Recap: First-Class Mail Letters

We now have separate First-Class Mail rate categories for the different mail shapes: postcards, letters, large enve­lopes (flats), and packages. The following information is provided to clarify how the prices apply to the most com­mon mail shape — “letters.”

The First-Class Mail price structure provides opportuni­ties for customers to obtain lower rates if they can recon­figure mailpiece contents into mail shapes that reduce postal processing costs. Emphasizing shape has also allowed us to reduce the additional-ounce rate. For letters over 1 ounce and large envelopes over 6 ounces, the prices today are lower than before May 14, 2007.

Determining the processing category of a mailpiece (letter, large envelope, or package) is dependent solely on the physical dimensions of the piece without regard to address placement. This has been the standard for a num­ber of years. For a mailpiece to be eligible for First-Class Mail letter rates, it must be at least 3-1/2 inches by 5 inches by 0.007-inch thick, and no more than 6-1/8 inches by 11–1/2 inches by 1/4-inch thick. If the mailpiece falls within these dimensions, it is classified as a letter.

Follow these easy steps for letters:

1. After the mailpiece is determined to be a letter, then determine if it is mailable. The location and orienta­tion of the delivery address now establishes which dimensions are the length and the height. The length is the dimension parallel to the address as read, and must be at least 5 inches. The height is the dimension perpendicular to the length, and must be at least 3-1/2 inches. If not, the piece is nonmailable. If the length is at least 5 inches and the height is at least 3–1/2 inches, the piece is mailable at letter rates. If not, the piece is not mailable.

2. Next, to determine if the piece is within “aspect ratio,” divide the length by the height. If the result is between 1.3 and 2.5 inclusive, the letter is within aspect ratio and is not subject to the nonmachinable surcharge, if it has no other nonmachinable charac­teristics. Or use Notice 3-S, First-Class Mail Shape-Based Pricing Template. If the letter is also flexible and uniformly thick, it is classified and priced as a “machinable letter” and is subject only to the appli­cable letter rate based on weight. For example, a mailpiece measuring 6 inches by 9 inches and less than 1/4 inch thick is classified as a letter. If this letter is prepared with the address parallel to the 9-inch measurement, the mailpiece is a machinable letter with an aspect ratio of 1.5. If the same letter is pre­pared with the address parallel to the 6-inch mea­surement, it is still classified a letter; however, this letter would not be within the required aspect ratio (0.6666), and is therefore a nonmachinable letter subject to the $0.17 nonmachinable surcharge in addition to the appropriate letter-rate postage. The First-Class Mail nonmachinable surcharge applies to all letters up to 3.5 ounces.

Size isn’t the only factor to consider. The physical char­acteristics of the mailpiece also determine how a mailpiece is classified and priced. Letter-rate pieces may be subject to the $0.17 nonmachinable surcharge due to other non­machinable characteristics (see below). Also remember that the weight limit for letters is 3.5 ounces (3.3 ounces for presort rate). Letter-size pieces weighing more than 3.5 ounces are subject to the rates for large envelopes (flats).

Regardless of weight (up to 3.5 ounces), a letter-size piece is considered nonmachinable and would be subject to the $0.17 nonmachinable surcharge if it has one or more of these most common characteristics:

Mailpieces classified as postcards eligible for the card rate, large envelopes, and packages are never subject to the $0.17 nonmachinable surcharge.

To be eligible for the $0.26 First-Class Mail card rate, postcards can be no larger than 4-1/4 inches high by 6 inches long, and no more than 0.016 inch thick.

Greeting Cards and Other First-Class Mail Items

Greeting cards are available in various shapes and weights and include the popular “musical” cards. Many of these cards weigh more than 1 ounce, and, if the card is square, it may be subject to the $0.17 nonmachinable sur­charge in addition to the applicable letter-size First-Class Mail postage. Often, the envelopes for these cards are marked “extra postage required.” Due to their size, most square greeting cards exceed letter-size standards and are classified and priced as large envelopes (flats), not pack­ages. DMM 101.1.2 contains nonmachinable criteria. Also, see the article titled “Getting it Right! Charging the Correct Postage for First-Class Mail Letter-Size Mailpieces” in Postal Bulletin 22212 (8-2-07, pages 86–87).

For greeting cards addressed to overseas destinations, postage is calculated in 1-ounce increments up to 8 ounces, from six separate First-Class Mail International rate groups.