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First Class Mail vs. Standard Mail: Learn the Difference

Written by Leslie Nienaber Content Manager

Setting up a direct mail campaign requires a lot of steps: from getting the project set up with the right printing parameters to figuring out your mailing list, you may end up forgetting about determining which postage type, or rate, best suits your campaign’s needs. Knowing the differences between First Class and Standard mail (also known as Marketing mail) can help you and your business make decisions that will help you save on postage and get your mail into the hands of your recipients in the best way possible.

What Is First Class Mail?

The primary differences between First Class and Standard mail are price, speed of delivery, as well as options for mail forwarding and returns on mail with outdated addresses. First Class mail is still less than the price of a regular postage stamp, and the price remains the same regardless of where it goes domestically. The only difference in price is due to the type of mailpiece (flat, postcard, letter, etc.).

First Class is the fastest option, delivering mail 2-3 days locally and up to 4 days nationally. If you are planning on sending out time-sensitive or personal information, First Class mail may be your best choice and is required for any invoices, credit cards, and other personalized correspondence. Consistent delivery times, even during peak mailing seasons and cycles, make First Class mail an obvious choice for organizations that can’t afford any margin of error in their delivery dates.

An added bonus of sending mail First Class is the ability to reach customers that may have outdated address information. If a First Class mailpiece is undeliverable, the USPS will forward the mail to the correct address, or return it to the sender, sometimes at no charge. This is a great opportunity for your business to make CRM updates and cut down on returned mail. Businesses mailing First Class also have the option of adding on additional services, such as Certified Mail.

Requirements for First Class Mail

  • Minimum weight: None
  • Flats maximum weight: 13 oz. (when over this, it becomes Priority Mail)
  • Letter maximum weight: 4 oz.
  • Minimum quantity for commingle pricing: 500 pieces
  • Presort savings & requirements: Must be grouped by zip code, NCOA updated and CASS certified. Because it costs less to process and deliver, savings can be up to 20% in postage.

What is Standard Mail?

Any mail that is not personal or confidential, such as advertisements, flyers, newsletters, merchandise or small parcels, are typically sent as Standard/Marketing mail. At around 32% less than the price of First Class mail, it is a cost-efficient choice if your business is flexible and focused on saving money.

Standard mail does not have a guaranteed delivery time, although many resources state an average of under 5 business days locally and up to 13 days nationally. A more customized map of Standard delivery times can be generated on the USPS website. The mail is processed on a “time available” basis, which means your business may not want to send time-sensitive promotions, such as event announcements or coupons with two-week redemption deadlines, using Standard mail.

Unlike First Class mail, Standard mail does not offer free automatic returns and mail forwarding. You can still avoid spending money on returned mail by performing a data cleanup on your list before sending out your mail. Additionally, you can pay to have Standard mail forwarded using an Ancillary Service Endorsement.

In addition to Standard Mail, nonprofit organizations can save up to 70% of the cost of First Class mail by sending communications as Nonprofit Standard mail. These postage prices are only available for domestic mail and follow the same delivery times as Standard Mail. In order to apply for these rates, the nonprofit must be authorized by the USPS.

Requirements for Standard Mail

  • Minimum weight: None
  • Flats maximum weight: 16 oz.
  • Letter maximum weight: 3.5 oz.
  • Minimum quantity for commingle pricing: 200 pieces
  • Presort savings & requirements: Must be grouped by zip code, NCOA updated and CASS certified. Savings range from 32%-68%.  *There is no single piece Standard mail rate

Still wondering whether First Class or Standard mail is the best choice for your business? Ask your mail services provider to walk you through the postage types, rules, as well as mail commingling options, to determine the best solution for your next mail project. 

Learn More About First Class vs. Standard Mail

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