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A Customer's Guide to Mailing

This guide will explain your options for mailing and help you choose the services that are best for you.

What Are You Mailing?

Knowing the shape of your mail helps you select the right services.

 

This picture shows a letter.

This picture shows a large envelope.

This picture shows a package.

Postcard
Rectangular cardstock mailpiece not contained in an envelope

Letter
Small rectangular mailpiece no thicker than 1/4 inch

Large Envelope
Flat rectangular mailpiece no thicker than 3/4 inch

Package
A three-dimensional mailpiece contained in a box, thick envelope, or tube, weighing up to 70 pounds


Mailpiece Dimensions

Shape

Length

Height

Postcard

5 inch min.
6 inch max.

3-1/2 inch min.
4-1/4 inch max.

Letter

5 inch min.
11-1/2 inch max.

3-1/2 inch min.
6-1/8 inch max.

Large Envelope

11-1/2 inch min.

6-1/8 inch min.

Package

Weight cannot exceed 70 pounds.
Length + girth (distance around the thickest part of the package) cannot exceed 130 inches.

This picture shows a postcard.

Letters: maximum thickness 1/4 inch. 
Large Envelopes: maximum thickness 3/4 inch. 

Once a piece of mail exceeds the maximum length, height, or thickness of one shape, it automatically gets classified as the next largest shape.

Unusual Shapes and Sizes
Sometimes a piece of mail requires additional postage because it is a certain shape or size that is difficult to process on mail sorting machines. To make sure you’re paying the correct postage visit the domestic rate calculator. These are examples of mail that could require additional postage:

Choosing a Service for Mailing

Several mailing services are available to fit your needs.


     Shape     +     Speed     +      Cost     =        Service

Shape  

Speed  Cost   

Service

This picture shows a letter, large envelope, package, and mailing tube. These shapes can be mailed as Express Mail.
70 lbs or less

1-2 days
guaranteed

$$$
based on weight

Express Mail

This picture shows a large envelope, package, and mailing tube. These shapes can be mailed as Priority Mail
70 lbs or less

1-3 days

$$
based on weight and
distance if over 1 pound

Priority Mail

This picture shows a postcard, letter, large envelope, and small package. These shapes can be mailed as First-Class Mail

13 oz or less

1-3 days

$
based on weight

First-Class Mail

This picture shows a two packages and a mailing tube. These shapes can be mailed as Parcel Mail

70 lbs or less

2-9days

$
based on weight 
and distance

Parcel Post

This picture shows a two packages and a mailing tube. These shapes can be mailed as Media Mail
70 lbs or less

2-9 days

$
based on weight
and content

Media  Mail

This picture shows two packages. These shapes can be mailed as Bound Printed Matter Mail
15 lbs or less

2-9 days

$
based on weight, 
content, and distance

Bound Printed Matter

Express Mail®
Letters, large or thick envelopes, tubes, and packages containing mailable items can be sent using Express Mail. This guaranteed service includes tracking and insurance up to $100. Delivery to most destinations is available 365 days a year, with no extra charge for Saturday, Sunday, and holiday delivery. Free Express Mail envelopes, boxes, and tubes are available at the Post Office.

Priority Mail®
Large or thick envelopes, tubes, and packages containing mailable items can be sent using Priority Mail. This service is typically used to send documents, gifts, and merchandise. Free Priority Mail envelopes, boxes, and tubes are available at the Post Office.

First-Class Mail®
Postcards, letters, large envelopes, and small packages can be sent using First-Class Mail. This service is typically used for personal and business correspondence and bills.

Parcel Post®
Small and large packages, thick envelopes, and tubes containing gifts and merchandise can be sent using Parcel Post.

Media Mail™
Small and large packages, thick envelopes, and tubes can be sent using Media Mail. Contents are limited to books, film, manuscripts, sound recordings, video tapes, and computer media (such as CDs, DVDs, and diskettes). Sometimes called "Book Rate," Media Mail cannot contain advertising. Media Mail is less expensive than Parcel Post.

Bound Printed Matter
Small and large packages and thick envelopes can be sent using this service. Contents are limited to permanently bound sheets of directory, advertising, or editorial matter, such as catalogs or phone books. Bound Printed Matter is less expensive than Parcel Post.

Speed depends on distance. Mail takes longer to travel across the country than to travel across town.

Flat Rate Envelopes let you send your document for one low rate, regardless of how much the item weighs. Flat rate envelopes are free and available for Express Mail and Priority Mail. Purchase flat rate stamps in advance to save time when you’re ready to mail.

Calculate Postage for the shape, weight, and destination of your mail online.

