A Crash Course on the USPS® Intelligent Mail® Package Barcode, Part One: Rules and Exceptions

The Intelligent Mail® package barcode (IMpb) is the U.S. Postal Service’s® bridge between physical packages and digital information, helping to deliver world-class service and tracking. In this three-part series, we’ll cover everything you need to know about IMpb.

Tue May 09 12:52:00 EDT 2017
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The Intelligent Mail® package barcode (IMpb) is the U.S. Postal Service’s® bridge between physical packages and digital information, helping to deliver world-class service and tracking. In this three-part series, we’ll cover everything you need to know about IMpb. First up, we’re taking a look at how the IMpb is beneficial for businesses, which parcels require the barcode and the exceptions to that rule.

How Does the IMpb Benefit Businesses?

There are two key benefits: tracking and savings. By tracking every package, the USPS can anticipate mail volume, type and destinations, allowing them to operate more efficiently. The more information the USPS has, the better able they are to optimize operations, delivery, staffing and equipment throughout their network of processing facilities. This translates into a higher-quality, more time-efficient and less costly service for businesses.

With the IMpb, businesses benefit by receiving piece-level, end-to-end tracking information at no additional charge, for most products. Not only does this give you peace of mind, but being able to access package status and location at any time allows you to provide better customer service. You can proactively manage customer expectations on shipment arrival and seamlessly help eager customers check on their package status. Businesses can even provide their clients a link to track the packages themselves.  

The IMpb delivers unparalleled savings: the best commercial price, with the largest discount available. Using the IMpb also means that you get automatic insurance, up to $50 for Priority Mail® and $100 on Priority Mail Express®. Plus, the barcode is mandatory on all commercial mailings, so being proactive will help you avoid non-compliance fees. We’ll also be covering compliance in greater detail later on in this series.

Which Parcels Need an IMpb? 

The IMpb barcode is required on all commercial parcels, or any parcel entered through any commercial channel. Parcels can be of any shape, size or price category. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Priority Mail Express
  • Priority Mail
  • First-Class Package Services®
  • Parcel Select®
  • Parcel Select Lightweight®
  • Parcels mailed at Commercial Base® or Commercial Plus® prices
  • Parcels with postage paid by permit imprint, postage meter, PC Postage®, Precancelled stamps, Franked Mail or Official Mail Accounting System (OMAS)

Exceptions to the Rules

Not all parcels are required to have the IMpb barcode, however. All packages paid for at the retail price and inducted through retail transactions are exempt, as well as the following kinds of parcels:

  • Periodicals parcels
  • Standard Mail Marketing® parcels sent as product samples, with a simplified address or a Detached Address Label (DAL)
  • Priority Mail letters and flats using stamps as postage or Priority Mail Forever Prepaid Flat Rate packaging
  • Priority Mail letters and flats prepared in a high-speed environment, with USPS approval, may be excluded, if they feature a unique Intelligent Mail Barcode and electronic documentation 
  • Priority Mail Express pieces with postage paid through a postage meter imprint and using a Label 11-B
  • Priority Mail Express pieces entered under a Priority Mail Express Manifesting Agreement (PMEM) and paid via a USPS Corporate Account
  • Standard Mail pieces presorted and containerized in five-digit sacks bearing an Intelligent Mail Barcode
  • Merchandise Return Service® (MRS) permit holders not using a PC Postage-based return service are exempt from one component of the IMpb: the Shipping Services file 

Stay tuned for the next installment in this series, where we’ll walk you through how to use the IMpb and get the most out of it.

For more help navigating the Intelligent Mail package barcode, partner with a shipping solutions expert. Check out Pitney Bowes’ IMpb Quick Summary for a brief cheat sheet, and learn about how solutions like SendSuite Live can help you save time and money on shipping and mailing operations.