Direct Mail

How Long Does First Class Mail Take?

By 25 March 2024April 15th, 2024No Comments
how long does first class mail take

First Class Mail: How Long Does First Class Mail Take?

As we advance in this digital era, there is no running away from the fact that we are surrounded by digital platforms to connect with our loved ones. It has now come to the point where we prefer the digital medium of communication over face-to-face interactions.

However, it is not surprising since digital communication happens in real-time and has practically no latency. Businesses of all kinds still depend on direct mail communication for various purposes. Even individuals rely on direct mail for communication.

how long does first class mail take

We write a letter to someone to show how much we care for them. Going through the trouble of physically writing and mailing a letter shows effort. The most popular mail service used for sending postal mail in the US includes First Class Mail and Standard Mail.

However, many businesses and individuals are not entirely sure if First Class Mail is suited to their needs. As a result, they often end up asking themselves the question, “How long does first-class mail take to deliver?”

Yes, many businesses indeed wonder if there is a better and faster way to send their mail.

To know that, you first need to understand what First Class Mail is and how it works. Several factors play a role in deciding how fast is direct mail. And how long it takes to deliver a First Class Mail depends on these factors.

Here in this article, we have compiled everything you need for a successful First Class mail marketing campaign.

Let us start from the very basics.

What is First Class Mail?

As you know, the USPS or United States Postal Service offers us a wide range of delivery services. It enables you to send and receive postal mail or packages all across the United States. First Class Mail is one of the most popular mail services offered by USPS.

The First Class Mail is faster and a little more expensive than standard mail. However, the price difference between standard and first-class mail is the only difference they have. The priority given to first-class mail is superior to that of standard mail, and so is their delivery time.

The Class Mail has many additional features, such as return mail, among others. As a result, First Class mail is often the primary choice for personal and business direct mail communications. The rate for sending First Class Mail is decided based on the size and weight of the package you send.

Mandatory First Class Mails

It is mandatory to send certain critical documents such as legal notices to use First Class Mail. You can not use standard mail to send such documents. The documents under this category include invoices, taxes, financial statements, and other legal documents.

Now, you might be thinking, why is it mandatory to send these documents via First Class Mail? Is it because the First Class Mail is faster? Or is it because you can have them returned to you or forwarded to another address if the original address is not deliverable?

If you thought the latter was the reason, then you are right.

Crucial documents like taxes and financial reports are mandated to reach the recipient. Suppose USPS finds that the original address is not deliverable. In that case, they will forward your mail to a secondary address. However, this is possible if the addressee has updated a secondary address with the USPS.

The mail gets returned if the USPS can't reach the recipient's secondary address. The same thing happens if there is no secondary address.

Also Read: How Much is First Class Postage

Why do Businesses Need to Use First Class Mail?

First Class mail is expensive when compared to standard mail. But, when it comes to bulk mailing services, First Class Mail offers an affordable solution. Even among other bulk mailing services provided by USPS, First Class Mail costs relatively less.

In addition, First Class Mail is accessible for individual use. There is no minimum number of mail required for sending First Class Mail. It means entrepreneurs or start-ups with relatively low direct mail requirements can also use First Class Mail.

However, First Class mail is more economical for sending bulk mail. So, if your direct mail requirements do not include bulk mail, it will be relatively more expensive. On the other hand, it would still be faster than standard mail.

Benefits Of Using First Class Mail

  • First Class Mails are automatically forwarded or returned to the sender if they are undeliverable. It is ideal for businesses because it lets you know which of your contacts in your database are genuine. You may also find out which of your audience is not interested and refuse to accept the mail.
  • The First Class Mail is often perceived and treated like it is of higher importance by the recipient. Therefore, the chances are that the recipient will open your mailer and check out its content rather than throw it in the bin without a second glance.
  • During peak times, the First Class Mail gets prioritized over regular mail. This prioritization is particularly evident during the holiday season. Hence, First Class Mail is ideal for sending time-sensitive or urgent direct mail.

