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.

 

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.

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!

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!

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.

Eliminate Returned Mail with LetterStream Return Mail Processing

Return MailAs part of our goal to be your very best mail room, we have added Return Mail Processing (RMP) to our already rich line of mail room services.

In a blog post earlier this year we showed you how you can reduce the amount of return mail that you receive by cleaning up your address data with our CASS and NCOA tools. Now we are offering a way for you to completely eliminate your return mail by using the LetterStream Return Mail Processing Center as your return address.

This will eliminate the labor you currently spend on processing returned mail and it will keep a permanent record of each piece of mail returned. Imagine when a client of yours says they didn’t get a letter or bill that you sent, being able to see that the mail piece was returned. Then, instead of sending the same bill to the same address, you could work to capture a better or more complete address from your client.

To implement return mail processing we simply swap out your return address with ours, keeping your company name attached for recognition by your clients. Undeliverable mail will then be returned to our RMP by the USPS instead of to your office. We will make a record of which pieces are returned and electronically flag them in your account on our website. Returned mail pieces will be highlighted in your mailing history for instant identification.

Return Mail Processing

This same highlighting will appear on addresses of returned mail when you are searching for mail pieces by recipient name or address. With our handy “show only returned mail” feature, you can see how much returned mail you have by date range, sender, job type, or nearly any other identifier that our system allows you to search on.

Return Mail Search Function

Return Mail Processing might not make sense for you if you have less than a few returned pieces per month, but if you see that stack of returned mail piling up, wondering if you’ll ever have time to figure out what’s going on, now might be the time to see how LetterStream can help.

We have a special roll-out promotion price of $59.00 per month plus $0.10 per returned piece. That’s an insanely good deal, so take advantage of it before we figure out what we’ve done. 😉

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.

Struggling To Keep Up With USPS Postal Regulations?

USPS DMM - Domestic Mail ManualEver wonder if trying to keep up with the ever-changes rules of the United States Postal Service (USPS) is worth it? Well in their defense, they are trying hard to come up with new and better ways to process mail in order to control their costs.

However, that means a lot of changes to postal regulations. Here’s a few new Post Office rules pertaining to mailings that went into effect in January 2013.

Postage Rate Increase – A whole multitude of price increases went into effect. These price changes impacted First-Class Mail, Certified Mail, Standard Mail and about every other kind of mail.

Tabbing Rules – The size of tabs required for sending out tabbed material changed, making many tabs unusable and requiring acquisitions of new equipment.

Intelligent Mail Barcode – The Postnet barcode has been phased out for getting postal discounts. Now the new multi-dimensional barcode is needed to speed USPS mail processing.

Address Correction – In late December the USPS cancelled the FASTforward program.

We know that more changes are yet to come as the USPS will continually need to change and innovate.

If you are beginning to wonder if you should try to keep up or just simply outsource your mail projects, LetterStream might be worth considering.

We’ve got over ten years of experience making people happy and removing the headaches of mailing.

USPS to Cancel Saturday Mail Delivery

Just Announced on the AP this morning:

“Postal Service to cut Saturday mail to trim costs” (*see link to full article below)

According to the article, the United States Postal Service (USPS) plans to drop Saturday delivery of letters the week of August 5th, 2013 in an attempt to save the Postal Service $2 billion annually.

USPS mail truckThis change should have no impact on the way LetterStream prints and mails letters and correspondence for our customers. It should be noted that without Saturday delivery of mail, homeowner, consumers and recipients may receive their statements or other documents a day later than usual.

In the grand scheme of things we believe the impact will be minimal for the following reasons:

  1. Most of the “time sensitivities” and legal regulations of mail relate to when the mail piece is actually mailed, not when it is received.
  2. Most mail pieces that require a recipient to act in some way allow an appropriate number of days for the recipient to respond.
  3. Most businesses don’t pick up their mail on Saturdays anyway.

However, to reduce any impact this announcement may have, we encourage you to load your jobs to the LetterStream website earlier in the work week and schedule your mailings with this information in mind.

For those not currently using LetterStream for printing and mailing, we believe our services can cut time out of your current mailing process, thus negating the impact of changes to mail delivery.

To keep informed of this and other USPS changes, consider subscribing to our blog by entering your email address in the form provided to the right.

The full AP story can be found here:

http://bigstory.ap.org/article/postal-service-cut-saturday-mail-trim-costs