Beginner's Guide To USPS Package Rates

If you’re a small business owner or a freelancer, you probably don’t have the benefit of a mail room where you can simply drop off your package and ask the wizard of a mail guy to send it out for you. Whether you have an in-house mail meter, ship your packages online, or hoof it down to the local post office and get someone else to stamp and send it for you, you may want to understand USPS package rates better in order to select the best service for your needs (and perhaps pass on that cost to your client when you create a quick invoice).

USPS Priority Mail Express envelope

(Aside: It’s always a good idea to throw in your business card when delivering goods to customers.)

First of all, there have been a couple of changes this year that you should keep in mind, such as some new postal rate increases and Dimensional (or DIM) Weight Pricing.

In January 2015, two other shipping companies broadened their definition of what is known in the industry as Dimensional Weight Pricing. This is a pricing technique that uses an estimated weight based on the length, width, and height of a package rather than the package’s actual weight. This means that if you’re sending a 1-pound box with 12″x12″x12″ dimensions to a domestic location, it will be billed at the 11-pound rate.

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The good news is that USPS does not use Dimensional Weight Pricing on their domestic Priority Mail Packages under 1 cubic foot (12x12x12”), so if you’re looking to keep your domestic package costs down, check out USPS rather than other shipping businesses. This was a move on the United States Postal Service’s part to get a bigger slice of the e-commerce business pie, and generally affects online and high-volume customers.

On the other hand, on May 31, 2015 the USPS has increased prices for many of the most popular mail classes, such as letters, postcards, and International Priority mail. The price for Domestic Priority mail has not changed.

Here are the highlights of these changes:

  • Meter rates for First-Class 1oz letters have increased from $0.480 to $0.485
  • Meter rates for First-Class additional ounce has increased from $0.21 to $0.22
  • Prices for First-Class letter stamps remain the same ($0.49)
  • Prices for Priority Mail International and Priority Mail Express International have increased

Tip: If you’ve updated your postage meter but it isn’t showing the new price ($0.485), then you’ll need to update the normal preset.

To help you cut shipping costs, the United States Postal Service offers these four services:

  1. Ship online. Rather than going to the post office, print your shipping label and buy the postage via the USPS’s website to save money—and time.
  2. Get volume discounts. if your business ships a lot of packages, you could qualify for volume discounts. These are the minimum quantities required:
    • Presorted and automation First-Class Mail: 500 pieces
    • Standard Mail: 200 pieces or 50 lbs
    • Destination entry Parcel Select: 50-piece minimum per mailing
    • Commercial Media Mail: 300 pieces
  3. Lightweight packages. For large and medium-sized shippers, Parcel Select Lightweight is an affordable service, as long as your package is under one pound.
  4. Dimensional Weight. As mentioned above, the USPS bases its prices on actual weight and not length, height, and width.

Note: it does apply DIM weight pricing to domestic Priority Mail packages that are larger than one cubic foot.

USPS Priority Mail Express box

For an overview of the most popular package rates, read on:

Priority Mail Express—Overnight

  • overnight delivery guaranteed to most U.S. addresses (including PO Boxes)
  • discounts available when you purchase online
  • prices start at $13.09 (online) or $16.95 (at post office locations)
  • includes proof of delivery signature, tracking information, and $100 of insurance
  • free pickup at your home or office
  • 365 days per year

Priority Mail—1-3 Business Days

  • 1-3 business day delivery (depending on departure and arrival locations)
  • discounts available when you purchase online
  • prices start at $5.05 (online) or $5.75 (at post office locations)
  • includes tracking information, and up to $50 of insurance
  • free pickup at your home or office
  • Flat Rate options on packages up to 70 lbs (from $5.05 online)

Media Mail—2-8 Business Days

  • 2-8 business day delivery prices start at $2.69 (at post office locations)mtypes of media that can be sent include books, videos, DVDs, and CDs (video games, computer drives, and digital drives do not qualify) 70 lbs maximum weight

First-Class Mail—1-3 Business Days

  • 1-3 business days for envelopes and small packages weighing up to 13 oz price is $0.49 at post office locations up to $5,000 insurance for loss or damage (merchandise only)

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