 

Adding Extra Services

Extra services can provide additional protection and peace of mind.

Mail Service

Proof
at deposit 

Protection 
in transit

Confirmation
at delivery

Express Mail

Receipt provided at time of mailing

Insured Mail ($100 coverage already included, more can be added)

Date and time of delivery provided
Signature of receipt available upon request

Priority Mail

Certificate of Mailing

Insured Mail
Registered Mail

Certified Mail
Delivery Confirmation
Signature Confirmation

First-Class Mail

Certificate of Mailing

Insured Mail
Registered Mail

Certified Mail
Delivery Confirmation
Signature Confirmation

Parcel Post
Media Mail
Bound Printed Matter

Certificate of Mailing

Insured Mail

Delivery Confirmation
Signature Confirmation

1 For packages only.


Forms and labels for extra services are available in your Post Office lobby or from your rural letter carrier.

Certificate of Mailing
Provides proof of mailing. $0.90

Certified Mail™
Provides proof of mailing at time of mailing and the date and time of delivery or attempted delivery. Delivery information is available by hard copy or online. $2.30
Return Receipt can be added to confirm delivery. $1.75 extra

Insured Mail
Provides coverage against loss or damage up to $5,000.
Fee based on value of item. Starts at $1.30
For items insured for more than $50, Return Receipt can be added to confirm delivery. $1.75 extra

Registered Mail™
Provides maximum security. Includes proof of mailing at time of mailing and the date and time of delivery or attempted delivery.
Insurance can be added up to $25,000. Fee based on value of item. Delivery information is available by hard copy. Starts at $7.50
Return Receipt can be added to confirm delivery. $1.75 extra

Delivery Confirmation™
Provides the date and time of delivery or attempted delivery.
Free when you buy Priority Mail labels with prepaid postage from
http://www.usps.com/. Delivery information is available online or by calling 1·800·222·1811. $0.45-$0.55

Signature Confirmation™
Provides the date and time of delivery or attempted delivery and the name of the person who signed for the item. You can request a hard copy of the signature.
Delivery information is available by hard copy, online, or by calling 1·800·222·1811. $1.80

Return Receipt 
Provides a postcard with the date and time of delivery and recipient signature.

Restricted Delivery 
Restricted Delivery service ensures that only a specified person (or the person’s authorized agent) will receive a piece of mail. This service costs $3.50 and is only available if you also purchase Certified Mail, Insured Mail (for more than $50 coverage), or Registered Mail.

Many of these extra services are available for international mail.

Examples of Smart Choices

These examples show how mailing services can be combined to meet your needs.

Example 1: Sending a Valuable Item
Jane’s niece is getting married next month, and Jane wants to send a piece of heirloom jewelry to the bride. The jewelry has a lot of sentimental value, so Jane wants to be sure that it will arrive safely. She identifies three possible options:

Option A  - Express Mail
Express Mail automatically includes insurance up to $100 and can get the jewelry to Jane's niece overnight. Jane will also receive a mailing receipt and confirmation that the package has been delivered and has been signed for by her niece.

Express Mail 

$13.65

Option B - First-Class Mail with Registered Mail
First-Class Mail offers delivery at a low cost and can be combined with
Registered Mail, a service that provides the highest level of mail security during transit. Insurance is included up to $25,000 in material, but not sentimental, value.

First-Class Mail (3 ounces)

$0.83

Registered Mail (For $325 Appraised Value)  

+$8.85

Total

 $9.68

Option C - First-Class Mail with Insurance
First-Class Mail offers delivery at a low cost and can be combined with insurance for up to $5,000. Insured Mail will cover the jewelry’s material value should the piece get lost or damaged, but it cannot cover its sentimental value.

First-Class Mail (3 ounces)

$0.83

Insurance (For $325 Appraised Value)   

+$5.20

Total

 $6.03

Maria’s Decision
Maria decides that speed is less of a priority than security. She chooses First-Class Mail, and, because the jewelry has greater sentimental than monetary value, she decides to add Registered Mail service so she can feel confident that her heirloom will be as secure as possible during transit. 

Example 2: Sending an Important Document
Maria recently sold her car and needs to transfer the title to the new owner. She wants to be absolutely certain that the new owner gets the title to complete the sale. Maria considers these options:

Option A - Express Mail
Express Mail will arrive at many locations the day after it is mailed. Express Mail also provides Maria with proof that she mailed the title, the ability to track it online or by phone, and notification that it was delivered. She can also request a copy of the recipient’s signature.

