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.

 

Best Practice – Secret Ballot Envelope

 

Letterstream Secret Ballot Envelope

Ballot Mailing Best Practices

Improve voter turnout with our new and improved ballot envelope! We have researched and improved our Secret Ballot Envelope in such a way to create a Best Practice solution for secret ballots and your next election. We’ve had a secret ballot envelope for quite some time and have worked with our customers to create a new version that accomplishes nearly every requirement of a secret ballot mailing.

A Secret Ballot Envelope is important to protect the identity of the voter.  It is used in conjunction with a ballot and a #9 return envelope.  The completed ballot is placed in a Secret Ballot Envelope (which is large enough to hold a folded 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of paper, but small enough to fit in a standard size return envelope) and sealed.  Then the Secret Ballot Envelope gets placed in the #9 return envelope and gets mailed back to the management company.  The management company can then open all the #9 envelopes and take the sealed ballot envelopes to the meeting for counting.

For those who need to keep track of which homeowners have returned their ballot or proxy, we have a simple option to add the homeowners mailing address and/or lot number to the return address area of the #9 envelope.  This allows the HOA management companies to see who has voted, while not being able to see how they voted for the election.

There might be a few individuals who say “Ah, nobody cares how other people vote.”.  Well, we might argue that anyone who says something like that has probably not served of a Homeowner Board or talked with their neighbors who don’t vote out of fear that their vote might be held against them. We might also argue that the number of homeowners voting could improve when a secure and trustworthy process is followed.

New Features of our Ballot Envelope:

Instructions for Homeowner – The envelope more clearly explains to the homeowner/recipient/voter what their role is and how to best use the envelope in order to keep their ballot secret.

Instructions for Management Company – The envelope contains instructions for the management company, board member or whoever handles the secret ballot so they can process it while protecting the intentions of a secret ballot.

Save a Page – With good instructions built right into the envelope, you no longer need to try and wordsmith some good directions in your own document.  This might just free up some space in your letter or possibly save an entire sheet of paper.

Professionally Designed – This new envelope looks far more professional in its design which may lead to better utilization and compliance.

Best Practices – We’ve attempted to incorporate the appropriate instructions and simplistic design in an effort to create a “Best Practices” solution to proxy and Secret Ballot mailings.

Same Security Tint – Our Secret Ballot Envelope continues to have security tint on the inside of the envelope to keep prying eyes from trying to see through the envelope.

Same Great Price – While we believe this envelope is far superior to our earlier version we’ve decided to leave the price the same as its always been.

We believe this is the best way to solicit proxies and votes from your members; its secure, its fast and its easy.  Give it a try for your next election or proxy mailing and let us know how it worked for you.

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

USPS First-Class Mail Slowing Down… Or Is It Me?

Stopwatch Man Waiting for First-Class MailDoes it seem like your First-Class letters don’t travel as quickly as they used to? Well, it’s not just your imagination. The United States Postal Service (USPS) has been intentionally and systematically slowing down First-Class letters in order to reduce costs and create efficiencies in their mail handling operations.

This slowing down process has been rolling out for several months now and will continue to be noticed as postal facilities consolidate and the new plans take shape. The most obvious change occurred in January of this year (2015) when the USPS eliminated next day delivery of First-Class mail. This change has effected almost everyone who receives First-Class mail.

Judging by the number of phone calls we’ve already received about this, it’s not necessarily what any of us expected. If there is an upside, the USPS still quotes a delivery service standard for First-Class mail of 3 days (from and to) anywhere in the first 48 U.S. States. (But don’t quote us on this; we are still a little skeptical).

Here’s a good overview published by the USPS in September of 2011; it’s pretty clear and easy to read, and spells out their elimination of next day First-Class mail: USPS Frequently Asked Questions – Service Standards

If you want to dive into all the glorious details in a far-less user friendly document, you can review the implementation plan in the USPS Final Federal Register 39 CFR Part 121. This document spells out the specifics of the USPS implementation process. Phase one began on July 1, 2012, and phase two began on February 1, 2014.

In January of this year, the USPS posted a revised interactive service level map on their website in order for mailers to graphically see the service standards for various types of mail originating at your nearest post office. Follow the link to do some experimenting of your own based on your location. For LetterStream customers, use 850 PHOENIX AZ as your Originating point.

Keep in mind that the USPS service standards are not service guarantees. You know… “results may vary“.

In summary, your next day delivery of First-Class letters is probably gone for good, and we are likely to see additional days of transit built in as the USPS consolidates facilities. Editor’s note: Just between you and me and Mr. Stopwatch here; I’d caution you to not expect faster service if your letters already take 4 to 5 days for delivery.

USPS First-Class Stamp Price – Unchanged For 2015

2015 USPS first-class stamp priceJanuary is the month that the United States Postal Service (USPS) has been using to introduce prices increases in recent years. However, for 2015 the USPS has no intentions of raising the rate of a First-Class stamp.

