2017 USPS Price Changes

2017-usps-price-changes

At the start of each new year the USPS typically announces new pricing, and this year is no exception.  Effective January 22nd, new USPS prices will take effect.

You might recall our post from last year regarding the 2016 USPS price changes.  We talked a lot about the price of a First-Class stamp being decreased by $.02 (from $.49 to $.47).  This year it’s going back up two pennies.  Initially, this seems like a bit of a bummer.  But look at the bright side.  The decrease that happened last year was the first time the cost of postage went down since 1919.  So hypothetically, had it gone up a couple cents last year and this year again, we would be closer to $.53.  Let’s choose to be optimistic and still consider ourselves winners with the 4 cent swing.

You could also try and stave off the postal increase a little longer by purchasing a few extra forever stamps at your local post office before the new rates go into effect.

Below are some of this year’s notable changes (keep in mind, we are quoting the new USPS postage costs, not LetterStream prices. LetterStream typically increases prices only to the extent that the USPS fees increase, but for exact pricing review your LetterStream job invoice when creating mailings on our website):

2017 Postage Rates

– First Class Stamps up from $.47 to $.49
– First Class Postcard Rate staying at $.34
– Extra Ounces staying at $.21
– International Rates staying at $1.15
– Certified Mail up from $3.30 to $3.35
– Return Receipt up from $2.70 to $2.75
– Electronic Return Receipt up from $1.35 to $1.45
– Registered Mail staying at $11.70
– Flats (.0001 – .999 oz) postage up from $.95 to $.98
– Flats extra ounces up from $.20 to $.21

Standard Mail Now Marketing Mail

Another notable change moving forward is that Standard Mail will now be known as Marketing Mail. Not to add to the confusion, but Standard Mail is/was the name of what many of us know as Bulk Mail.  Standard Mail should not be confused with First-Class Mail which is what most of our customers send regularly.

 

USPS Certified Mail Signature Delay

 

Certified Mail Return Receipt Delays ERR

USPS Delays ERR…

We are noticing delays in the speed at which the USPS returns electronic signatures for Certified Mail that are requested on their website, www.USPS.com. In a recent test (shown above), it was 48 hours before a signature was provided via email by the Postal Service.

As a quick refresher, if you need to get the signature for a piece of Certified Mail that you sent through the USPS, you typically need to follow these steps: Find your USPS cash register receipt with the tracking number, go to the United States Postal Service website (www.USPS.com), enter the tracking number from your receipt, click the link called “Return Receipt Electronic”, and enter your email address. Keep in mind, just because you see the link called “Return Receipt Electronic”, doesn’t mean your letter was delivered. If you click the link before a signature is available you’ll receive a response from the USPS (in maybe 2 days), but it will just tell you that a signature is not available yet. …That’s a bummer.

When you are dealing with the urgency and legal concerns that necessitate the use of Certified Mail with Return Receipt, you don’t always have time to wait around a few days for a signature the be emailed back to you.  If your attorney calls and says they need the signature, you want to get it right then.

Faster with LetterStream…

Here’s quite possibly a better way, let LetterStream handle your Certified Mail.  If you send your certified letters through our service you can retrieve a signature in a fraction of a second, maybe a half second on a slow day.  That’s assuming that the USPS has delivered the letter and collected a signature, of course.  You don’t have to find your receipt and you don’t have to enter a 20-digit tracking number, you simply click on the button that says “view”, which activates after we receive the signature from the USPS.

Ah, you might say, “but LetterStream has to wait on the USPS too”.  Well, that is partly true, but our automated servers are always communicating with USPS servers and as soon as we find signatures to the letters we print and mail for our clients, we save them to your account on our website. It’s kinda like having someone in your office (that you don’t pay) go out and check everyday for every certified letter that you still need a signature for and then save them on your network in the same folder as the letter that you sent.  In this way, if we do have a signature for your letter, you can get to it immediately.

Getting your Certified Mail signatures at LetterStream…

After you load your Certified Mail letter to our website, we print it, fold it, insert it into our proprietary USPS approved Certified Mail envelope and put it in the mail for you, without you ever needing to leave your home or office.

You can search for the status of your letters very quickly on our website by clicking on the job name (whatever name you want to assign to your mailing to help you identify it later) and the recipient name, or you can simply search by any part of the recipient’s name or address. Unlike sending Certified Mail at the local Post Office, you don’t have to keep a receipt with the tracking number because all of this information is saved neatly into your LetterStream account.

So, if you are ever in a hurry, or simply hate to wait, use LetterStream to get instant access to the status of your Certified Mail signatures and tracking information.

