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.

 

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.

Official USPS And LetterStream 2015 Holiday Schedule

We’ve updated our USPS Holiday Calendar with the latest information from the USPS. In addition, we’ve added important USPS early closing days which are not typically spelled out on the USPS Postal Holidays web page.

We’ve placed this information along with LetterStream’s holiday schedule on a Google Calendar so you can have all the information at your fingertips on your smartphone, tablet or Google account.

If you are already synced to the LetterStream calendar, awesome! Your job here is done. If not, see the instructions below.

One more important mention; most USPS retail counters close early on both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, so make sure you call ahead and/or plan accordingly. In conjunction, LetterStream will also be closing early on both of those days.

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Click on the “+Google Calendar” button below to subscribe with your Google account.

(*Click here for instructions on how to sync Google Calendar with a mobile device.)

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.

Merry Christmas And Happy Holidays From LetterStream!

Season's Greetings

 

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!

 

From your friends at

LetterStream

This holiday season we want to wish you lots of love, time with family, hot chocolate, and of course… all your mail delivered on time. We are thankful for your support in 2014, and we look forward to serving you well in the coming year as well.

Please note that according to the USPS, most post offices will be closing at 12:00 noon on Christmas Eve (Wed. Dec. 24th) and New Year’s Eve (Wed. Dec. 31st). Be sure to drop mail in blue collection boxes by noon on those days as well, as the USPS will be picking up mail early.

See LetterStream’s holiday hours below, and click here for a link to the 2015 USPS holiday calendar.

Happy Mailing!

-The LetterStream Team

LetterStream Holiday Hours

Why Do I Get So Much Returned Mail?

Stack of USPS returned mail

Gosh, we wonder the same thing. Will it ever stop?

But fortunately for us, we get paid to process returned mail, so maybe it’s not such a bad thing after all (at least, not in our case). 😉

Mail gets returned to the sender for a lot of different reasons, and sometimes, for no reason at all. Almost all returned mail has a yellow sticker on it that has been placed there by the Post Office.

In this blog post we’ve put together a little Troubleshooting Guide to Returned Mail that should help you “sort it out”–sorry, couldn’t resist.

Let’s start with the obvious reasons and work our way down.

1. The address on your letter is incorrect. This could be anything from the wrong zip code, to a misspelled city name, to a street address that doesn’t exist. The yellow sticker may say “No Such Address” or “No Unit” or “No Such City”. To correct this, a) Double check your records and make sure you’ve got the right address and/or b) go to USPS.com, click on the link on the left to “Find a Zip Code” and enter your address. If the USPS website can’t find the address, chances are it isn’t correct. You can also use our online address correction tools to clean up an entire mailing list.

2. The person no longer lives at that address. It could be that your address is fine but the mail piece was returned because the person has moved. The yellow sticker might say “Unable to forward” or “Forwarding Address Expired” or “Not at this address” or “No such person”. With north of 7% of Americans moving each year, you can anticipate that your mailing list will have similar changes. When someone moves, they fill out a change of address card (online or at their local post office) which the Postal Service puts in their computer systems to verify addresses. So, when a letter is addressed to a good address, to a specific person who filled out a change of address card, their mail will be forwarded to their new address. Unfortunately, if the person didn’t fill out a change of address card, but they did move, that mail piece will be returned to you. This is the same as “moved – left no forwarding address”. We have an online tool that lets you see if people have moved (filling out the changed of address card) any time in the last 18 months and provides you with their new address.

3. The person has no mailbox. This isn’t very common, but it can happen. The yellow sticker might say “No receptacle”. This means there is no mailbox for the mail carrier to put the mail in. This could occur because the house is new, isn’t built at that address yet, or the mailbox was blown over in a storm or run over by a car. There could be many other things that take out a mailbox, or it could have been taken down intentionally by the owner. Unfortunately we don’t have any online tools to solve this one.

4. The Post Office didn’t get it right. Sometimes the postal clerk or someone else at the post office gets confused and assumes or incorrectly determines that the mail can’t be delivered. There’s not much we can do to help out on this one, but if you believe everything is correct with the name and address then drop it back in the mail and see what happens. It just might make it where it needs to go the second time around!

2014 USPS Postal Holiday Calendar

Here’s a handy link to the 2014 USPS Holiday Schedule.

And for you Google Calendar fans, we’ve created a Google Calendar that you can subscribe to for convenient viewing from your computer and mobile devices. You can find the Google version of the USPS Holiday Schedule calendar below and in the lower portion of the right sidebar of our blog. The calendar is interactive and includes LetterStream’s holiday schedule as well.

Click on the “+Google Calendar” button to subscribe to it with your Google account.

We’ve also pointed out which days LetterStream can get your mail out the door, even when the local post office is closed. (Yes… we really do have a secret back door.)

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(*Click here for instructions on how to sync Google Calendar with a mobile device.)