Express Mail 

$13.65

Option B - Priority Mail with Confirmation Service
Priority Mail will get the title to its destination in 1 to 3 days. Maria could add Delivery Confirmation, which lets her obtain delivery information online or by phone. If she uses Signature Confirmation she gets the same delivery information, plus she can request a copy of the recipient’s signature.

Priority Mail     

$3.85

Delivery Confirmation   

+$0.45

Total

 $4.30

 

 

  Priority Mail $3.85

Signature Confirmation

+$1.80

Total

 $5.65

Option C - First-Class Mail with Certified Mail and Return Receipt 
First-Class Mail will get the title to its destination in 1 to 3 days. Certified Mail with Return Receipt will give Maria proof that she mailed the title and will return a card to her with the date the title was delivered and the signature of the person who received it.

   First-Class Mail $0.37

Certified Mail 

+$2.30

Return Receipt 

+$1.75

Total

 $4.42

Maria’s Decision
Maria wants a hard copy signature returned to her to prove that the title was delivered, and she wants to get the lowest price she can. She decides that First-Class Mail with Certified Mail and Return Receipt is the best option.

Addressing Your Mail

The accuracy of the address affects the speed and handling of your mail.

Return Address
Print or type your address in the upper left corner on the front of the envelope.

Extra Services
Place labels for extra services, such as Certified Mail, to the left of the postage.

Postage
Use a stamp, postage meter, or PC Postage to affix the correct amount.

Street Address
Use a post office box or street address, but not both. If the address also has a directional (for instance, "NW " for Northwest), be sure to use it. There may be more than one Main Street.

Apartment or Suite Number
The correct apartment or suite number helps to ensure delivery to the right location.

City, State, and ZIP Code
To find the correct spelling of a city name or to find a ZIP Code, visit http://pickup.usps.com/pickup/ or call 1·800·ASK·USPS. Using the correct ZIP Code helps to direct your mail more efficiently and accurately. 


Envelopes 
Letters, bills, greeting cards, and other documents can be sent in standard white, manila, or
recycled paper envelopes. Items needing extra protection can be sent in bubble-lined, padded paper, or waterproof envelopes. These envelopes, along with stationery and prepaid First-Class Mail postcards and envelopes, can be purchased at the Post Office.

Express Mail and Priority Mail envelopes of various sizes are available free of charge at your Post Office for items sent using either of these services. While you are not required to use the free envelopes, you must use the address label provided for Express Mail.

Addressing 

Placement
Print the delivery and return addresses on the same side of your envelope or card. The addresses should be written parallel to the longest side.

Addressing Letters
Print or type clearly with a pen or permanent marker so the address is legible from an arm’s length away. Do not use commas or periods.

Return Address
A return address helps return the mail to you if it is undeliverable.

Express Mail®
For Express Mail, you must use the free address labels provided by the Post Office.

Military Mail
Military addresses must show the grade, full name with middle name or initial, and PSC number, unit number, or ship name. Replace the city name with "APO " or "FPO," and the state with "AA," "AE," or "AP," and use a special ZIP Code.

Abbreviations
A list of commonly used state, street, and other abbreviations is available online. 

Preparing Packages

Careful preparation of your package helps to ensure safe delivery.

The Box

Choose a box with enough room for cushioning material around the contents. Sturdy paperboard or corrugated fiberboard boxes are best for weights up to 10 pounds. If you are reusing a box, cover all previous labels and markings with heavy black marker or adhesive labels.

Where to Find Boxes
You can purchase boxes and tubes of various sizes at most Post Offices. Express Mail and Priority Mail boxes and tubes are available for free at the Post Office for items sent using either of these services. While you are not required to use the free packaging for these services, you must use the address label provided by the Post Office for Express Mail. To order 10-packs or large quantities of Express Mail or Priority Mail boxes or tubes at no extra charge, call 1·800·222·1811 or visit http://supplies.usps.gov/.

Cushioning

Place the cushioning all around your item or items. You can use newspaper, styrofoam "peanuts," bubble wrap, or shredded paper. Close and shake the box to see if you have enough cushioning. If you hear items shifting, add more cushioning.

Placing an extra address label with the delivery and return addresses inside the package will ensure that the item can be delivered in case the outside label becomes damaged or falls off.

Mailing Fragile Items
Use foamed plastic or padding to protect your items, placing the cushioning inside hollow items as well. Careful packaging is the best way to safeguard your valuable items against damage.

Mailing Heavy Items
If you are mailing a very heavy or very dense item, start with a sturdy box, pack the contents securely with a strong material for bracing to prevent shifting, and tape all the edges with reinforced tape. Packages heavier than 70 pounds cannot be mailed.