How Does First Class Mail Work?

Most companies have no idea how direct mail gets sorted and delivered to different places throughout the country. What little you know about the First Class Mail delivery process can be summed up into just four steps.

  • Step 1: You write the address of the recipient on the envelope
  • Step 2: You stick the First Class stamp on the envelope
  • Step 3: You deposit the envelope inside the nearest USPS mailbox
  • Step 4: The mail is delivered to the addressee inside the US one to three days later

However, this is just the easy part of direct mail delivery. The process behind the delivery of each direct mail is much more complicated than what is listed above. Therefore, you need to first understand the delivery process before asking how fast is first-class mail. Listed below are the actual steps involved in a First Class Mail delivery.

Step 1: The first step in the direct mail process begins with the sender. Here, the sender writes the address on the envelope and sticks the First Class stamp on its front.

Step 2: The next step is also an easy one. All you have to do is find the nearest USPS mailbox and deposit your First Class Mail inside it. The role of the sender ends at this step of the direct mail delivery process.

You can find the nearest mailbox to your location on the USPS website itself. Select the “Locate a Post Office” option, which you can find on the USPS site.

Next, choose “Collection Boxes” from the drop-down menu. Or you could click here to go directly to the page and bookmark it for future use.

Step 3: From this step onwards, the direct mail service provider, which is the USPS, takes over the process. The First Class mailer gets picked up by the USPS through a mail worker.

It is worth noting that a USPS employee empties all the active USPS blue boxes periodically. The USPS employee has to scan a barcode inside the USPS drop-off location and confirm the pickup before 5 in the evening.

The exact process is followed every day, Monday through Friday. However, the Saturday collections may vary based on the average volume of parcels of a particular dropbox.

Step 4: After the USPS worker picks up the First Class mailer from the mailbox, they take it to the Sectional Center Facility (SCF) of the respective city.

Every major city has its assigned SCF. The location to which your mail piece goes depends on the location of the mailbox you use.

You may even go so far as to find out the SCF of both the sender and receiver. Doing so will enable you to understand how long First Class mail takes to deliver.

Step 5: The First Class Mail you sent arrives at the Sectional Center Facility or SCF along with other mail. Here, your First Class mail gets sorted alongside the rest of the mailers.

As you can imagine, USPS handles a massive number of direct mail every day. Hence, sorting mail is an essential part of the USPS's operative procedures.

USPS uses the 9-digit ZIP code for effectively sorting out the mail. Therefore, you must invest in an excellent direct mail automation system to verify and print complete addresses, including the ZIP code.

Step 6: Once sorted, the First Class Mail goes to LAX. From here, the First Class Mail travels by air to the SCF respective to their destination.

As USPS uses air transport to take the mailers to their respective SCFs, there are minimal delays. Hence USPS often manages to deliver the mail within the specified time.

Step 7: After your First-Class Mail reaches the SCF in its respective destination, the USPS again sorts the mailers. It is the final sorting process involved in the direct mail delivery process.

The ZIP code once again plays a vital role here. Having a valid ZIP+4 code is of great help at this stage because the post office can quickly sort it.

At this stage, the USPS does not need the standard five-digit ZIP code. Here, they only need the ZIP+4 code because the sorting is based on the local area at this stage.

Step 8: At this step, your First Class Mail gets assigned to the mail carrier. The carrier then travels along the designated route under which the address falls.

When assigning the delivery route, the First Class Mail always gets preference over standard mail. However, this usually happens when there is an overload of mail at USPS.

The nine-digit ZIP codes play a crucial role in routing and sorting mailers. But that's a whole different story, and you need not know the specifics of it.

Step 9: This is the final step involved in your First Class Mail delivery. Here, the mail carrier or worker delivers your mailer to the addressee.

Mail delivery is faster for addresses with a complete ZIP+4 code. If the address does not have a complete ZIP+4 code, there is a chance that the delivery may get slightly delayed.

Suppose the address is undeliverable or the addressee refuses to accept the letter. In that case, it is returned to you or the sender.

