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Which Email Service Providers Have a Return Receipt Option?

Karyn Maier
Updated May 16, 2024
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The return receipt option is a feature offered by some email service providers. Just as with physical “snail mail,” using this feature can be very useful. For one thing, it serves as confirmation of delivery. It may also provide additional information of value, such as the time and date the email was read, and the IP (Internet Protocol) address of the local computer or network that received it. With the large number of email service providers available, the best way to find out which ones have a return receipt option is to contact the service and ask.

Requesting a return receipt doesn’t necessarily mean one will actually be received. First, the recipient’s email application may not support this feature, and some privacy policies allow individual users to opt-out of email tracking. This means that the recipient may disable the feature and still read the email. In addition, if the sender’s email address is not pre-approved or is otherwise filtered, the email may be automatically directed to a “spam” folder and never be viewed at all.

While there are dozens of web-based email providers — and some that don’t require an internet connection at all — surprisingly few offer the return receipt feature. Some of the more mainstream email clients do, such as America Online (AOL), Netscape®, and Microsoft Outlook®. Still, users should be aware that even though these applications may have this option, it is usually disabled by default. In fact, it can sometimes take a few extra clicks for the sender to figure out how to send email with this feature enabled.

For example, the Outlook® application has a number of return receipt options that can be accessed by selecting “Options” from the pull-down menu under “Tools” from the main menu bar. From here, the user can elect to request a return receipt for all email sent, to be prompted before sending individual email, or to disable the feature entirely. The user can also choose to send a receipt for incoming email.

America Online is much more straightforward with its options. With this application, there is a tab that reads “Request Return Receipt” at the bottom of the window from which email is composed that can be checked. In addition, since AOL is a subscription-based service, members can track the status of all email sent to other AOL members. This feature is available without even requesting a receipt.

With Netscape®, these options are available in the “Mail and Newsgroups” area under “Preferences” from the “Edit” pull-down menu. As with Outlook®, Netscape® users can choose to request a return receipt for all outgoing email or only for some. As with AOL, users can simply select “Compose” to launch a new email window and check the box to request a receipt from there.

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Karyn Maier
By Karyn Maier , Writer
Contributing articles to EasyTechJunkie is just one of Karyn Maier's many professional pursuits. Based in New York's Catskill Mountain region, Karyn is also a magazine writer, columnist, and author of four books. She specializes in topics related to green living and botanical medicine, drawing from her extensive knowledge to create informative and engaging content for readers.

Discussion Comments

By matthewc23 — On Aug 29, 2012

@titans62 - That is what one of my professors did. He had quite a case of OCD or something. He always expected you to send a reply email as soon as he sent the message to you. If you hadn't replied by the end of the night, he would start sending follow-up messages. I would definitely not suggest being that demanding.

It did result in a funny story, though. At one point, the professor had his email set up to automatically request the read receipts. He ended up teaching a large class one year with several people who didn't bother to return his emails. He eventually got angry with them during class, so to retaliate, there were 20-30 students who went through all of their messages and clicked the "Read" button. It ended up filling his mailbox and crashing one of the servers, so he had to change strategies.

I guess the moral of the story is be careful what you wish for with read receipts.

By titans62 — On Aug 28, 2012

@cardsfan27 - I would basically agree with @kentuckycat. Outlook can be kind of outdated, though. We were forced to use it for our university email system, and I was not a fan at all.

At least to me, the layout wasn't very organized, and the whole system just seemed too complicated for what it was. If that's your only option, though, it looks like you might have to go with it.

The other option would just to be include in the body of your messages that you would like a prompt response that the person has at least gotten the message.

By kentuckycat — On Aug 28, 2012

@cardsfan27 - You are correct. Gmail and most of the other major free email sources don't offer the feature normally. I am vaguely familiar with Gmail and know that they do offer a lot of add-ons. It may be possible to search through those and find a widget that will let you requent an email return receipt. If that doesn't work, you'll have to look elsewhere I guess.

A quick internet search might turn up some results that offer free service or let you send requests for a small fee. If you already have Microsoft Office installed on your computer, it might just be smarter to use Outlook.

I haven't used it for several years, but the article says it will work. If I remember correctly, all you need is the program installed and a Microsoft ID to set up the address.

By cardsfan27 — On Aug 27, 2012

The article is right. It is very difficult to find a provider that offers read receipts of email messages.

I send quite a few emails, and I like to know that they have been read if they are something that is time sensitive. The internet service provider I used to have offered this service with their accounts. I recently moved, though, and my new ISP doesn't offer this.

Does anyone have any suggestions for free options to get this feature? I have a Gmail account, but I don't think they have it either.

Karyn Maier

Karyn Maier


Contributing articles to EasyTechJunkie is just one of Karyn Maier's many professional pursuits. Based in New York's...
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