Postage Types: First Class Mail Vs. Standard Mail


November 19, 2015

Postage Types 101: First Class Mail vs. Standard Mail

**Check out the updated version of this post here


first class mail vs. standard mail postage types


When it comes to marketing your business, direct mail remains an undisputed king of providing results. One of the first questions you need to answer when preparing a direct mailing is what postage types best suit your campaign and goals. What’s the most effective way to put your mail in the hands of your audience, in a timely fashion?

Benefits of First Class Mail

The two primary distinctions (besides cost) between First Class and Standard mail are speed of delivery, and forwarding / returns on mail with outdated addresses.

First class mail is the faster choice, getting delivered in about 3 – 5 days nationally. The USPS also provides free mail forwarding – assuming a new address is on file – and they also provide mailers a return service. Even if your recipient doesn’t get the mail piece, you can practice good mail data hygiene and remove the customer from your mailing list.

An added benefit of First Class is consistent delivery times, even during peak mailing seasons and cycles. First Class mail is a logical choice for business, financial and healthcare-oriented organizations with little margin of error in terms of delivery dates and achieving consistent deliverability rates.

Requirements for First Class mailings include:

  • Minimum weight: None
  • Maximum weight: 13 ounces (over 13 ounces, First-Class Mail becomes Priority Mail)
  • Letter maximum weight: 3.5 ounces
  • Minimum quantity mailing at commercial prices: 500 pieces

All mail may be mailed as First-Class Mail. And actually, some mail pieces must be mailed as First Class (or Priority) including invoices, credit cards, all personal correspondence and mail that’s sealed against inspection. When in doubt, check with the Post Office.

First-Class Mail prices remain the same regardless of the distance your mail pieces are going. And for a fee, you can enhance your First Class service through adding additional services such as Registered Mail and Certified Mail.

Understanding Standard Mail

The nutshell definition of Standard Mail is: Mail matter not required to be mailed as First-Class mail or as Periodicals.

Standard mail, also referred to as bulk mail, offers mailers cheaper postage but longer delivery times: 10 – 14 days is a typical delivery window, though the USPS is clear there are no delivery time guarantees with Standard mail.

There is no automatic Standard mail forwarding or returns due to incorrect addresses. And with longer delivery times – especially during peak periods – this can be an ineffective postage choice for promotional mailings or other time-sensitive materials. You’ll need to weigh the price versus the actual benefits and needs: Standard mail prices are generally about 15 cents cheaper per piece – regardless of whether a mail commingling service is used.

For an additional fee, you may choose to have Standard mail forwarded by using an Ancillary Service Endorsement.  

Some standard mail specs:

  • Minimum weight: None
  • Maximum weight: Less than 16 ounces
  • Minimum Quantity: 200 pieces or 50 pounds of mail
  • *There is no single piece Standard Mail rate

Mailers typically use Standard Mail when sending materials such as flyers, advertising mail, newsletters, catalogs and small parcels.

Examining postage types and uncertain about whether First Class or Standard mail is the best choice for you? Ask your mail services provider to walk you through the postage types and their respective benefits for your unique situation. Your mailing service can also walk you through mail commingling options for more postage savings.

For more on First Class mail and Standard mail be sure to visit the USPS’s plethora of online resources.

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