Direct Mail

What Is the Difference Between First Class and Standard Mail?

By 14 March 2024April 15th, 2024No Comments
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Standard Mail vs First Class Mail – The Difference

The USPS offers a number of mail services to suit a variety of your needs. Businesses and individuals can both take advantage of their services that run all across the country. The USPS has used the first-class and the standard mail for a long time. They both do different jobs, but most people do not understand the difference between first-class and standard mail.

When choosing a postal service for your regular transactional mails or your seasonal direct mail items, it is important first to understand what postal services are available for the different types of mail.

cass certified standard mails

Every postal service offered is likely to have a different rate, delivery time, and other adjacent services. For new direct mail marketers, it can be confusing to select from first-class vs. standard mail. Basically, it depends on the type and content of the mail. Many people have the notion that all direct mail is marketing mail. However, this is not the case. Direct mail can be transactional, compliance, regulatory, informative, and marketing mail. The USPS has different types of mail services depending on the shape and weight of the item.

Keep reading to find out the differences between standard mail vs. first class, along with their key uses, rates, and delivery times. Moreover, find out a regular mail first class, and the features of first-class mail.

What is First Class Mail?

The USPS first-class mail option is faster than the others but comes at an expensive rate. In terms of pricing, it is the costliest alternative that the USPS offers. It can be availed for both personal and business communication. Typically, letters, large-sized envelopes, small packages, and postcards can be included in first-class postage. The delivery time is between 1-3 days for local mails and somewhere between 3-5 days for national packages. The size and weight decide the cost of the first mail postage. At the lowest first-class postage, you can only mail up to an ounce.

In the first-class mail vs standard mail debate, businesses select the first-class mail alternative for sending personalized mail and time-sensitive documents like invoices and statements. These documents should not be sent using other mail options as first-class mail is the only service that can help them reach on time. All first-class mails are processed on a “top of the queue” basis. Another benefit of the first class is that you can reach all of those customers whose addresses are old and outdated. The USPS will automatically forward your mails to such customers at their correct mailing addresses. This step also helps you update your CRM and clean your mailing lists. It helps avoid returned direct mails. In case the emails are not forwarded, they will be returned to the sender along with the reason for non-delivery. All of this is done by the USPS free of charge.

Companies and individuals also use First-class mail to get the attention of the recipients. It is considered in high regard by people and given prime importance. Therefore, there are high chance that your mail will be seen and acknowledged by the recipient if you use first-class mail. These emails can be presorted to being qualified for postal rate discounts, required that you are sending a minimum of 500 items. Another requirement is that the mails are sorted by ZIP codes and are NCOA and CASS certified.

If you are looking for the perfect option to send your mails responsibly, accurately, and safely – the USPS first mail option is just for you. You can send large parcels and envelopes up to 13 ounces. Mail items that go beyond 13 ounces are sent as priority mail. Letters and postcards that weigh up to 3.5 ounces are only permitted to be sent as first-class mail. Priority mail is similar to first-class mail; the only difference is that it is given more priority as compared to first-class.

During peak mailing hours and seasons, first-class mail provides for the most consistent delivery. It is the official mail choice for several businesses that cannot afford any delays or risk the delivery dates. For best pricing, you can go for rectangular letters and postcards – as the shape also plays its role in calculating the postage. Using the first-class mail option, you can also add other mail services like certified mail. Certified mail comes with a return receipt that has the signature of the recipient. It enables the sender to have mailing proof and proof of receipt as well.

Also Read: How to Track First-Class Mail

What is Standard Mail?

The USPS standard mail is also referred to as marketing mail, as it is mainly used for advertisements and marketing. Flyers, circulars, catalogs, brochures, newsletters, pamphlets, and other similar mail pieces can be sent through the USPS marketing mail. You can send anything in the standard mail that is not confidential or personal. Bulk mail is another word used to refer to standard mail. The prime point while talking about first-class mail vs. standard mail is the delivery period.

We have already discussed how first-class mail can help your letters and parcels reach their destination in very little time. On the other hand, standard mail takes up to 2-5 days for local mails delivery and up to 1-4 weeks for national mails. Moreover, there is no guarantee that these emails will be delivered at the said time as the processing is done on a “time-availability” basis.

Many businesses and individuals people use this mail alternative as it is very cost-effective. As compared to first-class mail, there is no mail forwarding or returning option offered by the standard mail. However, there is a service called the “ancillary service endorsement” that can be availed for an extra fee – it is used to forward mails to the right address or return mails to the sender and reason for non-delivery. Unless this special endorsement is available, all mails undelivered are kept with the USPS for a certain period. You might have to visit the post office and collect them yourself. Cleaning your mailing lists beforehand and keeping your CRM updated all the time can help you avoid paying extra for mail forwarding.

At the lowest standard mail price, you can send up to 3.3 ounces of mail. All prices are calculated according to the weight and size of the mail pieces. For getting discounted bulk rates, there are at least 200 items or 50 pounds required. Only packages equal to or less than 16 ounces can be counted as standard mail. The standard mail option should never be used for time-sensitive promotions. You can use it for low costs when the delivery time is not a priority for you. Companies usually use this option when they have a long mailing list, and there are no time-based offers included. The pricing for standard mail does not rely much on the weight. Rather, it depends greatly on the shape of the mail.

Non-Profit Mail

Non-profit mail comes under bulk mail. Non-profit organizations can avail of various postal discounts and bulk postage rates. This mail is treated exactly as standard mail. If you are thinking – is regular mail first class? The answer is yes.

Regular mail can be first-class, but non-profit mail can never be classified under the first-class mail category. If non-profit organizations wish to send timely or confidential mail, they can do so by paying the regular rates. No non-profit or charity discounts will be given. For qualifying to send non-profit marketing mail, organizations must receive the required USPS authorization. This authorization only applies to specific industries, including educational, labor, scientific, religious, philanthropic, veteran, agricultural, fraternal, and some political nonprofits. The status of a nonprofit firm alone does not make you eligible for receiving postage discounts under the non-profit mail category. You can check the USPS guidelines on non-profit mail on their website to check your eligibility.

Nonprofits and charitable organizations can save up to 70% of the first-class mail costs by using this nonprofit mail option. All postage rates are applicable only for domestic mail. Any international mailing is not counted as non-profit mail. An organization needs to download and fill up the PS form 3624 for sending communications at non-profit standard postage rates. This form is readily available on the USPS website, at your local post office, or any business mail entry unit.

All non-profit mail pieces must be marked as “non-profit mail.” The words “nonprofit organization,” “nonprofit org,” or simply “nonprofit” must appear clearly on the top of the mail. Additionally, the name of that particular organization should be visible clearly – either written on the outside of the item or forming a part of the content. A pre-canceled stamp also needs to be attached to your mail to be qualified as a non-profit mail piece.

Also Read: How Long Does First Class Mail Take?

Presorted First Class Mail

If you are sending a minimum of 500 mail pieces, it is possible that you presort these pieces. Presorted mail gets discounted bulk rates as it costs less time and money to the USPS. Presorting is one of the ways to get your mail items shipped faster and at comparatively lower costs. The USPS is able to sort, process, distribute, and deliver mails speedily when they are already presorted by ZIP codes and have been run through address verification checks like CASS and NCOA.

The level of service, priority, and speed of presorted first mail is almost the same as first-class. But, you can save a lot on the postage. Therefore, it is not always necessary to choose standard mail if you have a long mailing list. You can select the presorted first class mail option. Direct mail automation platforms like PostGrid help you in presorting and undergoing the NCOA and CASS certification. The basic idea behind offering discounts on presorting is that the USPS spends less money on processing these mails – they are already grouped as per their ZIP codes. Moreover, it takes less human resources to do the task if we have already done half the work. Hence, the USPS gives a certain discount to promote presorting. People and companies who cannot afford first-class mail should definitely look into this option. The approximate saving by using presorted first-class mail is over 20%.

Also Read: All You Need to Know About First-Class Mail International

Factors to be Considered When Choosing Between First Class Vs. Standard Mail

There are several other factors you can consider before choosing the ideal mail alternative for your mailing needs. We already know that in first-class mail, the price and speed are linked directly. You pay a higher rate to avail of first-class, and your mail is delivered faster. In the case of standard mail, you pay a very average postal rate for which your mail is delivered whenever there is time available with the postal workers. Keep the price and speed as two basic factors of consideration.

Irrespective of your regular mail needs, it can be helpful to evaluate a current situation and work out the best mail class option depending on it.

Triggered Drip Mail

Businesses conduct triggered drip mail campaigns to send the right messages to the right people at the perfect time. It is like a continuous outflow of information or marketing content based on specific triggers. Triggered mail campaigns are always time-bound – as it is conducted on the basis of a trigger. The timing of the trigger and the mail delivery should not be very far apart. For example, a company wants to send triggered drip mail to its website visitors. The mail is likely to be delivered within a short time after they've visited the website. This way, they can recall the brand easily. Hence, the first-class mail option is the right choice for companies wanting to send out triggered drip mail.

Time-Sensitive Promotions

Offers and promotions that say things like “offer valid till 20th January only” or “use coupon code by Monday” – are called time-sensitive promotions. Usually, organizations conduct brochures or flyer campaigns with such offers for their targeted audience. It creates a situation where delays in delivery cannot be afforded. A huge amount of time and money goes into planning such a campaign, and it will become worthless if the brochures or flyers reach the customers after the due date of the offer. Moreover, it will also call for bad publicity. These things can be avoided using the first-class mail option that guarantees delivery by a certain date.

Multi-Channel Campaigns

Multi-channel campaigns are run simultaneously. You might combine social media marketing with direct mail marketing. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that everything is synchronized – you cannot send a mail piece to someone weeks after sending them a tailored social media text. The main motto behind running multi-channel or cross-channel marketing campaigns is to constantly remind the customers about a brand and indulge them in buying. The first-class mail alternative, again, is the perfect choice to help you conduct multi-channel campaigns smoothly.

Large List Batch Campaigns

When you need to decide between first-class vs. standard mail, consider the size of your mailing list. The standard mail option works great when the campaigns are well-planned in advance and the mailing list is large. You can send the mail pieces in advance so that even after slowdowns, delays, and other such things – your mail will still be delivered around the right time.

Data Analytics

Several companies want to record and store their mail delivery data. If that is the case with you, it is strongly recommended to use the first-class mail option. The USPS offers some strong tracing programs for direct mail marketers to track their mail. One such program is the IMB (Intelligent Mail Barcode). These barcodes are used to track the whereabouts of your mail in real-time. It is capable of showing you the entire route and all the movements that take place throughout the delivery process.

The IMB tool can be used for both first-class and standard mail, but it should be noted that the tracking details returned for the first class mail are more valid, structured, and useful. Using the IMB system, the USPS is able to provide marketers with detailed and full scan information that is useful in drafting campaign analytics and reporting. The scanned data returned for standard mail is good enough but not very reliable. PostGrid's direct mail automation API and platform and help you use the IMB system effectively. You can track your mail in real-time and filter mail items to check which ones are about to be delivered, yet to be delivered, being returned, or forwarded.

Holiday Season Mailing

For all holiday season mailings, use the first class mail option only. The holiday period makes up for the most packed mailing season wherein only first-class mail is given priority. If you send a holiday greeting card to someone or conduct a holiday season direct mail campaign, using the standard mail will only cause delays – your mail will never reach you on time. The standard mail items are delivered after several weeks during the holiday season. It is caused due by the incredible increase in the number of mail. The delivery time can drastically fluctuate.

The USPS refers to the period from Thanksgiving to New Year as the holiday season. Millions of mail pieces are known to be exchanged during this time period. Hence, first-class mail is your only option if you want your mail delivered at the right time.

Direct Mail Automation and Postal Options

The postal options selected by you reflect the cost of your campaign and the time period under which you want your campaign to be completed. PostGrid‘s print and mail platform makes the decision-making task easier for you by automatically selecting the best postal class option for your mail. Whenever you conduct a direct mail campaign with PostGrid, you can automate the entire print and mail process. You just need to make a few selections; PostGrid can automatically complete all the internal tasks for you. Your mail pieces can be printed and mailed to the right people at the right time without any manual effort.

PostGrid is a CASS-certified platform. As discussed in the earlier section, you need to pre-sort your mail and run through a CASS-certified program for availing of discounted postal rates. With PostGrid, you can easily do all these things without going anywhere and spending anything extra. Our postal address verification and validation services help you cut down on address cleansing and data maintenance costs. You can avoid lost and returned mails using these services.

The first-class vs. standard mail choice can be trickier. A smart mail automation platform should be able to help you make the right choice. PostGrid can help you get huge mailing discounts from USPS. Being a direct mail automation service provider, PostGrid is able to combine mail from several companies and fetch higher discounts.

The Bottom Line

First-class mail is the premium option for sending your mail pieces. All personalized, time-sensitive, and important mail should be sent using first-class mail. It is expensive as compared to the other options, but it offers time-bound delivery and is processed much faster than the other mails. A noticeable point in the standard mail vs. the first-class discussion is that first-class mail might be expensive, but it offers the best quality of service for all local or domestic mail pieces.

On the other hand, standard mail is processed only when the postal workers have time to process and deliver the mail. That is why it is said to be processed on a “time available” basis.

Companies need to send out a number of mail pieces for various reasons. It gets complicated to decide on the postal options every time. So, PostGrid's print and mail network works as the best mailing alternative for you and enables you to get good discounts. It also helps you get your mail delivered in the least amount of time possible.

PostGrid's platform and postal API offer printing and mailing of first-class and standard mail letters, checks, postcards, and other mail items – choosing the best mail alternative for your needs.

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