On January 15, 2015 the USPS published a press release about pricing titled “Forever Stamp Prices Unchanged“. The title might be a bit misleading as they are actually talking about the price of *any* First-Class stamp that you purchase for First-Class 1 ounce letters, not just Forever Stamps. Late in the press release the USPS specifically says:

Maintains single-piece stamp prices at 49 cents.

Keep in mind the USPS is requesting authorization to raise the price of other letter fees, including the cost for additional ounces (from $.21 to $.22), the cost of international letters (from $1.15 to $1.20) and the cost of postcards (from $.34 to $.35). “Requesting authorization” means that these price changes need to be approved by the Postal Regulatory Commission before becoming official.

If approved, the changes will take affect on April 26, 2015.

This Letter Is Fine. Why Did It Come Back To Me?

Letter Man with Question MarkThis question is similar to ones that we’ve answered in our blog posts over the years, but with a slight twist. Sometimes a perfectly addressed letter gets returned to us without a yellow sticker, without handwriting on the outside saying something like “no longer at this address“, and seemingly without any clue as to why the mail piece came back.

Well, there are always clues. For starters, re-read the recipient’s address, one line at a time. Is the address really accurate as written on the envelope?

If every indication is that the information is correct, simply ask the USPS mail carrier for some insight as to why the piece was delivered to you instead of the person it was addressed to. Chances are they can tell you; but if not, simply hand the letter to them and ask if they could re-mail the piece for you. Quite often they will politely take the letter and get it back into the mail stream for you.

There are times when the USPS barcode (printed on the lower portion of the face of your envelope) is incorrectly coded to send the letter to your own address. If there is a barcode at the bottom, see if there is a zip code spelled out beside the barcode. If the zip code printed there is your own zip code, the mail piece may get rerouted to your own address again due to the automated equipment the Postal Service uses to sort mail. In this case, use a sharpie or black pen or marker to block out the barcode on the bottom. This will force the postal sorting machines to look at the destination address one more time to figure out where the piece is going. Chances are, this will allow the piece to arrive at the right destination, assuming your address is valid (click here to read about address correction).

Still not sure what is happening to your mail piece? Take a picture of the envelope and email it to us. Make sure you capture the entire face (front side) of the envelope. We will be checking the ‘to’ and ‘from’ addresses, postal barcode, permit/postage area, and anything else on the face of the envelope that can give us clues. Please make sure your image is in focus. It can be rather difficult searching for clues in an out-of-focus image.

We will do our best to unravel the returned mail mystery and let you know what we find.

 

USPS Postage Rate Increase on January 26th

USPS 2014 stamp 49 centsAs a reminder, the United States Postal Service (USPS) will be increasing the price of a first-class stamp from $.46 each to $.49 each on January 26th, 2014. If you are planning on getting a mailing out the door this month, you can save money by sending it a few days early.

LetterStream will be raising its prices on all first-class mail products by 3 cents to cover the cost of the USPS price increase. Our new prices will take effect at 5:00 pm on January 24th, as jobs received over the weekend will be mailed on Mon. Jan. 27th at the new postage rate.

As is our tradition, LetterStream has no plans to increase prices beyond the USPS increase. Keep in mind that the USPS has raised prices on postcards, flats, certified mail and other products as well. These increases will be reflected where appropriate in LetterStream prices. We look out for our customers as best we can!

Churches And Year-End Giving Statements

Girls helping mail year-end statementsWow, January is a tough month on volunteers in churches and other non-profit organizations that need to send out year-end charitable giving statements (or annual contribution statements).

This is the time of year you see church secretaries and bookkeepers hauling boxes of paper and envelopes to their cars so they can get their family involved in folding, stuffing, addressing, sealing and mailing the giving statements. This process can take its toll on church staff as they are hesitant to get other church members and “givers” involved due to the sensitivity of this information.

If your organization is looking for an easier and faster method, consider using LetterStream.com to accomplish this mailing. Some local churches actually bring their pre-printed documents directly to us for folding, inserting and mailing. However, most of our non-profit clients simply upload their contribution statements to our secure website for us to print and mail for them.

One thing to remember is that charities are not allowed to use their non-profit permit, standard or bulk postage for these statements. Instead, the United States Postal Service (USPS) requires that statements be sent via First-Class Mail.

Keep in mind that First-Class postage rates are going up by 3 cents on January 26th, 2014. So however you choose to get your charitable giving statements out, act quickly.

If you’d like to give LetterStream a try, choose the “Pre-Addressed PDF (1stclass)” job type from our website and upload some sample statements, or simply give us a call and mention this blog post for personalized assistance. We think you’ll discover a welcome relief to your year-end giving statement mailing.