First-Class postage (or First-Class Mail®) is a service designed for sending envelopes and light-weight packages. Its simplicity and affordability have made First-Class postage the most popular class of mail service in the U.S. and an essential tool for small businesses and online merchants. Most light-weight envelopes and packages qualify for First-Class postage or shipping labels under one of these three categories:
- First-Class Mail-Retail: Envelopes and other light, flat postage
- First-Class Package-Retail: Lightweight packages
- First-Class Package-Commercial: Both flat postage and lightweight packages
If your small business is mailing and shipping in volume, the commercial First-Class Package service offers the most savings. A handful of online shipping vendors, including PitneyShip, have partnered with USPS® and other carriers to deliver these commercial rates to their members online.
Answers to your questions about First-Class postage
What is the difference between standard and First-Class postage?
Price, delivery time and service options separate standard and First-Class postage. First-Class costs less than regular postage stamps, but more than standard service. A First-Class delivery typically takes two to three days locally and up to four days nationally. Automatic returns and mail forwarding are included at no charge. When good customer service is the goal, First-Class postage is the best option.
Standard mail typically takes under five business days locally and up to two weeks nationally, but these times are not guaranteed. Standard mail doesn’t offer free automatic returns or mail forwarding. Standard mail is also referred to as Marketing Mail because its reduced costs (around 32-percent less than First-Class postage) make it a good option for mailing promotional materials.
What is the difference between stamped and metered mail?
This is an important distinction because you can’t print a traditional postage stamp like the ones you get at the post office. Metered mail allows you to purchase and print postage directly on an envelope using an approved provider like PitneyShip. Metered mail can also be weighed to calculate exact costs versus paying flat First-Class rates.
What is USPS First-Class Mail?
USPS describes its First-Class Mail service as offering “the least expensive, most immediate options for mailing postcards, letters, large envelopes (flats), and parcels.” Other carriers offer similar services, but when most people refer to First-Class postage, they’re thinking of USPS First-Class Mail services. Small businesses receive more discounts if they purchase First-Class postage through PitneyShip or another USPS-approved vendor.
What can you mail with a First-Class stamp or label?
Postcards, letters, large envelopes and small packages can all be sent via First Class postage and First-Class shipping labels. The maximum weight for First-Class letters is 3.5 oz and the maximum weight for large First-Class envelopes and parcels is 13 oz. Size restrictions apply also, depending on envelope or package type. Odd shapes and bulky packages will cost more.
Which carriers offer First-Class Mail insurance?
Some First-Class services include insurance against loss and damage, and you can purchase additional insurance for others. There are some distinctions between carriers:
- USPS: Insurance included for loss or damage up to $5,000 for shipments of merchandise only.
- FedEx: Basic coverage of $100 included for all packages, and you can purchase additional insurance for higher-value shipments.
Does First-Class mail include tracking?
USPS Tracking® is included with First-Class Package service. Tracking for postcards, letters, and flat envelopes is an optional service that allows you to print the needed barcodes on your envelope or First-Class shipping label.
How to print First-Class mail
If your small business mails and ships on a regular basis an approved online shipping service or digital sending service will save you the most time and money. The steps vary by vendor, but the following directions for printing a First-Class Mail envelope with PitneyShip gives a sense of how it works.
- From the PitneyShip Home screen, select Stamp Sheets & Rolls.
- Select Envelopes.
- Perform any of the optional tasks needed to set up the envelope, including:
- Add and verify addresses
- Change the envelope size
- Preview the envelope to be printed
- Select Print.