What is the Difference Between First Class and Standard Mail?
The primary differences between First Class and Standard mail (aka Marketing Mail) are price, speed of delivery, as well as options for mail forwarding and returns on mail with outdated addresses. Below you'll find details on how to save on postage in 2021 with our first-class vs. marketing mail comparison guide.
With the USPS Increase in Postage Rates set to start in August of 2021, marketers want to know how to save money on postage now. We first published this blog in 2018, and it is still one of our most popular! People need to know how to save money on postage. Learn the difference between First Class vs. Standard Mail or Marketing Mail.
Know the Difference Between First-Class and Standard (or Marketing) Mail
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. Use this guide so you don't 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First Class and Standard mail are price, speed of delivery, and options for mail forwarding and returned mail with outdated addresses. Presorted First-Class mail is still less than the price of a regular postage stamp. The price may vary due to the type of mailpiece. First-class mail includes postcards, letters, large envelopes, and small packages. First-class mail must weigh 13 ounces or less. Mail pieces that weigh over 13 ounces are sent as Priority Mail.
First Class is the fastest option. If you choose to presort your mail, it may add a day to your predicted delivery schedule, but can save you a significant amount on postage rates. Presorted mail may be discounted by as much as 20% which could help to offset the increase in postal rates in 2021!
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. While first-class mail did experience some inconsistency in delivery times in 2020 during the election and for a few weeks following, first-class mail still has the most consistent delivery times -- even during peak mailing seasons. This makes first-class mail an obvious choice for organizations that can't afford any margin of error in their delivery rates.
USPS first-class mail delivery is given priority over standard (or marketing) mail. As of July 2021, local mail local mail will be delivered in 2-3 days. Nationally, first-class mail should arrive in about 4 days.
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.
Commingle or Presort savings are achieved when your mailing service provider (MSP) has performed data processing such as NCOA updates in the bar-coded data before they commingle your mail by zip code. This mail is then delivered by your MSP directly into the mail stream with the USPS. Because it costs less for the USPS to handle your mail due to the work is already done, you may realize a savings of up to 20% in postage.
What are the Specifications for First-Class Mail?
- There is no minimum weight. Maximum weight for flats is 13 oz. (when the weight is greater than 13 oz, your mail is classified as Priority Mail)
- Maximum weight for Letter is 4 oz.
- Minimum quantity to presort or commingle your mail with a mailing services provider, such as Midwest Direct is 500 pieces
What is Standard Mail? What is Marketing Mail?
Marketing mail is the new name for standard mail. Any mail that is not personal or confidential, such as advertisements, flyers, newsletters, merchandise or small parcels, are typically sent as marketing mail. At around 32% less than the price of first class mail, it is a cost-efficient choice if your business timeline is more flexible and focused on saving money.
Standard mail does not have a guaranteed delivery time, although it typically averages under 5 business days locally and up to 13 days nationally. A more customized map of standard or marketing mail delivery times can be generated on the USPS website. (It can seem complex. If you need help, contact us.) 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 or marketing mail.
Unlike First Class mail, Standard mail 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 (a.k.a. Marketing Mail)
- There is no minimum weight. Maximum weight for flats is 16 oz.
- Flats maximum weight 16 oz.
- Letter maximum weight 3.5 oz.
- Minimum quantity to presort or commingle your mail with a mailing services provider, such as Midwest Direct is 200 pieces
- Savings range from 32%-68%
What is Nonprofit Standard or Nonprofit Marketing Mail?
Nonprofit organizations can save up to 70% of the cost of First Class mail by sending communications as Nonprofit Standard mail (aka Nonprofit Marketing 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. Download the form from the USPS.
Ask a Mail Services Professional for Pricing and Savings Offered
Want to know more about saving postage fees on your mail? 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, and mail commingling options, to determine the best solution for your next mail project.
One More Way to Save on Postage in 2021
Take Advantage of the 2021 USPS Informed Delivery Promotion
This promotion encourages mailers to continue to adopt use of the USPS omnichannel feature, Informed Delivery®. We’ve added some links below on how we help you launch Informed Delivery campaigns and our dashboards reporting Informed Delivery results/information.
Informed Delivery Requirements
- Regular and nonprofit Marketing Mail letters and flats, and First Class Mail presort or
- automation letters, cards, and flats that meet the promotion requirements will be eligible for a 2% postage discount during the promotion.
- Registration is open: July 15, 2021 - November 30, 2021
- Promotion period -- or when you must mail -- is September 1, 2021 - November 30, 2021
Beginner’s Guide to First-Class Mail
Beginner’s Guide to Marketing Mail
Beginner’s Guide to Informed Delivery Email
How Do Mailing Services Help Save on Postage
Everything You Need to Know About Informed Delivery
Learn More About First Class vs. Standard Mail