What is international postage?

Ready to take your business global? Here’s everything you need to know to navigate the complexities of international postage and shipping.

Understanding international postage

The world is your customer base. Or it can be. First, you have to untangle the knot of international postage costs, regulations and procedures. Once you learn the basics and understand where to go for resources, international shipping is not that different from domestic shipping. And that extra bit of effort can translate into cross-border sales and a global customer base that just keeps growing.

We’re here to help you understand where to buy international postage and Global Forever postage stamps, how international shipping and tracking work and what services are available to get your products into the hands of new customers across the globe.

What is international postage?

USPS international postage is an economical way to send postcards, letters and large envelopes to almost every country around the world. In the United States, you can purchase a Global Forever postage stamp to send a postcard or a First Class letter weighing up to one ounce for just $1.45. You can mail large envelopes internationally for as little as $2.90: rates for heavier weights will vary by destination.

When you buy international postage stamps, a portion of the price you pay covers the cost of postal operations here in the United States. Another portion of the price pays for shipping your mail to the destination country, and the final slice is used to compensate the destination country for local delivery costs.

The international mail network is managed by the Universal Postal Union, a United Nations agency that standardizes shipping for its 192 member countries. Established in 1874, it standardizes international shipping and provides a global forum for cooperation among postal authorities around the world.

What is a Global Forever stamp?

The Global Forever postage stamp offers a single price for any First-Class Mail International 1 oz. letter to any country in the world. You can also use them on other international mail, such as postcards and even large envelopes—but you may need more than one stamp. And just like domestic Forever stamps, Global Forever postage stamps never expire – even when postage rates increase.

Can I just stick some U.S. postage stamps on it and call it good?

In a manner of speaking, yes. If you’re sending an international letter that weighs less than 1 oz., you can use either a Global Forever® postage stamp or a combination of regular Forever® stamps that are equal to or greater than $1.20 in value. However, you cannot use Global Forever postage stamps to ship packages.

How long does international postage take?

The delivery time for international First Class mail varies by destination. Delivery to the recipient generally takes longer than USPS domestic delivery, and there is no set schedule. That said, letters and parcels are usually delivered in between one to three weeks. International Priority Mail shipments arrive much faster, usually within six to ten days. However, you will pay a higher postage rate for priority shipments.

How much is international postage?

When you consider the complexity and expense of delivering letters and parcels across the globe, international postage rates are surprisingly affordable. A Global Forever postage stamp currently costs just $1.45. You can mail a large envelope internationally for as little as $2.90, and sending a First Class package weighing up to eight ounces starts at just $15.75. The postage rate you actually pay will vary based on the destination

Can I use a postage meter for international postage?

Unfortunately, you cannot use your postage meter to print postage for international mail. USPS regulations do not permit you to print postage for international letters directly onto the envelope. You can use either US postage stamps or a Global Forever postage stamp instead.

Where to buy international postage

The most obvious place to buy international postage stamps is at your local Post Office. However, there are also other locations where you can buy international postage outside of regular USPS hours. Some national retailers, including drug and grocery store chains, sell Global Forever postage stamps for shoppers’ convenience.

Where to buy international postage online

All the major carriers, including USPS®, FedEx® and UPS® offer some form of international postage you can purchase from their websites. However, the cost of international postage and the time it takes for a package to reach its destination varies considerably between carriers.

Purchasing international postage online through a carrier-approved shipping service like PitneyShip simplifies the process by offering you a choice of carriers and services to choose from and providing the required customs forms to include with your package. The easy-to-use interface walks you through the steps for filling in both your international shipping label and customs forms.

How do I calculate international shipping?

Help is just a few clicks away. Online calculators can simplify your international shipping cost calculations. So can carrier websites and online shipping services

Here’s what you need to know about your package to calculate its shipping:

  • Package DIM: Find your package’s DIM (dimensional weight) by measuring its length, height and width and adding those numbers together

  • Package weight

  • Origin Zip Code: The Zip Code you’re shipping from

  • Address of destination

If you ship using a Flat Rate® service, you can skip the DIM and weight calculations. You can find more information on Flat Rates below in the Shipping internationally with USPS section.

Why is international shipping so expensive?

International shipping is more expensive than domestic shipping for a number of reasons, but the two primary factors are distance and complexity. It takes considerably more fuel to transport packages halfway around the globe than within the borders of a single country. Shipping packages between countries also involves additional process steps. For every cross-border shipment there are declaration forms to fill out, taxes and duties to pay, and customs inspections to prevent violations of import rules. All of that takes time and effort, which costs money.

How to ship an international package

Because international shipping is complicated and expensive, it’s important to do your homework before you begin shipping. Do some research about import laws in the countries you plan to ship to. You can use online shipping calculators to estimate your costs, or work with a third party to handle all of the logistics for you.

International shipping label and packaging requirements

Creating an international shipping label is very similar to creating a domestic shipping label, with one important exception: U.S. Customs. Customs forms are required to declare the contents and value of your shipment and comply with international shipping laws. You’ll need the following information to complete a Customs form:

• Quantity of items

• Value of each item

• Date shipment is sent

• Invoice number

In addition, each destination country charges customs and fees on shipments containing taxable items. (Your customer is usually responsible for these fees.)

For most carrier services, your customs form is combined with the shipping label you attach to your package. Some deliveries require a multi-page form that should be attached using a clear envelope. You can include a copy of the customs form inside your shipment for good measure.

International shipping with USPS

You’re likely going to choose a shipping service based on delivery speed and shipping rates. If your focus is on the most economical solution, USPS is the carrier for you. The USPS international shipping services and postage prices are listed below from least expensive to most expensive:

First-Class Package International Service

This is the most economical way to send lightweight packages. Packages can weigh up to 4 lbs. but must not be more than $400 in value. There are no guaranteed delivery dates for First-Class Package International®, but prices start at a very affordable $12.25.

Priority Mail International

Priority Mail International® delivers to more than 190 countries within 6 to 10 business days on average. Most, but not all, Priority Mail International shipments include tracking and up to $100 in insurance. Most Priority Mail International Flat Rate boxes and envelopes are free and shipping prices start at $26.90.

Priority Mail Express International

Priority Mail Express International® delivers to more than 190 countries within 3 to 5 Business Days. Some destinations include an optional service delivery with a money-back guarantee. Most destinations include free tracking and up to $200 in insurance. Flat Rate envelopes for items up to 4 lbs. are free and shipping prices start at $45.95.

Global Express Guaranteed

This USPS service partners with FedEx to deliver packages to over 190 countries in 1 to 3 business days, including overnight delivery to many locations in Canada. Prices start at $67.80, but that comes with a date-certain delivery and a money-back guarantee.

International shipping with UPS and FedEx

International shipping with UPS and FedEx costs considerably more than USPS, but delivery times and reliability are far better. (Unlike UPS and FedEx, USPS must rely on commercial airlines to transport mail internationally).

Both UPS and FedEx offer a wide range of international shipping services for everything from mail to freight. If you need to deliver a shipment fast and don’t mind paying more on international postage, UPS or FedEx is the way to go.

Tracking on international shipping

International shipping and tracking vary from service to service and from country to country. If tracking your shipment is important, be sure to check the tracking details of the service you’re using for the country you’re shipping to.

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