Saving Postage with USPS Bulk Marketing Mail

Scott HochbergScott Hochberg


Bulk mail is a way to save money on postage by doing things that the Postal Service would usually do, like sorting the mail for them and adding barcodes. USPS passes some of their savings along to you, by charging you lower postage rates.

Most bulk mail is what USPS now calls Marketing Mail. Marketing Mail used to be called Standard Class Mail, Standard A mail, or Third Class Mail.

Postage Saver software makes postal bulk mailing easy Here's what this page covers:
red dotHow many pieces do I need?
red dotWhat are the size and weight limits?
red dotHow much will I save?
red dotHow much are permits?
red dotHow do I apply for nonprofit rates?
red dotWhat do I need to get started?

Most advertising mail, newsletters, political mail, etc. are sent using Marketing Mail. Marketing Mail offers low postage rates for commercial mailers, and even lower rates for approved nonprofit mailers. All pieces in the mailing must generally be identical (except for name and address) but there are some limited exceptions to this rule.

There's a special kind of Marketing Mail for mailing to every mailbox in one or more specific areas. It's simple to prepare, does not require sorting or even addressing, has very low postage rates, and requires no bulk mailing permit. If you are interested in mailing to everyone in an area, instead of to specific addresses, see the USPS page on Every Door Direct Mail.

This page talks about Marketing Mail, but there are also several other common types of bulk mail, used for specific purposes. Click the links for more information about each: Bulk mail rates are available for domestic mail only (including military addresses, Puerto Rice and U.S. possessions). There are no bulk mail rates for international mail.

Learn about other
bulk mail categories:
Other bulk mail
categories:
Presorted First Class
Periodical Class
Bound Printed Matter
Bulk Rate Parcels
Postage Saver software makes postal bulk mailing easy

How many pieces in each zip code do I need for bulk mail?

For Marketing Mail, you need at least 200 pieces or 50 pounds, whichever is less, in your entire mailing.

There is no minimum per zip code. And, there are no monthly or yearly minimums.

What are the size and weight limits for bulk mail?

Mail pieces sent at Marketing Mail rates must weigh less than 16 ounces (1 pound).

The longer side of each piece must be no more than 15 inches long. The shorter side must be no more than 12 inches long. The piece can be no more than 3/4" thick.

Pieces that are larger, or that aren't flexible enough to go through postal sorting equipment, may be able to be sent using Marketing Mail parcel service, or Parcel Select Lightweight service, which are very economical services for parcels under one pound. Here's more about saving money on bulk parcels.

How much will I save by using bulk mail?

How much will I save?
Good to know:

Make sure you know whether your mail piece is a letter, a flat, or a parcel. That is determined by the size of the piece, not by what it contains.

For example, a 9 x 12 envelope containing a letter is considered a "flat" because of its size, while a 5 x 8 card is considered a "letter", even though most of us would call it a postcard.

Unlike First Class, Marketing Mail does NOT have a special, lower rate for 4 x 6 postcards. There is no difference in postage between a card and an envelope, as long as they are the same size.

For full information on the categories, see Letters vs. Flats.
There is no single postage rate that applies to all commercial or nonprofit Marketing Mail. In fact, in any Marketing Mail bulk mailing, there's a pretty good chance that you'll pay different postage rates on different pieces, depending on where the pieces are going.

The postage rate for Marketing Mail depends on the size and weight of the mail piece, and on how many pieces you have going to the same zip code or area.

Marketing Mail offers "entry discounts" for sending your mailing from a major sorting center. And, approved nonprofit organizations get additional discounts off of the commercial Marketing Mail rates.

For a normal letter or card, you'll typically pay 23¢ - 30.5¢ as a commercial mailer, or 10.9¢ - 18.4¢ if you are an approved nonprofit mailer. No matter where you fall in that range, that's a lot of savings compared to the usual 55¢ stamp.

You can use our Marketing Mail postage rate calculator to find the rates available for your mailing.

Marketing Mail Postage Rate Calculator


Rates updated for USPS changes effective January 26, 2020.

Make the following selections to find the postage rates for your Marketing Mail mailing:

Mailer is:
commercial (includes political candidates)
nonprofit

Select Mail Size:
letter - up to 6⅛" x 11½" x ¼", whether in an envelope or not.
flat - up to 12" x 15" x ¾" whether in an envelope or not.
 Flats must be able to bend. If your piece is not flexible, or is larger than a flat in any dimension, it is a parcel. For parcels postage rates, please see our bulk parcels guide.

Weight in ounces (must be less than 16):

For letters, does something like an unusual shape make this mailing
"nonmachinable"?
yes  no
 See here for explanation.

Your 5-digit zip code:


If you already have the list you want to mail to, we recommend you download a free trial copy of our Postage Saver bulk mail software, and run your list through it. It will figure out the exact postage you'd pay for mailing that specific list, and let you try various options.

There are additional discounts for mail sent to every address in an area, and for mail sent from USPS major national distribution centers. Please contact us for more information if these situations apply to your mailing.
Postage Saver Low-Cost Software for Postal Bulk Mail

How much do bulk mail permits cost, and how do I get one?

Good to know:

Bulk Mail Indicia
If you buy a "permit imprint authorization", you can print an "indicia" box like this on your mail instead of putting a stamp on each piece. That saves a lot of work.

Here's what goes in an indicia box.
Before you can mail using Marketing Mail, you need to have a permit. Your permit must be issued by USPS. A vendor cannot issue a bulk mailing permit.

There are two fees that apply to a new permit for Marketing Mail.

Annual mailing fee: The annual fee for a Marketing Mail permit is $240.

However, USPS will waive this fee if all of your Marketing Mail mailings are "full-service" mailings. That means you print "full-service" barcodes on all of your bulk mail, and submit mailing documentation to USPS electronically rather than on paper.

