USPS Postage Rates

How Distance Affects Small Business Postage Rates

For certain classes of mail, postage rates are determined by how far the mail travels to get to its destination. We discuss which types of mail have postage rates that are dependent on distance.

As a business owner, it's important to understand the key determinants of postage rates.

Understanding postage rates and costs allows you to mail business correspondence intelligently, in a way that limits your mail costs.

Distance is one key factor that influences postage costs, although only in certain circumstances.

First-Class Mail, Standard Mail, Library Mail, and Media Mail are types of mail for which the costs do not fluctuate based on the distance that the mail travels. With these types of mail, it doesn't matter whether you send mail a mile away from your business or across the country. The postage costs will be the same.

Folks at the Post Office refer to these mail types as not being "zoned". That means that you pay the same price no matter where your mail is going. What a great deal!

This isn't the case for Express Mail, Priority Mail, Parcel Post, and Bound Printed Matter, all of which are zoned. The phrases "zoned" is used because USPS divides the country up into eight zones, and there are different postage prices depending on how many zones you cross.

There is one exception. For Priority Mail the Postal Service offers a special deal. Mail that weighs 1 pound or less or are mailed in a flat-rate envelope, or small flat-rate box, are not zoned, so you pay the same price no matter how far your mailpiece travels. The Priority Mail medium flat-rate box comes in two sizes and can be mailed for one low price regardless of weight or distance; the Priority Mail large flat-rate box is approximately 50 percent larger than the regular box. The large flat-rate box also may be used to ship to APO/FPO destination addresses for a lower price.

But, generally speaking, the rule for zoned mail types is that the farther your business mail travels, the more you pay in postage.

This can influence your small business mail strategies. For example, if you wanted to test a direct mail piece that has to use a zoned mail type, you might start with a list of prospect addresses that are in your zone. This will keep your costs down.

The bottomline? Postage rates are complex. The more you understand about postage rates, the better equipped you will be to make smart decisions regarding your small business mail.

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