Postcard Mailing Guidelines for First Class and Standard Mail
August 16, 2010
Before you utterly transmogrify your next batch of postcards to suit your needs, make sure you know and stay in the criteria they have to meet so they would actually get mailed in the first place! Here’s a simple, illustrated guide to the United States Postal Service’s postcard mailing regulations and guidelines for postcards, for first class and standard mail.
Commercial Postcard Mailing Guidelines – First Class and Standard Mail
For starters, here are general guidelines you must follow, whatever class you’re aiming to mail your postcards in:
- Shape: Your postcards must be rectangular. For rounded corners, the maximum corner radius is 1/8″.
- Indicia: These are preprinted markings, 1.25″ x 1.25″ in size, that should be on the upper left hand side of your postcards in lieu of stamps for convenient distribution once they’re off the presses.
This is one of our postcard postal guide templates that has an indicia example for reference:
For folded postcards, the indicia can be on the back of the postcard’s upper right hand corner, at whatever orientation you prefer, as demonstrated here:
- Address area:
- The minimum address area size would be 1 1/4″ x 3 3/4″, which would allow for a three-line address (name, address, city/state/zip), the USPS Endoresement line and the PostNet Barcode. Add 3/16th of an inch for each line you want to add to this. We recommend, though, that you leave at least a 2″ x 4″ space in your postcard design’s mailing area if you’re leaving the address printing to your printer.
- Zip code and state information should be found only within the address area. You can place addresses outside that area as long as they will not contain zip code or state information. The Post Office will scan most of the postcard’s left areas for recipient addresses and zip codes; if your return address has this information, your postcards may end up delivered by mail to you!
- Only the recipient mailing address should be the text found in the address area, as well as the only item found on the bottom 2.5″ of your postcard. Graphics in that area, and other graphics and text in the indicia and barcode areas, should not be greater than 7% grayscale.
- For folded postcards, tabs or envelopes are required for their distribution and mailing.
- What happens when you don’t stick to a mail class’s requirements: If your postcards have less than the minimum size of 3 1/2″ x 5″ or the minimum thickness of 0.007″, your postcards will be assessed as unmailable. However, if their size or thickness are more than the maximum for the mail class you’re aiming to mail them in, your postcards will be classified into a more appropriate mail class, and will cost you that new mail class’s (higher) postage rates.
Here are the following mail classes that we recommend you stick to so you get the lowest postage rates possible.
Note: All listed postage rates have been checked to be accurate at the time of posting. Nonprofits can apply for special nonprofit postage rates not covered in this guide.
First Class Mail Cards:
- Size: Any size between 3 1/2″ x 5″ and 4 1/4″ x 6″.
- Thickness: Any thickness ranging from 0.007″ to 0.016″.
- Weight: Maximum is 13 ounces.
- Quantity: Minimum requirement is 500 pieces.
Rates start from $0.28. Delivery time is around 1-5 days.
First Class Mail Letters:
- Size: Any size between 3 1/2″ x 5″ and 6 1/8″ x 11 1/2″.
- Thickness: Any thickness ranging from 0.007″ to 1/4″.
- Weight: Maximum is 3.5 ounces.
- Aspect Ratio: The aspect ratio refers to the numerical value you get when you divide a postcard’s length by its height. USPS regulations say that your mail piece should have an aspect ratio between 1.3 and 2.5. For folded postcards, fold them the way you’ll send them first before you get their aspect ratio.
- Quantity: Minimum requirement is 500 pieces.
- The length of the postcard (or its longest side) should be parallel to the address.
- Nonmachinable prints will be subject to a $0.20 surcharge.
A letter-type postcard is nonmachinable if:
- it is square and less than 5″ x 5″,
- it does not bend easily,
- it has clasps, string, buttons, or similar closure devices,
- it has an address parallel to its shorter dimension,
- it contains items such as pens that cause the surface to be uneven, and/or
- its aspect ratio is less than 1.3 or more than 2.5.
Rates start from $0.44. Delivery time is around 1-5 days.
First class mail is ideal for: personalized notes, time-sensitive information, and invitations for events less than two weeks in advance.
- Size: Maximum is 6 1/8″ x 11 1/2″.
- Thickness: Maximum is 1/4″.
- Weight: Maximum is less than 16 ounces.
- Quantity: Minimum requirement is 200 pieces or 50 pounds of mail.
Much is taken into consideration for standard mail postage rates; please see this page on standard mail prices and eligibility to learn more. Delivery time is around 10-14 days.
Standard mail is ideal for: invitations for events more than three weeks in advance, monthly specials, new product or service announcements, Save the Date cards, We’ve Moved postcards, coupons and the like.
If you need more details about your postcards and the mailing process, please visit the USPS website. If you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions for this basic but hopefully helpful enough guide we have here, let us know!
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Jennifer Silverman - Who's written 55 posts on the DigitalRoom.com Blog.