The United States Postal Service (USPS) offers different classes of mail depending on how quickly a customer wants a mail piece delivered. First Class mail is an affordable alternative for sending letters and small parcels.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
A First Class parcel can weigh up to 15.999 ounces. Heavier items are sent Retail Ground or can be upgraded to Priority Mail.
First Class Mail
First Class mail is the most popular and least expensive way to send items through the United States Postal Service. Domestic delivery (within the U.S.) time is generally one to three business days. First Class mail price ranges are as follows:
- Parcels: Retail pricing from $3.80 to $6.50, up to 13 ounces and depending on destination. Commercial pricing (bulk and pre-sorted) from $2.74 to $5.70. First Class commercial pricing allows for parcels up to 15.999 ounces.
- Flats (large envelopes): Retail pricing from $1 for one ounce to $3.40 for 13 ounces. The prices are the same regardless of destination. First Class commercial pricing from $0.43 to $3.21.
- Letters and Cards: Retail pricing from $0.55 (stamped) or $0.50 (metered) for up to one ounce to $1 (stamped) or $0.95 (metered) for up to 3.5 ounces. Commercial rates range from $0.26 to $0.439, according to weight, how the mail pieces are sorted and whether the mail pieces are machinable.
First Class Mail International
First Class Mail International is priced by weight and destination. The USPS has organized 219 countries into nine price groups. Verify the price group at the post office or online at the USPS website.
Greater distance from the U.S. does not necessarily put a country in a higher group number for First Class Mail International. For example, Canada is Group 1 and Mexico is Group 2. China is Group 3, but the British Virgin Islands are Group 9.
There are different weight limits for different groups, but in general, the First Class International Mail maximums are 3.5 ounces for letters, 15.994 ounces for flats and 4 pounds for parcels. Letters and postcards are priced from $1.20 for all countries, from $2.40 for flats from all countries and from $12.25 for parcels, priced by weight and destination. Commercial rates are available for parcels, starting at $11.64.
Understanding USPS Commercial Pricing
Commercial base pricing is a discounted rate over First Class package service retail. It is offered to customers who mail in bulk or who print shipping labels with an online postage service provider. You can print labels from the USPS website or a provider such as Stamps.com or ShippingEasy.com.
The USPS offers discounts for pre-sorted bulk mail and for bulk mail that you deliver to a mailing point. The idea is that you're doing some of the work that would ordinarily be done by the USPS, so they're compensating you for your extra efforts.
Five-Digit ZIP and AADC Mail
USPS commercial pricing for domestic mail is based on presorting according to the five-digit ZIP or Automated Area Distribution Center (AADC). To qualify for the lowest rate, you must have a minimum of 150 mail pieces going to the same five-digit ZIP. AADC pricing, which is slightly higher, is for a minimum of 150 mail pieces with shared three-digit ZIP codes, such as 100XX ZIP codes in Manhattan. For example, Greenwich village ZIP codes are 10012, 10013 and 10014.
Mixed AADC (MAADC) is a broader category of mail pieces, including both five-digit and AADC. There is no specified minimum for the number of mail pieces to qualify for commercial rates in this category.
Included in First Class Mail Pricing
When paying postage for a First Class Mail parcel, tracking is automatically included. Tracking for letters and flats is not included, but these mail pieces can be barcoded for tracking with the purchase of additional services such as Certified, Delivery Confirmation and Signature Required.
Denise Dayton, M.S., M.Ed. is a freelance writer specializing in careers, education and technology. In addition to writing for corporate clients, she has published articles in Library Journal and The Searcher.