Now you know the whole process involved in the delivery of your First Class Mail. At this point, it should be clear to you why your First Class Mail might take 1 to 3 days to get delivered. It is pretty neat how First Class Mail is deliverable within such a short time gap.

Furthermore, it is worth remembering that the First Class Mail gets prioritized over Standard Mail during peak times like the holiday season. Therefore, it is an obvious choice for time-sensitive and urgent mailers.

Related Article: Does USPS First Class Mail Have Tracking?

How Long Does First Class Mail Take To Deliver?

As we have mentioned multiple times above, the standard delivery time for a First Class Mail is 1 to 3 days. This delivery time for the First Class Mail applies for every location regardless of where you are in the US.

However, many people assume that the delivery time for a First Class Mail is just one day. Although it is true for many First Class Mail deliveries, that is not always the case. So, businesses must be extra careful about this varying delivery time required for First Class Mails.

The distance between the locations of the sender and recipient plays a vital role in determining how fast First Class Mail deliveries are. You can often notice that the First Class Mail sent from within the state is delivered much sooner than those shipped across the country.

Delays in USPS First Class Deliveries

As we know, the standard time for First Class Mail deliveries is 1 to 3 days. But does that mean First Class Mail will, under all circumstances, get delivered within three days? The answer, unfortunately, is a NO.

When it comes to First Class Mail delivery, the time limit is not set in stone as it can vary from time to time. Sometimes, your First Class Mail will face some delays based on various factors. For example, it may be due to a manual error made by a USPS employee, or it may be due to a mistake you made, and so on.

So, the main takeaway here is that delays happen, and they can't be helped. The best you can do is ensure that you have done everything to avoid delays in delivering your mail. It includes using advanced address verification APIs like PostGrid to get accurate addresses for your mails.

But, the real question here is, what are these delays? How can they affect your First Class Mail? And more importantly, are they avoidable? If yes, how can you avoid them? Listed below are some of the most common reasons for delays in direct mail delivery.

Adverse Weather Condition

Adverse weather conditions are perhaps the most common reason why direct mail delivery from USPS gets delayed. USPS makes delivery regardless of whether it is raining or snowing. Still, it does not deliver when the weather conditions are severely bad.

It is improbable that USPS will go through a minor storm to deliver your First Class Mail. Also, it is not safe for USPS people to drive around the city under severe weather conditions. Hence, you can not blame them for such delays.

Any national disaster is bound to affect the routing as general operations of the USPS. In such scenarios, you can expect your First Class Mails to reach their destination later than it usually does.

Incorrect Address

One of the most common reasons behind delayed First Class Mail delivery is an incorrect address. However, unlike most reasons for USPS delivery delays, this is an error made by you or the sender. If the address is wrong, the delivery person can not make it or put it in the correct mailbox.

Even a typo in the nine-digit ZIP code wrong can cause considerable delays in the delivery of your First Class Mail. Hence, you must be extra careful when writing the address on your First Class Mail. Failing to do so could result in undelivered mails, which leads to wasted resources and monetary loss.

This type of error is most common among companies that send bulk emails using a manual process. The solution, however, is a lot more straightforward. All you have to do is use a direct mail address automation tool like PostGrid to avoid such errors altogether.

The automation tools like PostGrid don't merely personalize and print direct mail. It can also check whether an address is accurate by comparing it against the USPS's official address database. However, not all automation tools are equipped with the same capabilities. So, you must ensure that the address automation tools can validate addresses beforehand.


The postal services, including USPS, are like any other functioning business organization. Sometimes they may have backlogs at work. However, USPS is famous for being reliable, so instances of backlogs in the USPS are relatively rare.

More often than not, the backlogs in USPS usually tend to happen during the holiday season, such as Christmas. The backlogs occur during the holiday seasons because USPS deals with an excessive amount of mail during this time.

Hence, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain timely delivery throughout the country. Therefore, either the USPS Sorting Center Facility (SCF) or post office will have to delay the postal mail delivery deliberately for an unspecified period.

