It took nearly two years of living through the Covid-19 pandemic to get our first round of free at-home rapid tests. Now, we’re on our third. Every household in the United States—including US territories and military addresses—can request four more free tests. Orders start shipping this week. If you need a test right now, we have a guide to finding the best at-home tests and have outlined the process of ordering and taking tests below. Also, see our guides to the best N95 masks and other reusable masks we like. You can follow our Coronavirus coverage here.
Updated December 2022: Another round of tests is now available, and we’ve added details.
Special offer for Gear readers: Get a 1-year subscription to WIRED for $5 ($25 off). This includes unlimited access to WIRED.com and our print magazine (if you’d like). Subscriptions help fund the work we do every day.
Table of Contents
Here’s How to Order Your Tests
Head directly to the US Postal Service’s Covid-19 page. If you go through CovidTests.gov, on the front page you should see “Order Free At-Home Tests” in a blue bubble. Clicking that redirects you to the right USPS page. There, you’ll fill out your name and address. Include your email address so you can get shipping notifications. Once you’ve filled in your address, click the green Check Out Now button to the right. It’s completely free, including shipping. Only one person per household should place a request.
If you’d rather place an order by phone or you know someone who doesn’t have access to the internet, you can call a helpline at 1-800-232-0233, though you will likely be on hold for a while. Don’t call USPS, as no one you speak to will be able to place orders on your behalf.
The first round of tests took several weeks to arrive, but the second round arrived within a few days. There’s no guarantee as to what brand you’ll be getting, and you can’t choose, but the site says these are Food and Drug Administration–authorized at-home rapid antigen tests. You’ll likely receive the iHealth tests we recommend.
You should take a test as soon as you start to notice symptoms or within five days of exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control. If you’re asymptomatic and your first test is negative, take another test based on the manufacturer’s instructions. This is usually within two to three days of the first test—most tests come with two tests per box for this reason. If your test is positive, take another test to verify it and quarantine for five days.
Do You Need a Test Right Now?
If you need a test ASAP, please check our guide on Rapid At-Home Covid-19 Tests and Where to Find Them. It also has more information about accuracy. Rapid tests usually show results in about 15 minutes, and they’re about 85 percent accurate.
The Tests We Recommend (see our guide for more retailers). Preliminary results show that the starred tests can better detect the Omicron variant: