The USPS has six different classes of mail, each with different delivery times, pricing and requirements.
Businesses that understand how and when to use each USPS mail class benefit from reduced postage rates and a higher marketing ROI. But navigating the different mail classes can be a bit confusing at times, which is why we created this guide.
Keep reading to learn the benefits, use cases and best practices for each USPS mail class, including:
- Priority Mail Express
- Priority Mail
- First-Class Mail
- USPS Marketing Mail
- Package Services
Before we get started, here’s an overview of the six USPS mail classes.
Priority Mail Express
Priority Mail Express (formerly known as Express Mail) is the Postal Service's fastest and most expensive mail service. Items sent through Priority Mail Express are guaranteed to arrive in 1-3 days (guarantees are not available with Priority Mail), and upgrades to overnight, weekend and holiday deliveries are available. Priority Mail Express pricing is based on weight and distance.
Nearly anything that is allowed to be mailed (and weighs less than 70 pounds) can be sent using Priority Mail Express, such as:
Priority Mail Express Tips:
- For time-sensitive direct mail campaigns, upgrading to USPS Priority Mail provides the fastest delivery time possible.
- While fast delivery times come with a higher cost, working with a direct mail partner gives you access to commercial rates, which can help reduce costs.
- Ensure that your mailing list is clean and up-to-date. The cost of bad or duplicate addresses adds up quickly when using a premium mail class like USPS Priority Mail.
Priority Mail is cheaper than Priority Mail Express since delivery times are a bit longer and are not guaranteed. Items sent through Priority Mail can be expected in three business days, but may take longer based on location. Priority Mail pricing is based on weight and distance.
Like Priority Mail Express, anything that is allowed to be mailed (and weighs less than 70 pounds) can be sent using Priority Mail Express.
Priority Mail Tip: Priority Mail is typically more expensive than First-Class Mail for items weighing less than 13 ounces. If your shipments are less than 13 ounces and aren’t time-sensitive, you may want to consider First-Class Mail.
First-Class Mail must weigh less than 13 ounces. Shipments over 13 ounces will automatically be charged the higher Priority Mail postage rate. Postage for Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express are based on weight and distance, but rates for First-Class Mail are the same no matter the distance, so you can send a piece of First-Class Mail anywhere in the U.S. without worrying about paying an extra fee. First-Class Mail is typically delivered within one to five business days and is ideal for:
- Letters, cards and envelopes.
- Bills, invoices and financial statements.
- Small packages under 13 ounces.
First-Class Mail Tips:
- The USPS offers reduced pricing on First-Class mail during promotional periods throughout the year. Be sure to take advantage of these promotions!
- While Priority Mail can be faster, First-Class Mail is still a relatively fast mail class that is ideal for transactional mail, such as bills or statements. If delivery speed isn’t an issue, consider using Marketing Mail, which is less expensive than First-Class Mail but can take up to three weeks to deliver.
Periodicals are a class of mail designed for businesses that send publications to an established list of subscribers. The USPS requires at least four publication intervals per year and all mailings must be under 70 pounds. Additionally, the publication cannot contain more than 75% of advertisements in order to qualify for Periodical postage rates. Qualifying publications can benefit from faster delivery times and reduce postage costs by up to 35%. Publications eligible for the Periodical rate include:
- Other published materials with formal authorization.
Periodicals Mail Class Tip: To qualify for the Periodical mail class, the USPS requires an extensive and detailed application process. Additionally, there are complex requirements around circulation data, advertising limits and record keeping, so many businesses choose to work with a direct mail company for the Periodical mail class.
USPS Marketing Mail
USPS Marketing Mail is about 30% less expensive than First-Class Mail, but it’s much slower. If your direct mail campaign isn’t time-sensitive, Marketing Mail offers cost savings as high as 30% when compared to First-Class Mail. To qualify for USPS Marketing Mail, you must send at least 200 individual pieces of mail or 50 lbs. of mail, and each mailpiece must weigh less than 16 ounces. Keep in mind that USPS Marketing Mail is for domestic addresses only, so you won’t be able to mail to international addresses. USPS Marketing Mail is ideal for:
- Flyers and circulars.
- Direct mail marketing that is not time-sensitive.
- Small parcels under 16 ounces.
Marketing Mail Class Tips:
- One of the reasons the Marketing Mail class is so affordable is that the USPS doesn’t commit to specific delivery times. In fact, they say on their website that Marketing Mail is processed “as time allows” and delivery times can take as long as three weeks.
- Be sure to check the USPS promotion calendar for extra savings on Marketing Mail postage.
- Nonprofits are eligible for a discounted Marketing Mail rate.
The Package Services mail class refers to three subclasses of mail that provide an affordable option for specific types of mail and organizations:
- Bound Printed Matter refers to permanently bound sheets, such as a phone book or directory.
- Media Mail is used for shipping media, such as books, CDs or DVDs.
- Library Mail is for universities or nonprofit organizations to send educational materials.
Each subclass is best suited for a particular purpose and has specific requirements in order to qualify.
Bound Printed Matter
USPS defines Bound Printed Matter as “permanently bound sheets of which at least 90 percent are printed with advertising, promotional, directory or editorial matter.” While Bound Printed Matter seems similar to Media Mail, they have one important difference: Media Mail requirements forbid any type of advertising or marketing materials whereas Print Bound Matter allows for both. In order to qualify for Bound Printed Matter rates, parcels must:
- Weigh less than 15 pounds.
- Be secured by fastenings, which could include glue, stitching, staples, or spiral binding.
Bound Printed Matter is not applicable for:
- Personal correspondence.
- Sheets that are not imprinted with words, characters, figures, letters or images.
Media Mail is applicable for books, printed music, film, test materials, educational materials, recordings, scripts and written computer media. While very similar to Bound Printed Mail, advertising or marketing materials are not permitted in Media Mail.
This type of mail is primarily used by educational institutions such as libraries, zoos, universities, and research institutions to mail research and educational material. Packages must show the name of the school or nonprofit organization in the address or return address and must be under 70 lbs.
Which USPS Mail Class is Best for Your Business?
Direct mail marketing is an effective and high-conversion channel, but understanding which mail service is right for you can be difficult. Fortunately, Jet Mail’s team of direct mail experts are here to help! We have helped businesses boost their direct mail ROI since 1993.
As a USPS Postal Qualified Wholesaler with an on-site USPS facility, Jet Mail will identify the best postal rates, discounts and delivery options for your business needs. Contact us today to get started.