 

(learn more on our help pages)  (learn more on our website)

USPS Stamp Prices Going Down in 2016!

USPS Postage Rates 2016

USPS Cuts Price of First-Class Stamp!

The biggest news in the mailing business, in maybe forever, or since the forever stamp.  The United States Postal Service (USPS) is LOWERING the price of a first-class stamp.  The price DECREASE goes into effect on April 10, 2016, when your cost for a first class stamp will be reduced to 47 cents each.

The last time the USPS decreased the price of a first-class stamp was in 1919, when the price dropped a single cent from 3 cents each to 2 cents each.  Now, the greatest price decrease in the price of a first class stamp since 1885; the USPS is cutting the price of a first-class stamp by a whopping 2 cents!  For more information check out the wikipedia page on the History of United States postage rates.

Why are Stamp Prices Going to 47 Cents?

The federal regulatory body that governs USPS pricing is the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC)(http://www.prc.gov).  This organization decides whether the Postal Service can raise prices and by how much.  A year ago the USPS was given a special waiver by the PRC to increase prices by more than the maximum amount allowed (according to their rules), so now the PRC is making the USPS roll prices back.

It really makes no sense though, as the USPS is still operating at a loss.  Follow this link to read the USPS press release on the topic of lowing prices (http://about.usps.com/news/national-releases/2016/pr16_009.htm).

What Other Postage Prices are Changing in April?

In addition to the decreasing price of a first-class stamp, other stamp prices are going down as well.  In fact, nearly every increase that took effect in 2015 is being reversed.  Seems a bit odd that the Postal Regulatory Commission and the USPS couldn’t work out a meet-in-the-middle solution, but their loss turns out to be mailers’ gain. Here’s a sampling of new postage rates:

  • First-Class Postcards will decrease from $.35 to $.34 each (reversing last year’s increase)
  • Additional ounces for First-Class mail will decrease from $.22 to $.21 (reversing last year’s increase)
  • Certified Mail base fees will decrease from $3.45 to $3.30 (reversing last year’s increase)
  • Certified Mail Return Receipt Green Card fees will decrease from $2.80 to $2.70 (reversing last year’s increase)
  • Certified Mail Electronic Return Receipts will decrease from $1.40 to $1.35 (reversing last year’s increase)
  • International First-Class Letters will go down from $1.20 to $1.15 (reversing last year’s increase)
  • One ounce First-Class flats will decrease from $.98 to $.95, and 2 ounce pieces will fall from $1.20 to $1.15 (reversing last year’s increase)
  • Registered Mail letters will decrease from $12.20 to $11.70 (falling more than last year’s increase by another 25 cents)
  • The price of a First-Class Stamp will fall from $.49 to $.47 (there was no increase in the price of a first-class stamp last year)

We encourage everyone to take advantage of the cheaper postage prices in 2016 and send more mail.  If you need some help with that, give us a call, we are what you call experts.

 

Must Be Postmarked Today! Warp The Space-Time Continuum.

LetterStream reverses timeEver get into that position where you need to mail something by a certain date but you aren’t sure how you can make it to the post office in time?

Sometimes you need to get a cancellation letter or an acceptance letter or one of many other letters of a legal nature postmarked by a certain date. Or maybe it’s a bid for an upcoming project. Whatever the case for needing a postmark, and needing it today… there’s a chance we can help.

One of the many neat benefits of knowing a mailing company out west, in Scottsdale Arizona to be exact, is that we can drop your letter at our local post office which is typically still open even after your office closes, especially if you live or work on the East Coast.

This is where the speed of the internet can warp the speed of time. If you live in New York and it is 6 pm, the post offices are already closed, and your letter has no chance to be mailed today. However, if you take 2 minutes to load your letter into the LetterStream.com website, you’ve effectively turned back time by 3 hours (April – October)*, making it 3:10 pm with the post office still open (in Arizona).

We’ll print your letter and get it in the mail before the day is out.

There is some fine print here… if you want to make sure your letter gets mailed the same day, you will need to choose “Rush” on your order, which will increase the price slightly, but we do guarantee same day processing or your money back if you choose that option. Also keep in mind that Arizona doesn’t participate in Daylight Saving Time (DST), so some months there is only a 2 hour difference.

When that letter really really needs to be mailed today, warp the space-time continuum by using LetterStream Rush Services.

New USPS Postage Rates Coming May 31st

It’s official; new postage prices go into effect on May 31st, 2015. On May 4th the Postal Regulatory Commission approved the USPS proposed price change request.

As a recap, the price of a USPS First-Class stamp remains unchanged at $.49. Therefore there is no need to stock up on Forever stamps.