However, on the bright side, First Class Mail is always given priority over standard mail. So, you can at least expect your First Class Mail to reach its destination before normal mail.

Federal Holidays

Federal holidays are one of the other factors that can delay the delivery of your First Class Mail. The United States Postal Service is a federal institution, and they do not deliver mail during federal holidays. So, you must keep this in mind when sending urgent or time-sensitive documents.

On the bright side, the federal holidays are not something that comes randomly. So, as long as you plan early and avoid sending direct mail during the holidays, you should encounter no delivery delays. In addition, you can use an automated system to avoid sending mail on federal holidays and ensure that there are no delays.

Also Read: How to Ship Important Documents By Mail

How Long Does First Class Shipping Take To Go From City To City?

Now that you have an idea of the reasons behind delays in delivery let us discuss how you can estimate delivery time. You can calculate the delivery period for direct mail. But, by the end of the day, these are still estimates, and hence there is still room for fluctuations in the delivery time.

Luckily for businesses, there are several online calculators available to estimate the direct mail delivery time. But then, you might ask which of these online calculators can give you the most accurate delivery time.

So far, the most accurate delivery time calculator in use is none other than the one created by none other than USPS themselves. The USPS Delivery Time Calculator uses data directly from the USPS, and hence it is more reliable than the rest.

Delivery Time Calculation Using USPS Delivery Time Calculator

Delivery time calculation using USPS Delivery Time Calculator is pretty straightforward. Below, we have listed the steps you need to follow to use USPS's calculator to determine the delivery time of the direct mail you send.

Step 1: Enter your ZIP code in the “Origin Zip Code” box.

Step 2: Now, enter your recipient's ZIP code in the “Destination Zip Code” box.

Step 3: Using the drop-down menu under the heading “Select Service,” select your relevant type of mail.

Simple, isn't it?

You shouldn't have any trouble in the first step because marketers would not know their ZIP code. The second step may not be so simple because you get the destination ZIP code from the customers. There is a possibility that the ZIP code could be wrong here.

The customer may have made a typo when submitting their details. Or an error may have occurred in the internal communication of your company. So, most companies prefer to use an automated direct mail system like PostGrid to ensure data accuracy.

With just three easy steps, you can get an estimate for your First Class Mail. However, do not forget that the estimated time you get is based on standard time. Hence there is no guarantee that your direct mail will reach you within the decided time frame.

Here, the type of mail we are discussing is First Class Mail. But, if you want the estimated time for other types of mail, you must choose the relevant one for you. It includes every mail, including priority mail, priority mail express, and standard mails.

Also Read: What is Fourth Class Mail?

Does First Class Mail Have Real-Time Tracking?

When using the First-Class Package services offered by the USPS, you can expect the standard delivery in the usual 1 to 3 days. However, the best part is that they do allow tracking for these packages. Using the tracking capability, you can see where your package is at all times.

However, you may not be so lucky to have this tracking option for all First Class Mail. For example, if you use a First Class Mail Letter or First Class Mail Large Envelope services, you won't have a tracking option. Yet, you still get the standard delivery time of 1 to 3 days for both types of mailers.

Delivery Map For First Class Mail

As mentioned above, the tracking function is not a part of every First Class service USPS offers. However, delivery time maps became necessary because of the lack of tracking capabilities for certain First Class services.

Each SCF or Sectional Center Facility has its delivery map. It shows the standard delivery time for bulk mail to all parts of the country. USPS themselves create these delivery time maps. It has proven to be helpful for both businesses and individuals all across the country. 

However, similar to the USPS Delivery Time Calculator these maps are also service standards. In other words, the information you can get from the maps is guaranteed to be accurate. Unfortunately, many people use the delivery map and assume that the data it provides is correct. 

Although it is understandable, the USPS often ends up answering a lot of concerned customers. Furthermore, you can use these maps to understand the significant difference between Standard and First Class Mail. For example, compare this map against the delivery map of a First Class Mail of the same SCF.

