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Jet Mail 10/29/20 1:56 PM

Guide to USPS Mail Classes and Postage Rates

Guide to USPS Mail Classes and Postage Rates

With the holiday season around the corner and the pandemic looming, online retail and mail will play a more significant role this year than ever before. Online holiday sales are predicted to grow 30% and the USPS projects to deliver more than 15 billion pieces of mail during the holidays. 

Due to the surge, there may be delays in shipping times, which is why you want to plan ahead. To help your business prepare for mailing during the holiday season, we’ve broken out each of the different USPS mail classes, the purpose for each, and the expected delivery times. 

USPS Mail Classes

The USPS divides its mail into six distinct classes:  

  • Priority Mail Express

  • Priority Mail

  • First-Class Mail

  • Periodicals 

  • USPS Marketing Mail

  • Package Services and USPS Retail Ground

Each class has a unique set of price, postage, service level, features, and requirements.

Priority Mail Express

Priority Mail Express (formerly known as Express Mail) is the Postal Service's fastest and most expensive mail service. Mail is guaranteed to arrive in 1-3 days (guarantees are not available with Priority Mail) and upgrades to overnight, weekend, and holiday deliveries are available. There is no minimum weight limit but all Priority Mail Express items have to be under 70 lbs. The price depends on the weight of the mail and travel distance. The items you can mail through Priority Mail Express include:

  • Letters

  • Merchandise

  • Anything mailable under 70 lbs.

Priority Mail

The main differences between Priority Mail Express and Priority Mail are cost, delivery times and delivery dates. Priority Mail Express is more expensive because it's guaranteed to deliver from overnight to two business days. Items sent through Priority Mail can be expected in three business days, but it isn’t guaranteed. The price of Priority Mail depends on package weight and distance, but it is cheaper than Priority Mail Express. Like Priority Mail Express, all Priority Mail has to be under 70 lbs. The items you can ship with Priority Mail include:

  • Letters

  • Merchandise

  • Anything mailable under 70 lbs.

First-Class Mail

First-Class Mail is the same as Priority Mail except that the mail piece must weigh under 13 ounces, with the letter itself being under 3.5 ounces. You can expect to receive or deliver First-Class Mail within three business days. One benefit of First-Class Mail is the price is the same no matter the shipping distance, so you can send a piece of First-Class Mail anywhere in the U.S. without worrying about paying an extra fee. Likewise, you can receive a commercial rate if you send over 500 pieces of mail. The items you can ship with First-Class Mail include:

  • Letters, cards, envelopes

  • Bills, invoices, financial statements

  • Small parcels under 13 ounces


Periodicals are a class of mail designed for companies that send materials to an established list of subscribers. Companies must publish and transmit Periodicals on an established basis. The USPS requires at least four publication intervals per year. All Periodicals must be under 70 lbs.  The USPS also offers lower prices for non-profit, classroom, and science-of-agriculture materials. The type of Periodicals you can ship include:

  • Magazines

  • Newspapers

  • Newsletters

  • Other published materials with formal authorization

USPS Marketing Mail

USPS Marketing Mail differs from First-Class and Periodicals. To qualify for USPS Marketing Mail, you must send at least 200 individual pieces of mail or 50 lbs. of mail. Each piece of mail must weigh under 16 ounces. USPS Marketing Mail is a bulk price, so the more you send, the less you spend per piece of mail. USPS also offers lower prices for non-profits. This is often a good choice for businesses because of the low postage price. Keep in mind that USPS Marketing Mail is for domestic addresses only, so you won’t be able to ship to international addresses. The materials you can send through USPS Marketing Mail include:

  • Advertisements

  • Flyers and circulars

  • Newsletters, bulletins, and catalogs

  • Merchandise 

  • Small parcels under 16 ounces

Package Services and USPS Retail Ground

USPS Retail Ground is for single-piece items that do not require First-Class Mail. The price of USPS Retail Ground depends on the distance and weight of the parcel. The weight for all USPS Retail Ground packages must be under 70 lbs. 

USPS's Package Services is a collective term to describe three distinct mail classes, which include Bound Printed Material, Media Mail, and Library Mail. Each subclass of mail is best suited for a particular purpose. Here is more detail on each subclass of mail in USPS's Package Services:

Bound Printed Matter

All Bound Printed Matter parcels must be under 15 lbs. There is also a minimum bulk quantity of 300 pieces of mail. The price depends on the quantity, distance, carrier route and commercial price. Requirements for Bound Printed Matter include:

  • Paid for by permit imprint

  • Must contain promotional, advertising, editorial, or directional material

  • Must be secured by fastenings, which could include glue, stitching, staples or spiral binding

  • Cannot be a personal correspondence 

  • Cannot be stationary

  • Cannot contain sheets that are not imprinted with words, characters, figures, letters, or images

Media Mail

Media Mail is for books, printed music, film, test materials, educational materials, recordings, scripts, binders of medical information, and written computer media. Advertising restrictions do apply to Media Mail. There is a 300 piece minimum and all packages must be under 70 lbs. 

Library 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. There is a 300 piece minimum for Library Mail and packages must be under 70 lbs. 

Have More Questions? Jet Mail Can Help

Direct mail marketing is an effective and high-conversion marketing channel, but understanding which mail service is right for you can be difficult. Jet Mail’s team of experts are here to learn about your unique business needs and optimize your direct mail ROI with the best postal rates, discounts, and delivery options through our in-house postal office. Contact a Jet Mail shipping expert today to learn more about the best postage choice for your business.


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