Ever seen a letter arrive through the mail without a postage stamp? Instead, you might notice an inked marking in place of where stick-on postage would normally be. It might be a bit of a mystery how this stamp got there – especially if you don’t work for a business that regularly sends out documents with those markings.
To understand why companies forgo the use of regular postage stamps and opt for rubber stamp markings, metered mail and sticker labels, here is a brief into to how business mailings can be priced.
Postage Paid Stamps
Some businesses use a method called “permit imprint” to pay for commercial mail. This consists of marking mail with an “indicia”, a postage block containing permit information. The Postage Paid block may be printed on mail or stamped. The permit is linked to a Post Office or Business Mail Entry Unit account, where payment is made for each piece of mail sent. Businesses apply for and pay to get these mailing permits through the USPS.
Postage Paid Imprints can be cost-effective for businesses sending out identical pieces of mail. It can be an efficient choice for commercial mailers for the following reasons:
- It’s not necessary to pay in advance.
- Meter settings do not have to be adjusted.
- You have the option of printing or using Postage Paid rubber stamps.
- Each piece of mail has an accurate postage amount.
- Each piece of mail costs the same.
The machine behind certain inked and stickered postage markings is a postage meter, also known as a franking machine or postage evidencing system. Businesses and organizations that ship or send mailers frequently often use postage meter machines. Many postage meter machines can both print sticker labels for packages and letters, and stamp marks directly on envelopes.
Smaller items such as letters or other mailings are fed into a printer slot. The machine stamps the item with the date, meter registration number, location and postage cost. The appearance of the marking may be as simple as a circle and some lines accompanying the stamp data, or may have a bar code or QR code. For packages and larger items, adhesive labels featuring similar information is printed on stickers and then placed on packages.
Businesses or individuals using postage meters must apply for permits through the USPS, and pay annual fees to keep the meter machine valid. The mailing permit application includes a set of standards for Permit Imprints, Precanceled Stamps, Postage Evidencing Systems, Presorted Mailings, Business Reply Mail, and Merchandising Return Services. The machines themselves are leased through authorized providers.
Postage meter machines allow businesses to weigh items and print the proper inked postage – without the hassle of finding the right amount of stamps to cover mailing costs.
Commercial Mailing Discounts
When sending commercial mail and using postage paid stamps or metered postage, you may qualify for bulk discounts. You cannot get these discounts with regular postage stamps. However, your mailing must meet a very specific criterion, such as a minimum of 200 pieces and including an Intelligent Mail barcode, to qualify for lower prices.
The discount is significant, as you are spending approximately $0.38 to $0.46 for 1 once (for Automation and Machinable mail), rather than a postage stamp costing $0.55. Additionally, for 2 or 3 ounce letters, you pay the same cost, instead of each adding a per additional ounce cost of $0.15.
For a business with large volumes of presorted mail, sent from a singular location (or low number of locations) and weighing equal amounts, getting a Permit Imprint for Postage Paid stamps can be beneficial. The only added fees are the one-time application fee and an annual mailing fee. Businesses using metered postage will have to pay the additional cost of service and leasing costs to meter machine vendors.
Finding the Right Postage Rates for You
Choosing a postage method for your business isn’t usually a simple dollar for dollar analysis. Finding the most cost-effective choices depends on a range of factors:
- The frequency, volume and weight of mail
- Type of business; registered non-profit organizations can take advantage of discounts
- Aesthetic needs; business may also want to pay for a postage marking that includes their business logo, or use precanceled stamps for a personalized feel.
- Where items are sent from
- When postage is paid
- How much permits and equipment for adding postage will add to the cost
When it comes to sending mail, postage stamps are not the only option. Postage meters and postage paid stamps are popular alternatives for franking. Postage franking refers to the various methods and markings that are used to indicate a mailed item has been paid for. Using alternatives such as postage meters and postage paid stamps may provide savings benefits for entities responsible for sending a large volume of mail.
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