Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Postage by Mail - What does it cost to direct mail postcards?

The simple answer - it will probably cost you $0.281 each.

And that's if you mail at the standard bulk mail rate.

If you want it delivered faster you can mail first class and it will cost you $0.424 each.

If you are a non-profit it will cost you $0.194 each.

But that is just the simple answer.

The purpose of this post is to explain the postage rate to send something by mail. Since you can send a lot of things by mail this information will be limited to what is typically sent as business direct mail for marketing purposes: postcards, folded brochures and stuffed envelope mailers.

How does the Post Office determine the postage rate?

There are several main factors that determine the final postage for mailing business direct mail pieces.

First, the quantity.

Bulk mail is "bulk" because you are sending out a lot of pieces at once. The Post Office gives you a discount over the cost of just sending one piece of mail with a stamp on it. But you have to meet the Post Office's minimum quantities.

In order to qualify for standard bulk mail rates you need to mail at least 200 pieces at the same time. This applies for non-profit bulk mail too.

In order to qualify for the first class bulk mail rate you need to mail at least 500 pieces at once.

Second, the classification.

Most business direct mail is either postcards or stuffed envelopes. The Post Office's technical term "letters" includes both postcards, brochures folded to letter size and stuffed envelopes.

Third, the size.

Postcards, like the little ones you can by at gift shops are usually between 4.25" x 3.5" (the smallest size postcard you can mail) and 6" x 4.25". These mail for a special postcard rate and can only be sent as first class mail. The default standard postage rate is $0.235 each. Minimum 500 pieces.

As noted above postcards larger than 6" x 4.25" are technically classified as "letters". Most businesses use a standard half sheet postcard (8.5" x 5.25") or larger such as a 6" x 9". The postage rates we are discussing apply to any postcard that is 6" x 4.25" up to 11.5" x 6.125".

If your mail piece gets any larger it will be classified as a "flat" and it will cost you more in postage.

Fourth, the weight.

The Post Office's first weight category is for a weight of 3.3 ounces or less. Postcards are usually well below this weight limit. Usually envelopes with the standard letter included are as well. Just be sure not to overstuff your envelope to avoid paying a substantial surcharge which can be 2 to 3 times as expensive.

Fifth, processing.

If the Post Office can process your direct mail pieces for mailing on their equipment so that they can be sorted automatically it's classified as machinable, automation compatible.

Nonmachinable means it can't be processed by machine and has to be handled manually. The are significant additional fees if your mailing is nonmachinable sometimes as much as twice or three times as much.

Some mail is machinable, but non-automation compatible, which usually means it can't be barcoded, such as our postcard magnet mailers not because of the magnet but because of the high gloss laminate that we use. (It's worth it because it really  makes the postcards beautiful.)

The price difference between automation and non-automation mail is usually less than a penny per piece.

The rates shown below are for machinable, non-automation compatible mail.

Sixth, the mailing list or the mailing density.

The mailing list indicates which addresses the direct mail will be delivered to. Each mailbox in the US is included as part of a postal worker's daily route, referred to as the "carrier route" or in other words the daily route on which each postal worker delivers mail.

If your mailing list includes every mailbox on a carrier route you will get the cheapest rate on postage.

If your mailing list includes a random and small percentage of homes on a carrier route you will get the highest rate on postage.

The size of the area you are mailing to doesn't affect the postage cost just the percentage of homes in that area that will be receiving your mailer.

Standard Classifications

Mixed AADC

The Post Office has the entire country broken down into different mailing areas. AADC stands for "automated area distribution center." Which means the distribution area for one automation center (which is probably different than your local Post Office which is just a distribution point and not a processing center).

Mixed AADC means that your direct mail pieces will be mailed to more than one distribution area.

Mixed AADC is the most common classification for bulk mail when you are mailing to a your own customer database. Usually your customers will live on the east side of town and on the west side of town and everywhere in between, but they don't all live in the same neighborhood so you usually qualify for the "mixed" rate.

The mixed AADC postage rate for standard bulk mail is $0.276 each.
The mixed AADC postage rate for non-profit bulk mail is $0.174 each. 

If you are ensure about the density of your mailing list this is the safest estimate for your total postage cost. 


This means that your bulk mail will all be delivered only within the geographic area of one of the Post Offices distribution areas but the pieces will be mailed out to a mixed assortment of addresses within that  area. 

The AADC postage rate for standard bulk mail is $0.260 each.

The AADC postage rate for non-profit bulk mail is $.158 each.


The next classification is "Basic" which means that the delivery addresses for your direct mail piece are spread out between different carrier routes but are all in the same distribution area. 

The basic postage rate for standard bulk mail is $0.265 each.

The basic postage rate for non-profit bulk mail is $0.191 each.

High Density

A "high density" mailing is the next categorization which indicates that the majority of the houses, but not all of the houses, are being delivered to. 

The high density postage rate for standard bulk mail is $0.220 each.

The high density postage rate for non-profit bulk mail is $0.146 each.


The post office charges the least when they have the least work to do. When they don't have to do any additional sorting and can add your direct mail piece to every postal worker's route and be included for each mailbox that's called a "saturation" mailing.

The saturation postage rate for standard bulk mail is $0.194 each.

The saturation postage rate for non-profit bulk mail is $0.120 each.

The last classifications of high density and saturation are usually only obtained when you purchase a mailing targeting a specific area and when your goal it to deliver to most or all of the homes in that area.

Again, this is just a brief summary of the rate of postage for the different classifications.

You can find the Post Offices online pricing guide here:

We'd be happy to discuss postage rates with you over the phone. Give us a call at 800-660-8668.

If you would like to receive a free direct mail sample kit of our magnet mailers we'd be happy to send you one free of charge. No cost. No obligation.

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