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).

Last Minute Christmas Postcards

LetterStream Christmas postcardRunning a little behind this Holiday? Aren’t we all. But here’s a way to get your Christmas greetings out the door quickly.

Granted, we are known for our industrial grade automated mailing solutions, but one of our products makes sending fun, full-color postcards a breeze.

All you need is a picture and the addresses of those you want to send the postcard to. Wow, this sure is going to be a short blog post.

It’s funny because you could probably create your Christmas postcards in less time than it took me to write this short little post.

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Want more info? Our postcards are printed in full-color, full-bleed (printing all the way to the edge of the postcard/no white margins). The postcard is 5 1/2″ x 8 5/8″ printed on heavy card stock paper.

Nearly any size image will work as our cropping tool will help you fit the photo to our postcard. If the image is too small, we will give you a warning, but most pictures from today’s modern smartphones should work just fine.

There’s room for another image on the address side of the postcard as well, or you could leave a white space if you aren’t feeling creative or are pressed for time. On the other hand, you can type out some well wishes and save them as a .jpg file. You might even want to put a colorful, festive background behind your holiday greeting to add more color to your message.

I recommend making the address-side image roughly square as that is the area available to you. Again, our cropping tool will help you crop the image so that it fits the message area.

I guess I should talk briefly about addressing your postcards. You can enter the addresses one at a time into your private online address book (which will make sending next year’s greetings even faster), or you could upload a .csv file to get all your addresses loaded in a snap.

Once your job is complete, we take your postcards to the Post Office and mail them via USPS First-Class mail. There’s nothing else you need to do!

Ok, we’ve taken enough of your precious holiday time. Get started, find that great holiday photo and your mailing list, and get those postcards in the mail.

***For the month of December, all postcards created on our website before noon Arizona time (MST) will mail that same day.

Postage Rates On The Rise Again, Says USPS

USPS letters with stampsThe United States Postal Service (USPS) has announced a price increase effective January 26, 2014. The new pricing structure was announced a few days ago, September 25, 2013, on the USPS website:

News Release No. 13-007: U.S. Postal Service Announces New Prices for 2014

The Postal Service calls this a “proposed price increase” but generally their proposed price increases are pretty close to what they know they can get approved. The price increase is expected to generate an additional $2 billion in annual revenues for the USPS, which would still leave them a far distance from being profitable, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

Highlights of the new single-piece First-Class Mail pricing, effective Jan. 26, 2014 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

In addition to the USPS news release, we found a USA Today article that contains additional information on the rate change: Postal Service proposes 3-cent rate hike for stamps

LetterStream typically passes the actual published USPS postage rates along to customers, but we’re evaluating whether this will be our strategy given the roughly 7% increase on the First-Class postage rate. LetterStream also offers eDocument delivery for many of our mailing products to drastically offset the cost of postage.

Making Express Letters at LetterStream

color_envelopes

If you need to get a mailing out the door quickly, our Express Letter option is about the quickest way to get it done.

Here’s all we need from you:

1. A mailing list saved as a CSV file

Most software allows you to export addresses in CSV format, and MS Excel allows you to save your spreadsheet as a CSV (comma separated values) format.

Check out our YouTube video for assistance:

2. Your document saved as a PDF

There are various ways to create a PDF from an MS Word document. Word 2010 has the option included. You can also use Adobe products or download a free PDF tool at primopdf.com.

See our help video for more information:

When you have these two items, log into (or sign up for) your LetterStream account and choose Express Letter as the job you want to create. You’ll be prompted for your address list and your document (or documents). If you have a logo with your return address built into it, you can even use it for the outside of the envelope.

There are other options as well:EXPRESS-MAILING

  • the ability to share a proof with others
  • notification when mailing is complete
  • the ability to add newsletters, fliers or other documents to the mailing
  • the ability to add additional promotional wording to the outside of the envelope

See our YouTube video for help with this:

What do we do next?

