How Do FedEx Prepaid Labels Work?

April 7, 2023 Deyman Doolittle

If you are in the e-commerce industry, one thing you can be sure of is that customers will return items. In fact, in 2020 alone, $428 billion worth of merchandise was returned. 

To make returns processing as smooth as possible, many retailers will include prepaid return labels in the original package. That way, the buyer can return the item promptly without a lengthy back and forth with the merchant.

In this blog, we will get to know what a prepaid label is, how it works, and how to ship a parcel with one. 

How Do I Ship a FedEx Package With a Prepaid Label?

Before we see how to send back an item using a prepaid label, let's first find out exactly how prepaid labels work.

How Do FedEx Prepaid Labels Work?

A prepaid label is a shipping label provided to the recipient of a package, in case they need to return the item. It is usually included in their outgoing package along with their packing slip.

When the customer wants to return an item, they will re-package it, attach the prepaid label, and then drop it off at a FedEx location or have it picked up.

How Do I Use a Prepaid Return Label?

How you return a package with a prepaid label depends on what kind of label you have and if you have a return label, to begin with. We've outlined the steps to follow in various scenarios below:

How to ship a FedEx package with a prepaid label:

When You Have A Prepaid Label From Your Retailer

If you already have a prepaid label for your return shipment, you can drop off your package at one of FedEx's Drop Box locations. With this option, you don't have to interact with a staff member. Just drop the package into the compartment.

When You Have a QR Code Return Label From a Merchant

If and when you wish to return the item, go to a FedEx or participating retail location (e.g. Walgreens), show your QR code to a staff member, and they will print it for you on-site. Check the email from your merchant to get a list of participating drop-off locations near you. 

When You Don’t Have Any Kind of Label

Sometimes, the shipper doesn't send a return shipping label, and you're left wondering how to return an item. In such a case, you can create a label using the FedEx Label Creator or the FedEx mobile app. Alternatively, you can visit a FedEx location for assistance. 

How Do I Send Someone a Prepaid Shipping Label?

For sellers, when creating your buyer's shipping label, you can print a return label and include it in the original shipment. This option is available if you're shipping FedEx Express, FedEx Ground and FedEx Ground Economy.

If you don't want to send a printed shipping label, you can email your buyer the return shipping label. This email will contain a link and barcode leading them to the prepaid shipping label.

Another option is to use FedEx Returns Technology to email your recipient a QR code after their purchase. The buyer can have that code scanned at a FedEx location to get their prepaid label printed. 

FedEx Express Tags and FedEx Ground Call Tags

The final option we have for today is to use FedEx call tags. When you request a call tag, FedEx will send a driver to the buyer's location to pick up the return package. They will print the return label right there while picking up the shipment. All your customer needs to do is hand over the package.

Get more info on how to schedule a call tag for FedEx Ground or FedEx Express.

Who Pays for a Prepaid Shipping Label?

The retailer or online shop usually pays for the FedEx prepaid shipping label. The term 'prepaid' is actually a misnomer since the retailer's shipping account is only charged when FedEx scans the label. So, if the retailer created 40 prepaid shipping labels and only 15 were used, the seller's FedEx account is charged for those 15 only.

If you're a seller only shipping once or a few times a year, you can create a Fedex shipping label without an account, using a credit card, then email it to your recipient. 

For sellers that ship often, you can open a FedEx account to easily create FedEx shipping labels online. FedEx account allows you to:

        • Get discounts on shipping.
        • Store and manage address info for quick label creation.
        • Create multiple labels at the same time.

Do Prepaid Shipping Labels Expire?

Printed return labels do expire, but the validity period depends on the retailer.

Typically, prepaid shipping labels sent by email are printable for up to two years. Once you print the label, you usually have two weeks to use it before it is rendered invalid. 

Make sure to check your merchant's return policy for info on how long they accept returns after purchase. In case your prepaid shipping label gets lost, you can contact the seller to send you a new one. 

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