Postage Considerations Printing Knowledge
Postage Considerations

Package Weight | Mailing Class

Package Weight

Postage can be one of the highest costs in a mailing. It is critical to be aware of the total weight of the package when planning your direct mail package. Cut exact size samples of the actual paper being used for each piece and weigh them along with the envelope or mailing package. Weighing all of the pieces will tell you what the total weight of your mailing package will be.

Determining the total weight of your mail package is especially important when mailing First Class. Just going slightly over one ounce can almost  double your cost. Weighing test samples gives you a chance to redesign some of the pieces or choose a lighter weight stock to try to reduce your mailing costs if necessary. Standard Mail (Third Class Bulk Mail) is not as critical because the cost goes up in intervals for each fraction over an ounce. The overall size of your mailing package can also affect the costs of your mailing if it does not fit within the minimum or maximum size requirements set up by the USPS. For more details on postal requirements, see Postal Regulations.

Mailing Class

Since postage can be one of the largest expenses in your project, you will want to carefully consider your choice of how to mail your package. There are several choices to consider, each having different rates and requirements. A brief explanation of each is shown below.


First Class Mail

First Class Mail gives the appearance of importance to the mailing package but is the most costly choice. The rate is based on one ounce. Anything over one ounce increases the cost substantially. First Class has priority at the post office and will be delivered the fastest. Discounts can be received if the mailing is presorted according to required specifications. First Class postage can be indicated by a permit imprint, stamp, precancelled stamp, meter imprint or printed postmark.

Standard (Third Class or Bulk) Mail

Standard Mail is the most popular choice for sending out direct mail. The Standard Mail rates are significantly lower than the First Class rates. One reason for the differences is that Standard Mail has to be more standardized from package to package. Each package must be the same size and weight for machine sorting. Also, the mailer must presort the packages by ZIP Code before delivering it to the postal service. Meeting all requirements results in less work for the postal service which results in a discount to the mailer.

The cost is based on bulk, by the pound rather than by individual pieces, so there is less handling. Other details that affect the rate are 5-digit and 9-digit sorting, carrier route sorting, bar codes, and envelope or package size.

Standard Mail is a lower priority mail and is delivered after First Class Mail. Standard Mail is generally indicated with a box in the upper right hand corner. It contains copy stating that it is Presorted Standard - U.S. Postage Paid, and contains a permit no. It can also contain the city and ZIP code of where the mail originated from. The city, state and permit no. can be replaced with a company name if the company has met the necessary requirements set up by the USPS. The area that contains this information is called a permit imprint or indicia.

There are alternatives to the printed permit that can be used to indicate the postage, such as a stamp, precancelled stamp, meter imprint or printed postmark.


Non-Profit Rates

Non-profit organizations can mail for substantially lower rates. Your organization must be authorized as a non-profit organization to qualify to use the non-profit rates. A permit imprint, stamp, precancelled stamp, meter imprint or printed postmark can be used to indicate the postage on Non-profit Mail.


There are many guidelines that have to be met to be eligible for the different mail class rates. To be sure that your direct mail package meets all of the guidelines and for help on estimating the cost of postage for your direct mail project, contact your mailing house, fulfillment center or postmaster.


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