When to use First-Class Mail vs. Priority Mail

Shipping and Mailing | Pitney Bowes

When to use First-Class Mail vs. Priority Mail

Did you know that the U.S. Postal Service® processes and delivers over 506 million pieces of mail  each day? And, did you know that they also process approximately 6.5 billion pieces of mail as Undeliverable as Addressed (UAA) each year?

When you’re sending mail or packages to customers, it’s important to make sure you’re choosing the right service. Not only will you save money on unnecessary sending costs, but mailing smarter also helps you develop better relationships with your customers. By making sure that packages or mailings arrive on time, you can build the trust and confidence essential to a successful and reliable customer relationship.



But, when there are so many shipping, sending and mailing options out there to choose from, it can sometimes be confusing or overwhelming to know what the best option is to pick. Let’s break down the differences between two of the USPS®’s most commonly used services: First-Class Mail® and Priority Mail®, and when you should use which one.

What do they have in common?

For starters, either can be used for a statement or invoice, business correspondence or marketing materials. They typically both guarantee delivery in one, two or three business days, depending on where your mail piece or package starts and where it’s being sent. But, there are a couple notable distinctions between the two.

First-Class Mail

First-Class Mail includes most types of mail that you’d find in your mailbox, from postcards and letters, to flats and lightweight parcels. Mail is delivered in two or three days, and if you’re sending a package, USPS Tracking® is included. Insurance is also available, at an additional cost.

With postage as low as 49 cents at retail and 37 cents at commercial pricing, First-Class Mail is the best-priced mail service – as long as your mail piece weighs fewer than 13 ounces. Pricing is based on size, shape and weight, so you’ll pay the same price no matter how many US zip codes the mail crosses.

Plus, metered mail and online postage users can send First-Class Mail letters for 3 cents less than the retail price. For postcards and letters, simply print stamps from your postage meter or an online postage system, and you’re ready to send.

Priority Mail FAQ

Here’s the most important distinction to remember: If your mail piece weighs more than 13 ounces, it must be sent by Priority Mail. So, make sure to weigh all envelopes and parcels, so that you’re choose the correct service and using sufficient postage. 

Priority Mail combines value and speed, with free package pickup service at your home or office, $50 of included insurance and USPS Tracking included when you mail online or at retail.

Pricing is generally based on weight and zone, starting at a $5.95 commercial rate and $6.65 for retail and online. You also have the option to use Priority Mail Flat Rate® packaging, however, where you pay one price across all zip codes. There’s no need to weigh parcels or calculate postage for any parcel up to 70 pounds. Simply add a preprinted barcode label or full shipping label, and you’re ready to send.

Like First-Class Mail, Priority Mail delivery typically takes one to three business days, but if you need to send overnight, opt for Priority Mail Express®. It’s the fastest, safest mail service available, with guaranteed overnight delivery and $100 insurance included. Overnight delivery does come with a heftier price tag, however, starting at $23.85 for retail and online, and $21.18 at commercial price.

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