That sounds like a great deal, and sometimes it is, but there are costs involved in barcoding and electronic submission, so sometimes it's cheaper to pay the annual fee. (Learn about barcoding.)

If you are requesting a new Marketing Mail permit, and ask for the annual mailing fee to be waived, you should not be charged the fee. But if the fee is waived, and then you bring in a mailing that is not full-service barcoded, you'll immediately be charged the fee, and must pay it before your mailing can be accepted.

If you already have a Marketing Mail permit, and have paid the annual mailing fee in the past, you must continue to pay the fee until you complete an entire year where all of your Marketing Mail mailings are full-service barcoded mailings.

When you get your permit, you will be assigned a USPS "Mailer ID" number, which is NOT the same as your permit number. The Mailer ID number is a 9-digit number that begins with 9 (unless you are a very large volume mailer). Make sure you find out what it is, because you will need your Mailer ID when preparing your tray or sack tags, and also if you are preparing barcodes.

Permit Imprint Authorization fee: This lets you print a "postage paid" box (called a "permit imprint" or an "indicia") on your mail, instead of putting a stamp or meter imprint on each piece. You'll have an account at the post office where you have your permit, and USPS will charge your account for the postage for each Marketing Mail mailing. You can deposit funds for your mailings online, by mail or in person.

The one-time fee for a permit imprint authorization is $240. This fee is not waived by using full-service barcoding. If you will use stamps on your bulk mail, you do not need to purchase a permit imprint authorization.

Here's what goes in the "postage paid" box. You don't need any special software for it. Just include it as part of the design of the mail piece, just like the return address. You are only charged for the pieces you actually mail, not for the number of postage paid boxes printed.

How to apply: You can apply online for a Marketing Mail permit and for a permit imprint authorization. But, the online system does NOT allow waiving the annual mailing fee!

If you want the annual mailing fee to be waived, because you will only be using the permit for full-service barcoded mailings as explained above, you must apply for your permit in person, using USPS form 3615.

Where to apply: It's best that you apply for your permit at the post office where you expect to take your mail. You'll probably want to take your mail to the closest post office that accepts bulk mail, just for convenience. If you apply online, you will still need to designate the post office where your permit will be issued.

In suburban and rural areas, many post offices accept bulk mail. But in urban areas, bulk mail is generally accepted only at a major facility, and sometimes a few smaller post offices.

To find out whether bulk mail is accepted at a specific post office, find it using the post office locator on USPS.com, and look at the services it offers. To find all of the post offices in your area that accept bulk mail, call the USPS District Business Mail Entry office for your area, which you can find using this USPS locator screen.

If you're not far from the USPS sorting center ("Sectional Center Facility", or "SCF") for your area, and much of your mail is going to addresses processed by that sorting center, you'll get better postage rates by sending your mail from the sorting center. You can find the SCF for your area and see your possible savings by using the rate calculator above. If you are going to be mailing from the sorting center, you will want to get your permit at that center rather than at your neighborhood post office.
Postage Saver for Parcels makes shipping bulk parcels easy

How do I apply to use nonprofit postage rates?

Many kinds of nonprofit organizations are eligible for lower nonprofit rates when using Marketing Mail. To use nonprofit rates, you must first be approved by USPS.

Here are the kinds of organizations that USPS will approve, if other requirements are met: religious, scientific, veterans, philanthropic, labor, educational, agricultural, fraternal, national and state political parties, and voter registration officials.

Political candidates, PACs and local party committees are NOT eligible for nonprofit rates, but are eligible for Marketing Mail commercial rates.

Use USPS form 3624 to apply for approval to use nonprofit rates for Marketing Mail. There is no fee to apply.

What software and other supplies do I need to prepare bulk mail?

To prepare your mail, you'll need software, USPS mailing containers, and rubber bands.

USPS "Pave-certified" bulk mailing software: To qualify for Marketing Mail rates, your mail must be sorted and placed in mailing containers according to very detailed USPS rules. It's not just sorting by zip code - various zips must be combined with others, depending on quantity, where you're mailing from and to, the size of the mailpiece, etc... It's literally a book full of sorting rules, and the details change each month according to projected mail loads and changes in routings.

You'll also need to print paperwork for submitting your mailing and special barcoded tags to label each mailing container.

The easiest way to do all of this is to use software designed to prepare bulk mail. USPS doesn't require any particular software, but does certify software for accuracy through their "PAVE" certification program.

Our Postage $aver Pro and Postage $aver Lite software is PAVE-certified at the gold level, meaning they've passed the highest level of testing. It's inexpensive and easy to use, and you won't have to become an expert in the mailing rules to prepare your mail correctly.

Mailing containers: You'll need to sort your mail into specific mail trays or mail sacks before you can mail it at Marketing Mail rates. Your bulk mailing software will determine exactly what you need for each mailing.

The containers are provided by the USPS at no charge. You can pick them up at the post office where you are mailing your bulk mail. Here are the kinds of trays or sacks that you will need:
* You can usually use MM trays, instead of EMM trays, for pieces as tall as 5 ½" (half of a normal letter-sized sheet) by letting them lean down a bit in the tray. MM trays are smaller and easier to handle than EMM trays.

If you are using trays, make sure to pick up the cardboard sleeves that go around the trays to close them. For trays that are going beyond the area handled by your nearest sorting center, you should strap the sleeves in place. You can buy a strapping kit from Staples, Quill, Uline or similar commercial office supply companies. It's probably a lifetime supply, unless you're doing a lot of out-of-area mailing.

Size 64 rubber bands: You'll need them to bundle your mail. You can buy a bag at your favorite office supply store.

Glad that's done!
Congratulations! You're now ready to move on to actually preparing your mailing.