Sealing

Tape the opening of your box and reinforce all seams with 2 inch wide tape. Use clear or brown packaging tape, reinforced packing tape, or paper tape. Do not use cord, string, or twine because they can get caught in mail processing equipment. Place a strip of clear packaging tape over your label to prevent the address from smearing.

Return Address
Print or type your address in the upper left corner on the same side of the package as the delivery address.

Extra Services
Place labels for extra services, such as Insurance, to the left of the postage.

Postage
Use stamps, a postage meter strip, or PC Postage to affix the correct amount. You can calculate domestic postage rates and international postage rates and purchase postage online at http://www.usps.com./

Delivery Address
Print or type the delivery address parallel to the longest side of the package. Print or type clearly with a pen or permanent marker so that your address is legible from an arm’s length away. Do not use commas or periods.

Confirmation Services
Labels for Delivery Confirmation or Signature Confirmation are placed to the left of the address label.

City, State, and ZIP Code
To find the correct spelling of a city name and state abbreviations or to find a ZIP Code, visit http://www.usps.com/ or call 1·800·ASK·USPS. Using the correct ZIP Code helps to direct your mail more efficiently and accurately.

Drop Off
If your package weighs less than one pound and you have affixed the correct postage, you can drop it into a blue collection box. If your package weighs one pound or more, you must hand it to your letter carrier or take it to the Post Office.

Sending and Receiving Mail

Here are some useful mailing hints for senders and recipients.

Sending Mail
You can send mail by:

Packages that weigh one pound or more must be handed to your letter carrier or taken to a Post Office. Many locations are open late and on weekends.

Scheduling a Pickup
For a fee of $12.50, a letter carrier will make a special trip to your home to pick up Priority Mail, Express Mail, or Parcel Post packages that have postage affixed. There is no additional charge for picking up multiple pieces of mail. Visit http://pickup.usps.com/pickup/ or call 1·800·222·1811 for additional information or to schedule a pickup.

Holding Mail
If you are going to be away from home, you may want to temporarily stop delivery of your mail. To hold your mail, visit http://www.usps.com/, call 1·800·ASK·USPS, or fill out PS Form 8076 Authorization to Hold Mail available online or at the Post Office. When you return, you can either pick up your mail from the Post Office or have it delivered to your home.

Change of Address and Mail Forwarding
Before you move, get a copy of the Mover’s Guide from your Post Office and return the completed form to your letter carrier or your Post Office. The Mover’s Guide includes postcards to help you contact banks, utility companies, and magazine publishers with your new address. You can also complete a change of address application online. 

Notify your Post Office at least one month before you move to ensure uninterrupted mail service. All Express Mail, Priority Mail, and First-Class Mail will be forwarded at no charge for one year. Magazines and newspapers will be forwarded for 60 days.

Signing for Mail
Some pieces of mail require a signature from the recipient at the time of delivery. This includes items sent with Express Mail, Certified Mail, COD, Insured Mail, Registered Mail, Return Receipt, and Signature Confirmation.

Recipient Responsibilities
When you sign for a piece of mail, you acknowledge delivery. The Postal Service’s liability ends when you sign for the mail. You may ask the letter carrier for the sender’s name and address before you accept the mail. You may not open the mail, but you may look at it as long as the letter carrier is holding it before you choose to sign for it.

Delivery If Recipient Is Not Home
If no one is home when the letter carrier attempts delivery, the letter carrier will leave a notice and return the item to the Post Office. Check the notice for specific instructions or call 1call 1·800·222·1811 to have the mail redelivered. If the sender has not asked for Restricted Delivery, the carrier may deliver the mail to anyone who receives mail at that address.

Confirming Delivery
Visit
http://www.usps.com/ or call
1·800·222·1811 to get delivery information on Express Mail and mail with extra services. You will need the item number from your mailing receipt or label.

Restricting Delivery
Restricted Delivery service ensures that only a specified person (or the person’s authorized agent) will receive a piece of mail. This service costs $3.50. Restricted Delivery is only available if you also purchase Certified Mail, Insured Mail (for more than $50 coverage), or Registered Mail.

Filing a Claim
You can file a claim for compensation for loss or damage of Insured Mail, Registered Mail, and Express Mail. Take the damaged item and proof of its value along with the original box and packaging materials to your Post Office. A clerk will help you file your claim.