However, most other postal mailing categories will see increases. Below are some of the highlights for First-Class Mail.

  • First-Class Postcards will increase from $.34 to $.35 each
  • Additional ounces for First-Class mail will increase from $.21 to $.22
  • Certified Mail base fees will increase from $3.30 to $3.45
  • Certified Mail Return Receipt Green Card fees will increase from $2.70 to $2.80
  • Certified Mail Electronic Return Receipts will increase from $1.35 to $1.40
  • International First-Class Letters will go up from $1.15 to $1.20
  • One ounce First-Class flats will increase to $.98, and 2 ounce pieces will be $1.20
  • Registered Mail letters will increase from $11.95 to $12.20
  • The price of a First-Class Stamp will remain at $.49

Keep in mind, we are quoting the new USPS postage costs, not LetterStream prices. LetterStream typically increases prices only to the extent that the USPS fees increase, but review your invoice when creating mailings online for exact pricing.

It’s generally difficult to find the new postage rate charts at USPS.com before a postage rate change is implemented, but with a little digging, the rate tables can be found. Follow this link for the new postage rates for 2015. You can download an Excel file in the left sidebar called “Mailing Services Prices excel – Proposed Updated 05/01/15”.

We don’t recommend using the “Calculate a Price” postage rate tool on the USPS website for mailings after May 31 until that date has passed. While the tool technically allows you to enter the future date of a mailing, it doesn’t take into account the new rate increases. (Don’t ask us why.)

If you’d like to see the complete PRC (Postal Regulatory Commission) document, it was published by the Federal Government Publishing Office on May 4, 2015 and can be found here: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2015-05-04/pdf/2015-10029.pdf

"Business Closed"

Business Closed Google Image Results
*Google Image Search

I was shocked to discover that my business closed the other day. For some reason I had assumed I wouldn’t be the last to know.

Well, that’s not exactly how it turned out, but it sure threw me. I was tracking a test piece of USPS Certified Mail that I sent to my office. And right there in the USPS tracking history were the words “Business Closed“. Wow, what a bummer.

Business Closed Certified Mail Tracking Status

When I see the words “Business Closed” on a piece of mail it reminds me of “Moved – Left no forwarding”, or “No longer at this address” or “No receptacle”. Those words conjure up “Out of Business” and, well, “Business Closed“. After all, the screenshot above is what Google found when I did an image search for “Business Closed”. Looks like they came to the same conclusion.

Seeing those words on a piece of mail to my own office caused me to wonder what sort of financial position we must have been in to just up and close our doors in the middle of the night.

Turns out all is fine (except for maybe the choice of words the Postal Service uses when tracking Certified Mail). Here is the explanation for this new tracking status: “Business Closed” simply means that the mail carrier arrived outside of the normal business hours. In our case, the mail carrier attempted to deliver a certified letter on a Saturday when we were closed for the day (key word, ‘day‘).

So when you see the words “Business Closed” in your tracking history, simply translate it to “No one at the office today, will try tomorrow“. Personally, I was happy to know that I can continue showing up and writing little tidbits about First-Class and Certified Mail on this blog.

*To track a certified letter, go to www.LetterStream.com and find the “Certified Mail Tracking” section on the lower right side of the page.

 

2014 Postage Rate Increase – Official Rates Confirmed

2014 USPS Postage Rate IncreasesIt’s often hard to read between the lines and figure out if postage rates have been officially approved or simply proposed by the United States Postal Service (USPS).

For instance, the September 2013 USPS rate increase announcement was actually just a proposal to increase postage prices. In order for new postage rates to be known for certain, they needed to be approved by the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC).

The Commission is an independent agency that has exercised regulatory oversight over the Postal Service since its creation by the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970. The Commission is composed of five Commissioners, each of whom is appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, for a term of six years.” – http://www.prc.gov/

The PRC made the official announcement 3 days ago on December 24, 2013 that the USPS proposed postage rates are approved and will go into effect on January 26, 2014. Click to read the press release.

The price of a first-class stamp is increasing from $.46 to $.49 cents; an increase of $.03 per postage stamp.

Common postage prices to be aware of include:

  • Letters (1 oz.) — 3-cent increase to 49 cents
  • Letters additional ounces — 1-cent increase to 21 cents
  • Letters to all international destinations (1 oz.)$1.15
  • Postcards — 1-cent increase to 34 cents

These prices were all outlined in the USPS price change announcement (proposal) on September 25, 2013. You can read the entire announcement on the United States Postal Services website.