Delivery Map For First Class Package

Most postal mail users used to believe that packages take much longer to be delivered than regular mail no matter what service they used. Perhaps, many of them still feel the same about packages. However, the truth of the matter is quite different from such assumptions.

The package mailers take the same time as regular mail to be delivered to their destination using the First Class service. It means your mailer, whether a large package or a regular-sized mailer, takes 1 to 3 days to reach its destination.

So, you can use the same process as we mentioned before to find out how much time your First Class mail needs to be delivered. The exact method of delivery time calculation is applicable for letters, packages, and parcels.

First Class Mail Features

Now that we have an idea of how long does first class mail takes to deliver let's discuss the main features of First Class mail. Knowing all the salient features of First Class mail can help you ensure whether it is the right choice for your business.

Delivery Time

Delivery time is the number one feature of First Class mail. If you think about it, everything unique about First Class Mail is in some way connected to its delivery time. In addition to this, the delivery time is what differentiates the First Class Mail from the Standard ones.

First Class Mail has an impressive delivery time of just 1 to 3 days. And so, it is well deserved to be mentioned as a primary feature of First Class mail.

Affordable Solution

First Class mail may be more expensive than Standard Mail, but it is still one of the most affordable solutions out there. You have to look at First Class mail from the angle that it is much faster than Standard time. The price difference between the two is not marginal. You even get a discounted price for bulk mails which is extremely useful for businesses.

Insurance For Damages

One of the lesser-known advantages of using First Class Mail is that it provides Insurance for damages. This Insurance is provided for sending merchandise and can cover up to $5,000, which, as you can see, is a significant amount. The Insurance applies for not only damages but also the loss of packages.

Model Of Pricing

Another noteworthy feature of First Class Mail is its model of pricing. All the prices for First Class Mail are based on your item's size, weight, and shape. Therefore, you don't have to worry about paying a relatively high sum for your letter simply because you use First Class Mail.

Standard Pricing For Commercial Mailers

Another interesting feature about the pricing of first-class mail is that it has standard pricing for commercial mailers. It is also convenient as it doesn't make sense to measure the dimensional properties of small commercial mailers. Mailers such as letters or postcards all have the same price as long as their weight does not exceed 3.5 ounces.

First Class Mail Prices

As briefly discussed above, the pricing model for First Class Mail is one of the best you can find from any postal service provider. However, we did not get into the specifics of the pricing of First Class Mail. Understanding the pricing of First Class Mail is essential before employing it for business applications.

Standard Size Letters

Businesses often use letters that have a standard size and shape. Even among individuals, it is the most commonly seen type of First Class Mail. The only expense you have to worry about in such mailers is the price of a First Class stamp which is around 55 cents.

Oddly Shaped Envelopes

Oddly shaped envelopes are relatively rare to find, but the chances are that you have come across one at least once. They could be square in shape or noticeably large, and so on. So any envelope that is not of the standard size or shape can be called an oddly shaped envelope. Sending such First Class Mail would cost you slightly more than the standard one and are priced around 70 cents.

Standard Postcards

The standard postcard is a favorite among businesses because they are relatively low-cost. Postcards are perfect for marketing campaigns because they can house attractive images. Prospects often tend to respond better to pictures than words. Apart from this, postcards are cheap to make, and mailing them costs only about 35 cents.

Oddly Shaped Postcards

Oddly shaped postcards are also among those mailers that are used by both businesses and individuals. These postcards do not fit regular postcards' standard size and shape description, such as extra-large postcards. You will need to pay around 55 cents for sending oddly shaped postcards.

Also Read: Best Direct Mail Marketing Companies

First Class Mail: Special Cases

There are some exceptional cases for direct mail where you must pay an extra amount to the USPS. It usually happens when your mailer does not fit the standard regulations. Listed below are some of these special cases and their additional delivery fee.

