What is priority mail and how does it work?

Shipping Priority Mail from home is easy and economical. Just ask all the online sellers who choose Priority Mail to save money and enhance their customer service.

The definition is right in the name: Of all the classes of shipping it offers, USPS® prioritizes the delivery of its Priority Mail® services:

  • Priority Mail Express®: 1 - 2 day or overnight delivery of anything mailable up to 70 lbs.
  • Priority Mail: 2 - 3 business day delivery of anything mailable up to 70 lbs.
  • First-Class Mail®: 1 - 3 business day delivery of mail, small packages up to 13 oz.
  • USPS Retail Ground®: 2 - 8 business day delivery of packages of any size/weight
  • Media Mail®: 2 - 8 business day delivery of educational materials and media

In addition to Priority Mail Express, Priority Mail is divided into two more categories: Priority Mail Flat Rate and Priority Mail Retail/Commercial.

Read on to learn which Priority Mail service is right for your business, find answers to frequently asked questions and get tips for shipping Priority Mail from home.

Priority Mail pricing and delivery time FAQs

Is Priority Mail shipping faster than Flat Rate shipping?

Delivery times are the same for Priority Mail shipping and Priority Mail Flat Rate shipping, with both estimated to arrive in two to three business days.

Priority Mail Express is the only Priority shipping service to guarantee its delivery time, with one to two-day shipping or overnight shipping options available. Priority Mail Express is more expensive than the other Priority types.

Is Priority Mail Flat Rate less expensive than Priority Mail Retail/Commercial?

It depends. Most online sellers shipping Priority Mail from home use Flat Rate to ship small, heavy packages and Commercial to ship large, lightweight packages. Here’s why:

Priority Mail Flat Rate lets you ship domestic packages up to 70 lbs. to any state in the US for the same price (or flat rate). If your item fits in that official pre-priced Flat Mail package, you can ship it at that rate. When purchasing online, prices start as low as $7.65 for a small Flat Rate box.

Priority Mail Retail and Commercial rates are based on weight, dimension and destination. If your package is large, light and destined for a location in a zone near you, Priority Mail Retail/Commercial might be cheaper. For example, you can ship a 1 lb. package within a 51 – 150-mile radius for $7.02.

What is the difference between Priority Mail Retail and Commercial?

Priority Mail Retail is the price you’ll pay if you purchase Priority Mail postage from your local Post Office branch. Priority Mail Commercial is the rate USPS offers when you buy Priority postage through an online shipping service like PitneyShip.

Priority Mail Retail is the more expensive option. By being able to offer Commercial rates to all their subscribers, PitneyShip offers substantial savings over the Retail rates you receive at the Post Office.

Which Priority Mail option is better – flat rate or metered?

Metered mail is a fancy way of saying mail that is weighed to determine its shipping rate, like is done for Priority Mail Retail/Commercial and First Class. As for which one is better or least expensive, it again depends on how heavy your package is and where it’s going.

If you’re shipping via metered rates from home, you’ll need a scale to determine your package’s weight. An online shipping solution like PitneyShip includes a scale with its service, as well as postage discounts on Priority Mail packages and First-Class postage.

Does Priority Mail deliver on Sundays?

Priority Mail Express packages are delivered on Sundays. Regular Priority Mail packages are not (except for some packages sent via Amazon® Logistics).

Priority Mail extras and options FAQs

What about Priority Mail tracking?

So long as your package includes an official Priority Mail shipping label and barcode, free tracking is included.

Can I insure my Priority Mail shipments?

Yes, your Priority Mail shipments include, without additional charge, either $50 or $100 insurance for loss, damage and missing merchandise. Additional insurance can be purchased, too.

Someone tracking a package via Pitney Bowes' website on their mobile

Priority Mail packaging FAQs

Does Priority Mail have to be shipped in a Priority Mail package?

Only shipments sent via Priority Mail Flat Rate require official Priority Mail packaging. Flat Rate prices are based on the package itself, and anything that fits inside it can be shipped at that rate. If you’re shipping Priority Mail from home, the Priority Mail label you purchase online must match the Flat Rate package you are using.

You can order free Priority Mail packaging online through the USPS website or through an online shipping service like PitneyShip. Keep in mind, it’s illegal to use Priority Mail Flat Rate boxes for non-Priority Mail shipments. (That includes turning the box inside out, Mr. McFrugal).

Can I use my own box for Priority shipping?

Yes, so long as you’re not shipping via Flat Rate. If you’re shipping Priority Mail Commercial from home, you can use any box you want. Just be sure to remove any old postal barcodes or labels. By using PitneyShip, you can easily weigh and measure your package and print the appropriate Priority Mail postage.

Shipping Priority Mail from home

Whether you’re just starting an online business or already selling through multiple channels, shipping via Priority Mail from home saves time and money.

In addition to ordering free Flat-Rate boxes online, you can also schedule a package pickup. Simply notify the post office that you have packages, what service you’re using and where the packages will be left.

But first, you’ll need to purchase and print your Priority Mail shipping labels. This is where access to an online service like PitneyShip comes into play. The digital sending software makes it easy to choose between services and purchase and print official Priority Mail shipping labels with nothing more than an ordinary printer and paper. Simple prompts walk you through each step and option.

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