Mailing Made Simple…Kind of.

You may think that mailing is complicated. Well, it is. I’m going to try to break all of the mailing components into simple(r) chunks for us to digest.

One of our first concerns about any sort of business decision is, “How much is this going to cost me?” I know that money is tight and no one wants to spend a fortune on mailing. A standard letter traveling via First Class Mail will cost you 46 cents. But after that, it gets a bit more complex.

Automated postage prices are determined by a few things (the following bullets were taken directly from

  1. Content: What class of mail is it?
  2. Size: How big is it?
  3. Shape: Is it a letter, flat, or parcel?
  4. Weight: How heavy is it?
  5. Distance the mail travels: How far is it going?
  6. Quantity: How many pieces do you have?
  7. Nonprofit status: Does your organization qualify for nonprofit prices?
  8. Speed of delivery: Express Mail, Priority Mail, and First-Class Mail.
  9. Mail entry point: destination entry prices.

1. Content. There are a few different mail classes that you need to think about when mailing. They are: First Class Mail, Priority Mail, Presorted First Class, Standard Mail, and Nonprofit Standard Mail. To determine which class is right for you, you should look at the following explanations:

  • First Class: least expensive option; no delivery guarantee; must weigh less than 13 oz.
  • Priority: no delivery guarantee; can receive a return receipt; can get insurance on mailed piece; USPS tracking is available.
  • Presorted First Class: must have 500 mailable pieces; must weigh less than 13 oz.
  • Standard Mail: must weigh less than 16 oz; no delivery guarantee; must have 200 mailable pieces to receive price break; no forwarding services or return services.
  • Nonprofit Standard Mail: must weigh less than 16 oz; must be mailed at the Post Office where the organization has an approved nonprofit authorization.

2. Size. As I’m sure you well know, you can’t just send any ‘ole thing in the mail and receive automated rates. The restrictions for postcards, letters, large envelopes, and packages are as follows:

Maximum thickness 0.016 inch
Maximum thickness 1/4 inch
Large Envelopes/Flats
Maximum thickness 3/4 inch
Maximum length plus girth 108 inches (130 inches for Parcel Post)

Mailpiece Dimensions

Postcards minimum
5 inch min.
6 inch max.
3-1/2 inch min.
4-1/4 inch max.
Letters minimum
5 inch min.
11-1/2 inch max.
3-1/2 inch min.
6-1/8 inch max.
Large Envelopes/Flats minimum
11-1/2 inch min.
15 inches
6-1/8 inch min.
12 inches
Packages Maximum length plus girth 108 inches (130 inches for Parcel Post)

3. Shape. This piece of the puzzle is most useful for sending packages. Commercial parcels must be at least 3 inches tall x 6 inches long x ¼ inch thick. They must also not weigh more than 70 pounds. “Balloon pricing” is used when the parcel is large, but weighs less than 20 pounds. “Oversized pricing” is used when packages are between 108 and 130 inches in combined length and girth.

4. Weight. I’ve already talked a little about how weight affects parcels, but smaller mail pieces are a little different. Postage costs are partially based on the weight of the piece, but what you may not know is that for Standard Mail, mailpieces up to 3.3 ounces will cost the same. At 3.3 ounces, Standard Mail becomes like every other class, basing its price partially by the weight of the piece.

5. Distance. It seems pretty obvious, but for Express Mail, Priority Mail, Standard Post, and Bound Printed Matter, the farther the piece is going, the more expensive it will be. This price is determined by “zones.” zone 1 is the area closest to you, while zone 8 is the locations farthest from you.

But what you may NOT know is that First Class Mail, Standard Mail, Library Mail, and Media Mail are not zoned. You pay a flat per-piece rate no matter where your piece is going!

6. Quantity. To receive a discounted postage rate, you must have a minimum number of pieces in your mailing group:

500 pieces for First Class Mail

200 pieces (or 50 pounds of mail) for Standard Mail

300 pieces for Presorted or Carrier Route Bound Printed Matter

300 pieces for Library Mail

300 pieces for Media Mail

7. Nonprofit Status. One of the main requirements to be considered a nonprofit business is that the business must not have a net income that is “intended to benefit any individual or private stockholder” (

8. Speed of Delivery. Express mail will arrive to its destination the quickest, but it can be costly. If speed is a determining factor in how you’re choosing to send your piece, but you want to keep your costs down, I would choose Priority mail. This is the best “bang for your buck.” First Class mail has a flat rate regardless of distance.

9. Mail entry point. This part of mailing is pretty simple-the farther the piece has to travel to arrive at its final destination, the more postage you’ll need to pay. Now here come the acronyms- for Standard Mail, you will pay a smaller postage cost if you drop your mail at a NDC or a SCF.

A NDC, or network distribution center, is a network of centralized automated facilities that process and transfer mail based on geographical region.

A SCF, or sectional center facility, is a “postal facility that serves as the processing and distribution center for Post Offices in a designated geographic area as defined by the first three digits of the ZIP Codes of those offices” (

If you want more information, go to Happy mailing!



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