How to order the at-home free Covid test kits

Starting September 25, people can order four free Covid tests per household. Here’s all the information you need about these kits

Alonso Martínez
Senior man doing a self test for COVID-19 at home.
Senior man doing a self test for COVID-19 at home.Basilico Studio Stock (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

During the summer, the distribution of free Covid-19 tests through the United States Postal Service (USPS) stopped due to a decline in demand and reduced orders via COVIDTests.gov. However, with the U.S. gearing up for holiday travel and gatherings with loved ones, The Administration for Strategic Preparedness and Response (ASPR) and USPS are now reinstating ordering. This will provide households in the United States with another chance to request tests for free home delivery.

The tests (also referred to as self-tests or over-the-counter tests) are rapid antigen tests, not PCR tests. They can be taken at home or other locations and will give results within 30 minutes. They don’t require analysis in a lab and can be taken by anyone, whether they have Covid-19 symptoms or not. All tests require you to use a compatible, Bluetooth-enabled smartphone, as well as download and install an app from the App Store (for iOS) or Google Play (for Android).

Orders will ship for free starting the week of October 2, 2023, so anyone who ordered tests should receive them a few days after that.

It is recommended to take an at-home test if you begin experiencing Covid-19 symptoms like fever, sore throat, or loss of taste or smell. It’s also advisable to take it at least five days after having known close contact with someone with the virus or when you’re going to gather with a group of people, especially those who are at risk of severe infection or haven’t been vaccinated.

How to order at-home Covid-19 tests

Tests can be ordered through COVIDTests.gov. All you need to place an order is a name and residential address. No identification, credit card, or health insurance information is necessary. You can also provide an email address to receive order updates.

For those encountering difficulties accessing the internet or needing additional assistance with ordering, support can be obtained by dialing 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489) between 8 AM and Midnight ET, seven days a week, with assistance available in English, Spanish, and over 150 other languages.

People with disabilities can contact the Disability Information and Access Line (DIAL) at 1-888-677-1199 between 9 AM and 8 PM ET, Monday to Friday, or by emailing DIAL@usaginganddisability.org.

Inquiries related to eligibility, the online ordering process, shipping, or delivery can be directed to the USPS Help Desk at 1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-275-8777).

Who can order tests?

Tests are available for every residential address in all U.S. states and territories, including overseas military and diplomatic addresses. You may request tests to be sent to a PO Box if it’s registered as a residential PO Box. Americans who live outside of the U.S. or its territories can’t place orders.

How many tests can I order?

Each household is eligible to receive one order of four free at-home tests.

What do I do if I need more tests?

There are other options to get tested for free, including free community-based testing sites, pharmacies across the country, and the US Department of Health and Human Services distributing free at-home tests to schools, nursing homes, food banks, and other locations.

You can also contact an HRSA health center, Test to Treat site, or ICATT location near you to learn how to access low- or no-cost Covid-19 tests.

Can I choose what brand of test I get?

No. However, all tests are FDA-authorized at-home rapid antigen tests.

What should I do if my Covid-19 Home Test has expired?

According to the test’s website, most Covid-19 home tests have received expiration extensions from the FDA. To see if a Covid-19 test has an expiration extension, you can check the List of Authorized At-Home OTC Covid-19 Diagnostic Tests.

How are the tests delivered?

Tests are delivered through the U.S. Postal Service. Orders within the continental U.S. will be sent through USPS Ground Advantage. Shipments to other states and territories will be sent through Priority Mail.

People can provide an email address to receive notifications with shipping updates. Once the order is shipped, they will receive an email with an estimated delivery date and a tracking number for USPS. The tests can’t be picked up somewhere other than a home address.

Do I have to pay for shipping?

No. Those who order free tests won’t have to pay for shipping, and they’ll never be asked for a credit card or a bank account number. The official website warns that anyone who asks for more information than a name and a shipping address is a scammer. “No one will call, text, or email you from the federal government to ask for your information to ‘help’ you order free kits.”

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Alonso Martínez
Es redactor SEO para la EL PAÍS in English, con base en Ciudad de México.

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