What is First-Class Mail?

By | February 28, 2020
What is First-Class Mail?
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What is First-Class Mail? Many people believe that the art of letter writing is dead. Not so fast! A whopping 185 billion envelopes are produced each year in the USA alone. When compared to the 25 million per year that were being produced in the 1890s, this is a huge increase. One that strongly counters the notion that letter writing is dead.


What is First-Class Postage?

With over 85 percent of the 185 billion envelopes produced each year being sent, there must be a system in place to ensure their delivery. This is where first-class mail or first-class postage comes in. First-class mail (also known as first-class postage) is specifically designed for sending envelopes and lightweight parcels. If you want to send a letter, postcard, business document, or anything small and light, then first-class mail is the best option. Not only is it the most accessible form of small postage, but it is also the most affordable, and most straightforward. 

Types of First-Class Mail 

There are three main types of first-class mail:

  1. First-class mail service This service is available to the general public for the postage of envelopes and other light, flat postage.
  2. First-class package service (retail) This service is also available to the general public, but is specifically for lightweight packages.
  3. First-class package service (commercial) This service is designed for businesses, for sending both flat postage and lightweight parcels. 

First-class mail service and first-class package service (retail) are the most affordable for people looking to send lightweight mail. There is a vast array of options (tracking, signature confirmation, etc) for all of your postage needs. 

If you are running a business that sends a lot of mail, then first-class package service (commercial) is a good option for you. You will have access to all of the same great features that come with the retail service, but will also benefit from the reduced rates that come with bulk mail sending. This is a great way to reduce the amount that your business spends on mail services. To qualify, you must send a minimum of 500 pieces of first-class mail per year. You can also get a commercial account for other types of mail with USPS. These come with their own minimum send amount.

Unfortunately, these services do not offer the possibility of refunding you for any postage that you purchase. 

USPS First-Class Mail

If you are looking to send first-class mail in the United States, then USPS is your best option. It is very affordable and can be done with ease. USPS stands for the United States Postal Service, and they offer stamps for first-class mail starting at just $0.58 (per the August 29, 2021 price increase). There are many benefits when using USPS for your first-class mail service:

  • Tampering seal – Retail and first-class commercial mail are both very safe options for sending your mail. Envelopes, letters, postcards, etc., are sealed against tampering and inspection. The same can be said for sending packages through the first-class retail service. However, if you intend to send packages through the first-class commercial service, then there is always a possibility of inspection. The seal may be broken to determine that proper postage was paid and that there are no illegal items in the mail.
  • Insurance – If you have the misfortune of your package being lost or damaged, then USPS has insurance to cover this. They have the means to pay you out up to $5,000 for items that cannot be located or are proven to have been damaged in transit. The value of the item sent determines the amount that you will be paid out by USPS.
  • No stamp expiry – Your stamps will never expire, so you don’t have to concern yourself with buying an entire book of stamps and not getting through them all. They are not affected by rate increases, so even if first-class mail rates go up after you buy them, you will be able to continue using your stamps at the same cost.
  • Fast shipping – There is no possibility of being given a guaranteed delivery date with USPS first-class mail. However, there is an estimated delivery time of one to three days from initial postmarking. This can be influenced depending on the distance between the origin and destination. It can also be affected by things such as natural disasters, road closures, etc.
  • Tracking – Although USPS is not able to guarantee a delivery time for your first-class mail, you will have the option of following your package’s delivery status. If you are sending a package, then tracking is included at no extra cost. However, tracking is not free if you are sending an envelope/flat package. If this is the case (and you would like tracking for your letter), then there are still options available. Barcode stickers are available at a small extra cost which will allow you to track your package to its destination.

What You Can Send Using First-Class Mail

There are three different types of mail that you can send through USPS first-class mail. These are:

  • Letters – Letters can be sent via first-class mail using a stamp. The cost of this depends on the weight of the letter. The maximum weight for a letter being sent through first-class mail is 3.5 ounces.
  • PostcardsJust like letters, postcards sent through first-class mail have a weight limit of 3.5 ounces. These are also priced using stamps and are slightly cheaper to send vs letters in an envelope. An additional charge may be added if your letter or postcard is not square or rectangular.
  • Light-weight packagesNot only can you send flat packages through first-class mail, but you can also send lightweight packages. But what is the weight limit for first-class mail packages? A “lightweight package” is a package that weighs up to 13 ounces. If your package is below this, then you can send it through first-class mail.

All retail packages, envelopes, stickers, and stamps can be bought either on the USPS website or in-store. If you want to pay commercial prices, then you will need to contact your local USPS to set up an account. 

What is the Difference Between First-Class and Priority Mail

Many people get confused about the difference between first-class mail and priority mail. This is quite understandable, but the answer is rather simple. The key difference is the weight limit imposed on mail first-class mail. As established in this article, USPS first-class mail is designed for mail under 13 ounces. Priority mail is essentially the same service, yet catered for mail between 13 and 70 ounces. If you are using USPS for your small mail, then it is a good idea to look into priority mail for your larger postage needs.

USPS mail is always an excellent option for efficiently mailing packages and letters up to 13 ounces. If this is something that you do regularly, then you are on the right track!

Category: First-Class Mail / Postage
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About Georgia

Georgia is a freelance writer who is based out of New Zealand. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre and English, as well as certificates in proofreading and editing. Georgia also has five years experience in the freelance writing world, and specialises in blog writing and fiction writing. You can find her on LinkedIn here

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