Tracker. Click here to start tracking.

About the author

Heather Reinblatt
Heather ReinblattContributor

Heather Reinblatt is a managing editor currently living in St. Louis, Missouri. She spends her free time reading, trying new recipes, and cuddling her cat Paisley. You can find Heather on LinkedIn.


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