Many businesses tuck postage-paid envelopes in their mailings if they’re asking recipients to respond to their offer, survey or whatever they are mailing. While some people prefer to pick up the phone to respond, others prefer the anonymity and speed of the business-reply envelope that has the postage already on it. They simply check off their response and toss the envelope in the mail with no time spent on a lengthy phone conversation. You could put a stamp on the envelope, of course, but imprinting your postage information on the envelope saves time and looks professional.
Using postage-paid envelopes gives you a commercial discount on mailing costs. It also can increase your rate of return on mailings when you include a postage-paid envelope for your recipient to use when responding to you. A postage-paid envelope is convenient for recipients to use and free to them because you pay the postage. USPS makes using postage-paid envelopes affordable for smaller businesses because you aren’t charged for the postage until the envelope is used and scanned.
To use postage-paid envelopes, you must apply for the right to use a permit imprint. This is the wording that appears in place of a stamp on the envelope and explains that it is a postage-paid mailing. You can apply online at USPS.com under "Postage Options". There is a fee to have a permit imprint, and it allows you to send commercial mailings for one year from one post office.
You must set up a deposit account with USPS and deposit funds into the account before beginning a mailing. When you bring a bulk mailing to your post office to be weighed, the cost of mailing each piece is deducted from your account as the pieces are scanned for mailing. There is no cost to you to enclose your postage-paid envelope in a mailing as long as the imprint can’t be seen in the mailing. When recipients use your postage-paid envelope, the postage cost is deducted from your account, and you aren’t charged for envelopes that aren’t returned.
The USPS prepaid-envelope cost involves several different fees, including an application fee for using a mailing permit imprint, an annual and renewable fee for mailing from one post office for one year and the cost of postage when postage-paid envelopes are mailed, which is deducted from your deposit account. There is also a fee if you are using a customized indicia — for example, incorporating your company logo.
In addition, there are requirements for applying for and using a permit imprint. Each mailing must contain at least 200 pieces of mail or weigh at least 50 pounds, and each piece must weigh the same. Some exceptions may be made by advance agreement — for example, if you are mailing a few extra pieces earlier or later than the main mailing. Place all pieces with addresses facing up and postage-paid indicia in the upper right corner, or if it’s on a label, it must be above the address.
You must design your own permit imprint indicia following USPS guidelines and examples. It can be made by printing press, lithography, hand stamp, mimeograph, multigraph, address plate or a similar method. It cannot be hand drawn or typed nor should it look like any USPS symbol or stamp.
Your permit imprint may be revoked or suspended if you use it for any illegal purpose or mail obscene, defamatory or deceptive material about any person or entity. You cannot disparage USPS in any way. To keep your permit in an annually renewable status, you must make at least one 200-piece or 50-pound mailing in a two-year period.