Perishable Items
Some items require special packaging or special permission to be mailed. Call 1·800·ASK·USPS or visit your Post Office to find out how to mail these items:

Keep the Mail Safe: Hazardous and Restricted Materials

Some things cannot be mailed or can be mailed only in small quantities for safety and legal reasons. Call 1·800·ASK·USPS or visit your Post Office if you have questions about the item you are mailing. Restricted materials include:

Postage Rates (Effective June 30, 2002)

To calculate domestic rates or international rates , visit www.usps.com or call 1·800·ASK·USPS.

Express Mail

Weight     Rate
Flat Rate Envelope  $13.65
1 lb $17.85
2 lb $17.85
3 lb $21.05
4 lb $24.20
5 lb $27.30

Other rates are available up to 70 lbs.
For complete Express Mail rates, see the domestic postage calculator.

Priority Mail®
Flat Rate Envelope  $3.85
Other rates are available up to 70 lbs and are based on weight and distance. For example, a 5 lb package would cost $6-$12.
For complete Priority Mail rates, see the domestic postage calculator.


First-Class Mail®

Weight Rate
Postcard $0.23
1 oz $0.37
2 oz $0.60
3 oz $0.83
4 oz $1.06
5 oz $1.29
6 oz $1.52
7 oz $1.75
8 oz $1.98
9 oz $2.21
10 oz $2.44
11 oz $2.67
12 oz $2.90
13 oz $3.13

For heavier weights, use Priority Mail.
Surcharge for square or unusually shaped letters that weigh 1 oz or less: $0.12.
Tip:  One ounce is approximately equal to four sheets of paper plus a standard envelope.

Parcel Post®
Rates are based on weight and distance. For example, a 5 lb package would cost $5-$10.
Very heavy or unusually shaped items may require additional postage.
For complete Parcel Post rates, see the domestic postage calculator.

Media Mail

Weight

     Rate

1 lb $1.42
2 lb $1.84
3 lb $2.26
4 lb $2.68
5 lb $3.10

Other rates are available up to 70 lbs.
For complete Media Mail rates, see the domestic postage calculator.

Bound Printed Matter
Rates are based on weight and distance. For example, a 5 lb package would cost $2-$4.
For complete Bound Printed Matter rates, see the domestic postage calculator.

Extra Services

Certificate of Mailing — $0.90

Certified Mail — $2.30

Insured Mail — starts at $1.30

Registered Mail — starts at $7.50

Delivery Confirmation — $0.45-$0.55

Signature Confirmation — $1.80

Return Receipt — starts at $1.75

Restricted Delivery — $3.50

Other Products and Services

For more information about these services, visit http://www.usps.com/, call 1·800·ASK·USPS, or stop by your Post Office.

International Mail
You can mail letters, large envelopes, and packages from the United States to other countries. As with domestic mail, you can choose the best service based on speed, cost, and extra services. To learn more about options for international mail and to calculate postage, visit http://www.uspsglobal.com/ or call 1·800·ASK·USPS. Your Post Office can also help you send mail internationally.

Military Mail
The Postal Service can deliver your letters and packages to more than 300 military Post Offices overseas. Many services available for domestic mail are also available for military mail. There may be restrictions on the size or content of your mail. Visit the domestic rate calculator or call 1·800·ASK·USPS for details.

Money Orders
Money orders are a safe alternative to sending cash through the mail. A lost or stolen money order can be replaced. You can buy money orders at all Post Offices in amounts up to $1,000 each. Most money orders cost $0.90-$1.25.

Net.Post® Personal Services
You can combine the ease and speed of the internet with the power of hard copy mail. Use Net.Post Services to create and send postcards, letters, greeting cards, and newsletters conveniently from your home computer. Simply upload your documents or choose a design from the gallery, input one or more addresses, pay with a credit card, and the Postal Service does the rest. Everyone loves to receive mail, and this is an easy way to keep in touch.

Passports
Some Post Offices offer passport application and renewal services. For more information about passport application forms and locations, call 1·800·ASK·USPS or visit http://travel.state.gov.

Paying for Merchandise
For a small fee, you can send merchandise COD (Collect on Delivery) and have the Postal Service collect payment from the recipient and send it to you. If you buy and sell merchandise over the internet, http://www.usps.com/paymentservices/pspaymnt.htm combines an electronic payment service with Delivery Confirmation. 

PC Postage™
Enjoy the convenience of printing postage directly from your home or office using PC Postage products. Postal Service-approved vendors offer hardware and software products that allow you to purchase and print postage using a computer and the internet. Learn more at http://www.usps.com/postagesolutions/

Post Office™ Boxes
A post office box is a great way to receive mail where and when it’s most convenient for you. You can get a P.O. box at most Post Offices. Prices vary depending on the location of the Post Office and the P.O. box size.

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