Recap: First-Class Mail Letters

recap: first class postal letters

We now have separate first-class mail rate categories for the different forms of mail: postcards, letters, large (flat) envelopes, and packages. The following information is provided to clarify how prices apply to the most common form of mail: “letters”.

First Class Mail’s pricing structure provides opportunities for customers to obtain lower rates if they can reconfigure mailpiece contents into mailing forms that reduce postal processing costs. emphasizing shape has also allowed us to reduce the extra ounce rate. for letters over 1 ounce and large envelopes over 6 ounces, today’s prices are lower than they were before May 14, 2007.

Determining the processing category of a postal item (letter, large envelope, or package) depends solely on the physical dimensions of the item, without regard to address location. this has been the standard for several years. for a correspondence to be eligible for first-class mail letter rates, it must be at least 3-1/2 inches by 5 inches by 0.007 inches thick and no more than 6-1/8 inches by 11-1/ 2 inches. inches by 1/4 inch thick. if the shipment falls within these dimensions, it is classified as a letter.

follow these simple steps for lyrics:

1. After determining that the correspondence is a letter, determine if it can be mailed. the location and orientation of the delivery address now dictates which dimensions are length and height. length is the dimension parallel to the direction as read and must be at least 5 inches. height is the dimension perpendicular to length and must be at least 3-1/2 inches. if not, the part cannot be mailed. if the length is at least 5 inches and the height is at least 3-1/2 inches, the piece can be mailed. if not, the part cannot be mailed.

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2. Next, to determine if the part is within the “aspect ratio”, divide the length by the height. if the result is between 1.3 and 2.5 inclusive, the letter is within the aspect ratio and is not subject to the non-machinable surcharge, if it has no other non-machinable characteristics. or use the 3-s notice, pricing template based on first class mail forms. if the letter is also flexible and of uniform thickness, it is classified and valued as a “machinable letter” and is subject only to the applicable letter rate based on weight. for example, a letter that is 6 inches by 9 inches and less than 1/4 inch thick is classified as letter. if this letter is prepared with the address parallel to the 9-inch measurement, the correspondence is a machinable letter with an aspect ratio of 1.5. if the same letter is prepared with the direction parallel to the 6-inch measurement, it is still classified as a letter; however, this letter would not fall within the required aspect ratio (0.6666) and is therefore a non-machinable letter subject to the non-machinable surcharge of $0.17 in addition to applicable postage. the first-class mail non-machinable surcharge applies to all letters up to 3.5 ounces.

size is not the only factor to consider. the physical characteristics of the mailpiece also determine how a mailpiece is sorted and priced. letter rate parts may be subject to the $0.17 non-machinable surcharge due to other non-machinable features (see below). Also remember that the weight limit for cards is 3.5 ounces (3.3 ounces for the presort rate). letter-size pieces over 3.5 ounces are subject to large (flat) envelope rates.

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Regardless of weight (up to 3.5 ounces), a letter-size part is considered non-machinable and would be subject to the $0.17 non-machinable surcharge if it has one or more of these more common characteristics:

  • an aspect ratio (length divided by height) of less than 1.3 or more than 2.5 (most prevalent in letters with the direction parallel to the shortest measurement).
  • parts that contain irregularly shaped content such as loose keys, coins, or tokens that cause uneven (non-uniform) thickness.
  • items in plastic bags, wrapped in plastic, or enclosed in any plastic material.
  • snaps, drawstrings, buttons, or similar fastening devices.
  • booklet with the bound edge (spine) along the top of the piece (length) or along the shortest unsecured dimension (no tabs).

mail classified as postal eligible for the card rate, large envelopes and packages are never subject to the $0.17 unmachinable surcharge.

To be eligible for the $0.26 first-class postcard rate, postcards can be no more than 4-1/4 inches high by 6 inches long and no more than 0.016 inches thick.

greeting cards and other first-class postal items

greeting cards are available in various shapes and weights and include the popular “musical” cards. many of these cards weigh over 1 ounce and, if the card is square, may be subject to the $0.17 unmachinable surcharge in addition to applicable letter-size first-class postage. The envelopes for these cards are often marked “additional postage required.” Due to their size, most square greeting cards exceed letter-size standards and are classified and listed as large (flat) envelopes, not packs. dmm 101.1.2 contains non-machinable criteria. also, check out the article titled “how to do it right! charging correct postage for letter-size first-class correspondence” in Postal Bulletin 22212 (8-2-07, pages 86-87).

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For greeting cards addressed to foreign destinations, postage is calculated in 1-ounce increments up to 8 ounces, from six separate international first-class mail rate groups.

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