Certified Mail service by the postal service is also seeing price increases. Certified Mail base fees will be $3.30. Certified Mail Green Card fees (PS Form 3811) will increase to $2.70 while Electronic Return Receipt (ERR) fees will increase to $1.35. For simpler math, a certified letter weighing less than an ounce with green card receipt will cost $6.49 each at the Post Office ($.49 first-class postage + $3.30 certified mail fee + $2.70 certified mail return card).

Innovations In Printing And Mailing

Popular Science 100 Best InnovationsI was flying out of town the other day and picked up a Popular Science magazine to read on the flight. I was happy to see the title was “100 Best Innovations of the Year” and wondered if any of our mailing innovations had made the list. There are a few different mailing innovations that we rolled out this year and I thought I might find one or two discussed in the magazine.

For instance, we have our innovative Return Mail Processing service where we can process our clients’ return mail. This is a good way to keep undeliverable mail from being returned to our customers. Instead, we get it. Then we flag all the addresses in our customer’s account that have been returned, showing the return date and the return reason from the USPS yellow sticker. In addition, reports can be run by user, date range, mail type and many other filters for the letters that were returned.

Another innovation is our USPS Registered Mail solution, which allows users to create and send Registered Mail on our website. If you send Registered Mail, you know that it is one of the most time-consuming and confusing types of mail that you could possibly send. True to LetterStream’s form, we make the process so easy you can create the registered letter–or hundreds of them–in around 2 minutes on our website. We keep track of the USPS tracking information and the signature cards in an orderly fashion on our website.

Some may say that our online Certified Mail process is the most innovative Certified Mail solution they’ve ever seen. We’d like to agree… but we’ve been processing Certified Mail this way for nearly 10 years, so it might not be an innovation of this year.

We’ll, I’ve skimmed the 100 Best Innovations article, and unfortunately I could not find the name LetterStream. But that’s ok, our customers repeatedly give us the honor of being great innovators in the mailing business, and they are the ones we want to please.

If you want to learn more about our mail innovations, check out our website, explore our blog or pick up the phone and call us.

What Is Needed To Send USPS Certified Mail Online?

Certified Mail Letters and Envelopes

Well, it’s pretty simple actually. You need an address and a document, oh, and a company that offers the ability to create certified mail on their website.

If you want to use LetterStream.com or our sister site OnlineCertifiedMail.com to send your certified letter, you simply need the address you want to send the letter to and your document saved as a PDF file. Yes, it seems like it should be more complicated than that, but most of our clients can create and send their Certified Mail in two minutes or less.

There’s nothing more you need to do. However, if you want to track your letter through the USPS process or retrieve the signature of the person who signed for your certified letter, the process is as simple as logging into the website and clicking on the mailing to see all the details.

Or, consider the alternative: You could write your letter, print it from your laser printer, hunt for an envelope, fold the document (maybe twice to get it to fit in the envelope), hand address the envelope, seal it, drive to the post office, wait in line, fill out the green card while waiting in line, try to figure out how the certified mail barcode wraps over the top of the envelope, pay for the piece, get a receipt with a 20-digit tracking number that you will need to enter any time you want to track the status of the piece, and get the green card back. Then, not knowing where you should keep the green card, you shove it in a desk drawer and ultimately lose it, and just when you want to find out what happened to the letter… the post office tells you they have removed the information from their online system and you’ll have to request that it be emailed to you.

Hmmm… I feel an AT&T commercial coming on. “It’s not complicated. Simple is better.

Firing Patients With Certified Mail

Doctor using computerHere’s an interesting topic. We talked to a medical professional the other day who needed to fire a patient and contacted us about using USPS Certified Mail to do it.

Firing a patient? What an interesting concept.

After some googling, we found that it is more common than you might think, and is even a necessary practice.

The American Medical Association website (www.ama-assn.org) states it very clearly in this article:

(Here is a PDF version of the article as well, as contents on the ama-assn.org website sometimes move around.)

Physicians need to fire patients for lack of payment, non-compliance and a host of other reasons.

We found a number of other websites that discuss the reason for using Certified Mail with Return Receipt for this delicate matter. A couple are shown below, however be sure to check your state’s laws before terminating the patient-physician relationship.

On a related front, it is also important to notify patients via Certifed Mail when your medical practice is closing or relocating. Since LetterStream is HIPAA compliant, we can help you with that or any other Protected Health Information (PHI) mailing.

Whatever the reason to communicate patient-physician matters, many articles point to the need to send the letter via USPS Certified Mail with Return Receipt. Both the LetterStream website and our sister site, OnlineCertifiedMail.com allow users to easily create, send and track Certified Mail.

Both sites maintain tracking information and signature receipts for immediate access longer than the US Postal Service.