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First Class Mail or Standard Mail – How to Choose

By: Shelby

First Class Mail

The choice of First Class Mail or Standard Mail has many factors that should be considered.  So lets begin with a summary of the different mailing service options, costs and delivery times for mail delivery.  First-class mail is used for a variety of time sensitive mail pieces in small quantities of 500 pieces or less.  Additionally, there are four basic types of First Class Mail.  These types of mail are letters, postcards, large envelopes, and small packages. Along with size and thickness limitations, first class mail must weigh 13 ounces or less. Pieces over 13 ounces can be mailed as Priority Mail.  Priority mail choices include large flat envelopes, padded envelopes or “flat rate” boxes.

As the name implies, USPS first class mail is processed First, before standard mail. Locally addressed first class mail will typically be delivered in 1 to 3 business days. Nationally, first-class mail can take up to 4 business days. Additional free services included with first class mail postage are mail forwarding and return service options.

Presorted First-Class Mail

Once your mailings exceed 500 mail pieces, you can choose to presort your mail to obtain a better postage rate. Presorted mail is a method of grouping mail by area and saturation of zip codes.  If you do this work it results in costing the USPS about 20% less money to process and deliver. These savings are passed onto you in the form of a lower postage rate. Delivery time is exactly the same as retail first-class mail.

However, to receive the lower presorted postage rate there’s a good amount of additional work that must be done.  First, the addresses must be updated with a “move update” method. The most common update method is NCOA (National Change of Address) along with being CASS certified.  Once both of these process have been completed, you will need to group the mail by zip code and saturation.  The last step is to place the mail into the appropriate USPS container (trays, buckets or sacks) with container labels and prepare the correct USPS form for your mail.

Marketing Mail (Standard Mail)

For my discussion in this article, I’m going to limit my comments to letter size and flat size Marketing Mail.  This type of mail usually consists of flyers, circulars, postcard advertising, newsletters, bulletins, small light catalogs, or other printed pieces that are identical in content to a certain degree.

Marketing mail must be less than 3.5 ounces for letters and 16 ounces for flats. Minimums for Marketing Mail are 200 pieces or 50 pounds of mail.  If these minimums are not met you will not qualify for the postage discounts.

Marketing Mail, formerly known as “standard mail” or “bulk mail”, is processed by the USPS after the first class mail is “worked”. Other drawbacks of Marketing Mail are that forwarding service and returns if undeliverable are not included for free.  But, if forwarding or return mail is needed, using a special endorsement on the mail piece and agreeing to pay the corresponding fee allow for you to use these options.

Marketing Mail is the least expensive postage mode, being close 40 percent less than the price of first class mail. Letter size marketing mail postage rates apply to pieces up to 3.5 ounces. The cost for letter size mail heavier than 3.5 ounces has to be calculated by adding a per piece price to a per pound price for the entire job.  “Flats” are allowed to be up to 4 ounces before have the per pound surcharge added to their cost.

Marketing Mail Delivery Time

The delivery time for Marketing Mail will typically be less than 5 business days locally, but nationally it could take up to 14 business days or more. As with Presorted First class you’ll have to do all the additional work to receive the lower postage rate. Again, this work includes the addresses getting updated with NCOA, CASS certified, put into presort order and placed into the correct type of USPS container.

Nonprofit Mail

Nonprofit Mail postage is lower than regular prices (up to 70 percent less than first-class mail), but not everyone can qualify. Processing is no different for Nonprofit Mail than Marketing Mail. In order to use these rates, organizations must first file for authorization with the Postal Service and obtain certification as eligible. Get a copy of Form 3624, Application to Mail at Nonprofit USPS Marketing Mail Prices. This form is also available from your postmaster or your business mail entry unit.

Presort Service Experts

As you can see, there is considerable amount of work required to obtain presorted postal rates for First Class Mail or Standard Mail.  SLB Printing has all the software needed for the NCOA, CASS certification, sorting and form preparation that goes into a presort mail job.  It’s been our experience that unless the presort mail job is 1,000 pieces or more, there is no cost savings after adding in our processing fees.  But there are instances where time is of the essence.  This is where our service becomes invaluable as long as the minimum quantities set by the Post Office are achieved. 

Finally, our software adds another layer of service that provides you with the lowest possible postage rates.  Our software will process either first class or marketing mail presort jobs and get them qualified for “USPS automation prices”.  To qualify for automation prices, your letters and cards must conform to very specific criteria that SLB Printing is an expert at.

Let SLB Printing, Inc. take care of ALL your presort & EDDM mailing needs!

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