When you are running a business and you have a lot of mail – whether it’s throughout the year or one big push – you might not be taking advantage of a mail class just for you.
The United States Postal Service offers affordable retail prices to everyone, but did you know you could possibly be using Commercial mail?
But what is USPS Commercial mail and how can it work for your business? Here’s what you need to know!
What Is USPS Commercial Mail in 2024?
The United States Postal Service offers discounted Commercial mail pricing to businesses who do a minimum number of mailings (500 for First-Class mail). Businesses will need to obtain a mailing permit, pay an annual mailing fee, and pay postage using one of three methods, but the savings can be significant and worth the work in 2024.
So, let’s dive deeper into the difference between Retail and Commercial mail, how you go about getting Commercial mail prices, who qualify for Commercial rates, and more. Keep going!
What Is the Difference Between Retail and Commercial Mail?
There are a few main differences between Retail and Commercial mail. First, Retail mail is more expensive.
Because Commercial mail is offered to businesses with bulk mailing – meaning that USPS is assured a certain volume or quantity of mailings – USPS can offer it at discounted rates.
Second, Commercial mail involves quite a bit of legwork before the first mailing can take place (which I will discuss in the next section).
From getting a mailing permit to choosing from and obtaining the machines with which to pay postage, to presorting, Commercial mail is a far cry from Retail’s “pop it in the mailbox.”
Finally, whereas with Retail mail you can mail as few pieces as you like, to qualify for Commercial mail, you must hit mailpiece minimums.
How Do You Get USPS Commercial Mail?
To get USPS Commercial mail, you have to go through a few main steps, which I will outline below.
Choosing Your Postage
First, you must decide how you are going to pay for your postage: using precanceled stamps, a postage meter, or a permit imprint.
Precanceled stamps are specifically for Presorted First-Class Mail and Marketing Mail, and they are vastly discounted.
Then, when you bring your letter mail into the Post Office for shipping, you pay the difference with a check, meter strip, or through a postage account.
Postage meters are machines that print your postage directly on the envelope. Most postage meters can also handle packages of varying sizes and weights.
Permit imprint is the most popular of the three, as it doesn’t require any special machinery and, if printing directly onto envelopes, does not require any manual stamping.
Businesses print the permit imprint indicia directly onto the envelope (or onto a label, which then requires affixing to the envelope).
Then, when they bring the mailpieces into the Post Office, the clerk verifies the number of pieces and the price, and the postage is deducted from your Postal account.
Get a Mailing Permit and Pay Mailing Fee
The way you get a mailing permit is determined by the method of paying postage that you have chosen.
For example, if you are using a postage meter, you simply fill out PS Form 3615 and turn it in at your Post Office (where you are going to be turning in your mailings).
You also have to pay an annual mailing fee. This gives you permission for 365 days to take advantage of Commercial prices.
Note that you don’t have to pay your mailing fee until you bring in your first batch of mailpieces.
Sorting Your Mail
After you have prepared all your mailpieces, you will have to sort your mail by grouping it by ZIP code.
If you have so many mailpieces that doing it would take days, you may want to consider using a presort bureau or a letter shop to do the sorting for you.
Taking Your Mail to the Post Office
When everything is presorted, you can bring your mail to the Post Office.
However, you must take it to the Business Mail Entry unit where your permit is active, as you can’t take it to any old Post Office.
It’s good to ask beforehand when the best time is to bring in your Commercial mail because sometimes the BMEUs experience peak hours and get very busy.
For a fuller description of what happens when you bring your mail into the Post Office, check out this page here.
The Postal clerk will ensure that everything is in tip-top shape before your mail goes into the system, and they can give you pointers if it’s your first time.
What Are USPS Commercial Prices?
There are a variety of USPS commercial prices, including those for Priority Mail Express, Priority Mail, First-Class, Marketing Mail, Parcel Select, Media/Library Mail, etc.
Let’s take a look at Commercial rates for Priority Mail.
A five-pound package traveling to Zone 5 costs $12.71. The Retail Priority Mail price is $15.75, so Commercial saves you $3.01 or 19 percent off.
Priority Mail Flat Rate is cheaper, too; Retail is priced at $9.45 for a small box, while Commercial is priced at $8.25.
Individually, this might not look like a lot of savings, but if you’re a business moving thousands of packages every year, then the savings will add up.
Who Qualifies for USPS Commercial Rates?
Not just anyone can apply for USPS Commercial rates.
In order to qualify for the discounted rates, you must meet minimum quotas, which are as follows:
- 500 mailpieces for First-Class Mail
- 200 mailpieces (or 50 pounds of mail) for USPS Marketing Mail
- 50 mailpieces for Parcel Select
- 300 mailpieces for Presorted or Carrier Route Bound Printed Matter
- 300 mailpieces for Library Mail
- 300 mailpieces for Media Mail
Further, you must be willing to do a little (or a lot) of work, namely affixing the postage and presorting the mail by ZIP code.
According to the USPS website, this is “work-sharing,” and when everyone pitches in – including and especially you, the customer – everyone benefits.
What Is the Difference Between Commercial Base and Commercial Plus?
There is no difference between Commercial Base and Commercial Plus – because the USPS did away with them!
As of January 2019, USPS consolidated the two different Commercial price points into one, so that there is only Retail and Commercial pricing.
However, if you look at the price list, it does continue to say Commercial Plus or Commercial Base.
But if you look a little more closely, you’ll see that the prices are just the same, because they are now the same thing.
USPS Commercial mail is a way for businesses who move a lot of mailpieces every year to get a discount on Retail rates, provided they’re willing to do some of the work. This includes affixing postage, whether through a postage meter, printer, or manually, and presorting mail by ZIP code.