  • We print your document in black and white or color print
  • We print your document on white or color paper
  • We address a #10 white envelope with your return address and recipient name
  • We add USPS First-Class postage
  • We fold your document(s), put them in the envelope, seal and mail them

We guarantee you’ll be pleased with the speed, quality and service you receive from LetterStream, every step of the way.

Still not convinced? Click here for more information about sending Express Letters via LetterStream.

Which Way To The Nearest Blue Mailbox?

USPS Blue MailboxSome of you know exactly where your favorite blue drop box resides. But I bet most of you drive past these uniquely shaped blue boxes each day and don’t even notice them.

I came across a CNN.com article that claims there are as many as 160,000 of these blue collection boxes in use around America.

If you are having a hard time finding the nearest blue box to drop your outbound mail in, there are a few apps that can help you out. For Android, check out the USPS Mobile or Mail Box Locator apps. You can also try MailboxMap.com from your computer or smart phone to see where all 160,000 drop boxes are located.

If you are using an iPhone, you can try the USPS Mobile app or the Find Postboxes app.

I like Mailbox Locator because it is simply about finding the nearest drop box, and it uses your phone’s GPS to quickly route you to the nearest one. It also shows you the pick-up days and last pick-up times so you know if you’ve still got time to get your letters in the mail that day.

In case you’re wondering, at LetterStream we don’t place our mail in the blue boxes or in our own mail box. We don’t even drop our mail off at the retail counter of the local post office. Instead, our mail gets trucked to the USPS BMEU (Business Mail Entry Unit), for fast, same-day processing of our mail, even after the post office retail window is closed.

Keep an eye out for those little blue boxes and see how many you can count on your way to work this week; you might be surprised.

Of course, when faced with an urgent mailing, skip the box and contact LetterStream instead!

Reduce Returned Mail with Address Correction by LetterStream

USPS Return Mail

Some LetterStream customers are already realizing the annual savings created by weeding out and/or correcting undeliverable addresses.

If you acquire new mailing lists (member lists, community lists, etc.), especially from non-qualified list providers, it might be worth a little investment to make sure the addresses that you’ve been provided are valid ones.

Using address correction tools to clean up addresses and discover which ones are incorrect could pay for itself with the first mailing. If the list is used over and over, the savings keep accumulating.

Consider a mailing list of 1,200 names. If 5% of the addresses are undeliverable, you would be wasting more than $25 in postage fees alone, not counting time, paper, printing, envelopes, etc. If you mail to the same list each month, that would add up to hundreds of dollars in no time. Another cost to consider is the time and money wasted handling the return mail; collecting bins of returned mail itself, looking up new addresses, resending documents by hand, shred fees for properly destroying returned mail and environmental impacts.

So, here’s an idea… if you acquire a mailing list or simply get a lot of return mail, try running your mailing list through our address correction tools. You can upload any size mailing list directly to our website for cleaning and we will return the results fast; often in less than 10 minutes. We’ll format the addresses to USPS CASS (Coding Accuracy Support System) standards, correct City and Street spellings, flag undeliverable addresses, and attempt to assign the correct zip code with zip+4 digits.

If you use our Deluxe Address Cleanup, which includes NCOA (National Change of Address) lookups, we can even tell you if the person filed a change of address card with the Post Office, letting you know exactly when they moved and where they moved to.

Reducing returned mail is good for business, good for the pocketbook, and good for your sanity!

Send Mail Magically With The LetterStream API

LetterStream Mail API SolutionEver wish for an even faster way to send out USPS First-Class and Certified Mail?

Our website already saves countless hours of tedious work involved with sending mail, but you might be sending so much mail that you need an even faster way.

If so, the LetterStream API might be the solution you need. It allows you to automatically send thousands of pieces of mail instantly through a behind-the-scenes connection to LetterStream computer systems. Most APIs require programmers to implement them, and ours is no different in that regard, but some of our clients have implemented it in just a few days.

Our API is being used by many different types of companies, including software companies, collection agencies, billing companies, etc. and even individuals who need to send a lot of mail quickly. It has access to many of the mailing products available on our website including postcards, first-class letters, invoices, statements, newsletters, checks and certified mail.