Non-Machineable Pieces

Some mailpieces have to be sorted by hand as the sorting is not possible through a machine. The reason for this could be several factors. First, it can be because the shape of the package is unusual. For example, square or vertical postcards are considered a unique shape for mailers.

Similarly, mailpieces having odd textures like a lumpy or rigid envelope are also considered non-machinable pieces. Even mailpieces having an extra string, button, clasp, etc., cannot be sorted using the machines.

It is worth noting that it doesn't matter how much your mailer weighs or how big/small its dimensions are in this case. As long as your mailer dits any of the above categories, it can not be machine-sorted. It means they have to be sorted manually, and this could lead to further delays.

Large Envelopes

Many people don't know this, but you have to pay a higher price for mailpieces that exceed the standard dimensions. The standard measurement specifies the height, length, and thickness of a mailpiece. It is vital for businesses that regularly use bulk mail.

Even a slight deviation from the standard dimension as little as 0.1 over the specified limits is not ignored. It is one of the reasons why most businesses tend to outsource their print and mail operations to reliable service providers like PostGrid.

Direct mail automation tools like PostGrid use top-tier printers that are compliant with all legal requisites. PostGrid ensures that every aspect of your direct mail, including the dimensional accuracy of your mailpiece.

Also Read: How to Measure the Response Rate: Improve Your Direct Mail Campaign’s Results

Standard Size For First Class Mail

You might have noticed that the term standard size for direct mail is mentioned several times in this article. It is because businesses need to know the standard sizes of different postal mail to avoid unnecessary delays. 

Standard size mail can also save the user a lot of money as they tend to be relatively more expensive. However, it can become a great deal more costly if you use bulk mail regularly. Why? Because the individual costs of different mailers can add up to a significant amount. 

So, let's take a look at the standard size specified for different USPS mail pieces.

Type of Mail Length  Height Thickness
Postcards 5 to 6 inches 3.5 to 4.25 inches Up to 0.016 inches
Letters 5 to 11.5 inches 3.5 to 6.125 inches Up to 0.25 inches
Large Letters 11.5 to 15 inches 6.125 to 12 inches Up to 0.75 inches
Packages 108 inches maximum length plus girth

How Fast Is First Class Mail While Using An Automation Solution?

Automation is the best approach you can take to streamline your direct mail process, and there is no question about it. However, direct mail automation alone can't technically speed up your First Class Mail. Once you deposit the mailer inside the postbox, you don't have any role in its delivery, and USPS takes over.

However, using an automated direct mail solution like PostGrid lets you avoid manual errors and minimize delays. One of the most common reasons for delayed First Class Mail delivery is wrong or incorrect addresses.

With the help of a tool like PostGrid, you can ensure no errors or typos in your addresses. Furthermore, you can even use PostGrid's Address Verification API to verify that the addresses you have are accurate and deliverable.

As tools like PostGrid are SERP certified, you can ensure that your addresses are deliverable by USPS. In addition, such tools can access the USPS's official address database and even provide you with a complete 9-digit ZIP code. The full ZIP code and standardized addresses enable USPS to sort and deliver your mail quickly.


First Class mail is one of the best postal mail services for both business and personal use. It enables you to send and receive postal mail fast without burning a hole in your pocket. It is surprising to see how fast is first class mail is as compared to Standard Mail delivery.

Businesses can get the added advantage of discount prices on First Class Mail as long as they send bulk mail. First Class Mail is known for its speed. However, it does tend to get delayed from time to time. You can minimize such delays through direct mail automation.

Direct mail automation enables you to minimize delays in your First Class Mail delivery by using standardized addresses. You can use tools like PostGrid to validate, standardize, and print addresses for your First Class Mail. On top of all this, an advanced direct mail tool can even provide missing address data such as ZIP+4 codes.

The USPS efficiently processes the standardized addresses, which contain a complete ZIP code. Furthermore, services like PostGrid can also ensure the dimensional accuracy of the mailers. As a result, there are no non-machinable mail pieces, and therefore, USPS can quickly sort, process, and deliver your mail.

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