You can advertise your partnership with LetterStream or keep it quiet and price the mailings to your customer however you see fit; because with the API your users and customers can send real mail without even knowing about LetterStream.

To learn more, click here to get detailed information about our API, or simply contact us to get started.

Should You Consider Outsourcing Mailing Projects?

outsourcing mailI was working on a proposal this morning for a potential client and found myself pondering the benefits of outsourcing mail room operations and letter shop activities.

For those of you who would like a better printing and mailing solution but are hesitant to enter the world of outsourcing, consider the idea that you are already outsourcing many of your mission critical activities.  Yes, that’s right.  You are already outsourcing a tremendous amount of your business operations.

You are outsourcing the activities of keeping your money safe to your local bank.  You are outsourcing all of your phone conversations to cell and telecom providers.  You are outsourcing your electricity to the power company.  Once you start thinking about it, the only things you don’t outsource are your core competencies… those things that provide uniqueness to your product and a competitive edge to your organization.

Still skeptical?  Check out what other experts say… here’s a good article in Inc Magazine that supports our logic and might shed some additional light.

The question then becomes: Is printing and mailing your competitive advantage?  Is folding and inserting what makes your company unique?

If you’d like to see what it might look like to outsource your printing and mailing activities to an organization as reliable as the local power company and probably more helpful than your banking institution please give us a call and let us show you how our unique and competitive solutions can help you focus more on yours.

See LetterStream At The Arizona Chapter CAI Trade Show

See LetterStream at AZ-CAI trade show

Meet with the LetterStream team at the CAI trade show and learn great new ways to create and send mail, including: HOA violation letters, statements, postcards, invoices, collection notices, intent to lien letters, certified mail, annual meeting notices, newsletters, new homeowner packets and even electronic documents.

LetterStream staff will be available to answer questions about outsourcing your mailing projects and streamlining your outbound mail operations.

New products featured at the show include eDocuments, PRO Postcards and an Android app for creating full color, first-class postcards (see newsletter). Rumor has it that the mysterious Letterman, blog writer extraordinaire, may even be present.

The expo is this Friday, April 12, 2013 from 11:30am to 3:30pm at Rawhide, and will be well attended by property management companies and community managers. Rawhide is located in Chandler, Arizona (5700 West North Loop Rd). To learn more about the Arizona Chapter of CAI, visit their website at www.cai-az.org. To learn more about LetterStream, visit our website at www.LetterStream.com.

How Do You Organize Certified Mail Return Receipts?

certified mail green card PS Form 3811

These slippery little green cards have a way of getting lost. For you mailroom folks, you probably know them as a PS Form 3811, but the rest of us simply call them green cards. Obviously “Certified Mail Return Receipt” is a more complete term, but it is probably not the term we use when trying to find the one we lost.

So the big question is, how do you keep track of green cards? They are small and get mixed in with empty envelopes that you put in the trash, they fall out of file folders even while in a filing cabinet, they get piled up waiting for a rainy day for someone else to file. Let’s face it, they are hard to file and they are hard to find. There’s nothing like the attorney calling and saying, “We are headed to court, what happened to the green card?”

Here’s a better way to organize your PS Form 3811 receipts… skip the entire paper process altogether and keep your electronic signatures organized online–always available, always filed correctly, always filed instantly, and best of all, never lost.

Wondering how?

The best way to get your certified mail receipt electronically filed is to create your certified mail online. When you use LetterStream or OnlineCertifiedMail.com to create your certified letter, your PS Form 3811 as well as all of the related USPS tracking scans will be available online for you to access when you need then.

The online process of making real Certified Mail is fast and easy, with no forms to fill out, no envelopes to seal, and no trips to the post office. We take care of all that so you can focus on other pressing issues. Oh, and one more benefit… you won’t need to type in that 20-digit certified mail tracking number–you can look up information about your certified letter by searching on the job name or the recipient’s name.

Stop searching for green cards. Use our online tools and let us organize them for you.