Frequently Asked Questions
Below are frequently asked questions (FAQs) for Postal Service employees. The FAQs are focused on retail and provide additional clarification on some of the major changes that took place in May to postal prices and products. This information will also assist employees in responding to questions received from customers.
Domestic Mail FAQs
Q. Can the Forever Stamp be used on mailpieces that require extra postage?
A. Yes. The postage value of a Forever Stamp is the current First-Class Mail single-piece 1-ounce letter rate — $0.41. Customers must affix additional postage when mailing letters weighing in excess of 1 ounce and/or letters subject to the nonmachinable surcharge or mailpieces subject to another rate of postage (e.g., large envelopes or packages).
Q. How may customers who have a number of different stamps with no denomination determine the value of those stamps?
A. DMM Quick Service Guide 604a details all nondenominated postage issued since 1975. Go to http://pe.usps.com and click Quick Service Guides.
Q. Where can customers find additional information regarding domestic and international rates and fees?
A. Additional information on domestic and international rates and fees can be found at http://pe.usps.com. International delivery options can be found at www.usps.com/international.
Q. Pickup on Demand service increased to $14.25. What about Carrier Pickup service — did that change?
A. Carrier Pickup service remains available at no charge. Customers may schedule Carrier Pickup service or Pickup on Demand service online at www.usps.com/pickup. Pickup on Demand service may be also be scheduled by calling 800-222-1811. Note: Mailpieces that weigh over 13 ounces and that bear only postage stamps as postage must be presented for mailing to an employee at a Post Office retail counter.
Q. Are letter-size greeting cards weighing more than 1 ounce subject to the nonmachinable surcharge?
A. Yes. The $0.17 nonmachinable surcharge criteria applies to all First-Class Mail letters (up to the 3.5-ounce maximum weight). However, greeting cards that are classified and priced as flats are not subject to the nonmachinable surcharge.
Q. How are “rigid” letter-size greeting cards priced?
A. If a mailpiece does not exceed 11-1/2 inches x 6-1/8 inches x 1/4 inch thick and 3.5 ounces, but is rigid, it is classified and priced as a nonmachinable letter (i.e., applicable First-Class Mail postage and $0.17 nonmachinable surcharge apply).
Q. Are large envelopes (flats) subject to a nonmachinable surcharge?
A. No. Since large envelopes have their own price structure (flats prices), the nonmachinable surcharge does not apply.
Q. If a First-Class Mail piece is larger than letter-size, does it have to be over 1/4 inch thick to be priced as a “large envelope”?
A. No. The 1/4 inch thickness is just one of the three maximum measurements for letter-size pieces. If the mailpiece exceeds any one of the measurements, it is classified and priced as a large envelope (flat) as long as it does not exceed any of the flat-size maximum dimensions and has all the other characteristics of a large envelope (flat).
Q. If a flat-size First-Class Mail piece is rigid, is that piece charged the parcel rate?
A. Yes. If the physical dimensions are within flat-size standards, and the mailpiece is rigid, it is classified and priced as a package (parcel). Notice 3-S, First-Class Mail Shape-Based Pricing Template, is a useful tool to help determine First-Class Mail prices.
Q. Did the Postal Service make any changes to any of its processing categories used to determine shape-based rates?
A. No. The minimum and maximum sizes for First-Class Mail card rate, letters, and flats have not changed — see page 27 in this issue of the Postal Bulletin.
First-Class Mail – Single-Piece Rates
Q. How large can an envelope be and still be eligible for First-Class Mail letter rates?
A. The maximum size is 11-1/2 inches x 6-1/8 inches x 1/4 inch thick. Determining the processing category of a mailpiece (letter, flat, or parcel) is dependent solely on the physical dimensions of the piece without regard to address placement. If an envelope exceeds any of the physical dimensions, or 3.5 ounces in weight, it is classified and priced as a large envelope (flat).
Q. Are items sent at First-Class Mail flats rates (large envelopes) required to be flexible and “uniformly thick”?
A. Yes. Large envelopes as well as padded mailing bags must be somewhat flexible (not rigid) and uniformly thick. Items mailed in large envelopes cannot have more than a 1/4 inch variance in thickness. Also, mailpieces must be rectangular with a maximum thickness (at the thickest point) of 3/4 inch. A mailpiece that exceeds any one of the maximum physical dimensions (15 inches x 12 inches x 3/4 inch thick) is classified and priced as a package (parcel).
Q. Would items such as photos mailed in a large envelope with cardboard or “stiffeners” inserted to prevent bending be subject to package rates?
A. Yes. For additional information, see DMM 101.2.3.
Q. With dimensional-weight pricing for Priority Mail packages, is there still the balloon rate?
A. Yes, but only for packages measuring larger than 84 inches combined length and girth traveling locally up to Zone 4 with the minimum rate being the 20-pound rate.
Q. Are packages measured the same way for dimensional-weight pricing as for balloon-rate pricing?
A. No. Dimensional-weight is based on cubic inches by measuring (in inches) and multiplying the length by the width by the height. If the result is greater than 1,728, divide it by 194 (the “dim factor”). The result is the dimensional-weight. The Smart Mat may be used to determine if a parcel is eligible for dimensional-weight pricing. Balloon-rate is determined by measuring the length and girth combined, and if the result is greater than 84 inches, balloon-rate pricing may apply.
Q. Are complimentary Priority Mail boxes, including the flat-rate boxes, subject to dimensional-weight pricing or the balloon-rate?
A. No. Complimentary Priority Mail containers available online or at Post Offices are not subject to dimensional-weight or balloon-rate pricing.
Q. Is insurance included in the base price for Express Mail?
A. Yes, merchandise insurance is provided against loss, damage, or rifling up to a maximum liability of $100. Additional insurance up to $5,000 may still be purchased for a fee, at the customer’s option. Note: The maximum amount of insurance available for purchase online is $500. The maximum amount of insurance available for purchase at the retail counter is $5,000. Online insurance cannot be combined with insurance purchased at the retail counter. Customers wishing to ensure items for more than $500 should purchase the whole insurance amount at the retail counter.
Q. If a customer purchases additional insurance, can the “waiver of signature” option be selected?
A. No. If a waiver of signature is requested, any additional insurance coverage is void. This information is printed on the Express Mail label.
Q. Does dimensional-weight pricing apply to Express Mail shipments?
A. No. Dimensional-weight pricing only applies to Priority Mail.
Q. Can postage for Bound Printed Matter (BPM)-eligible items be purchased at the retail counter?
A. Single-piece nonpresorted BPM is no longer offered as an option for mailing flats and parcels at the retail counter. However, we accept nonpresorted BPM pieces for mailing at the retail counter (as well as collection boxes and letter carriers, as appropriate) if the customer has pre-applied postage using adhesive stamps, meter strips, or PC Postage. We sell postage (stamps or PVI labels) for BPM items only when customers specifically request BPM.
Q. Were there any changes to Media Mail eligibility?
A. There were no significant changes to Media Mail. As a reminder, eligible contents are limited to books, sound recordings, recorded videotapes, and computer-readable media (not blank). Media Mail cannot contain advertising, except eligible books may contain incidental announcements of books. Rates are still unzoned and based on weight.
Q. Where can electronic Return Receipt service be purchased?
A. Return Receipt (electronic) service is available on eligible mailpieces at Post Offices that have integrated retail terminals (IRTs) and point of service (POS) terminals. It is not available at manual offices.
Q. How are mailpieces with partial or full postage handled when a customer has requested an electronic Return Receipt?
A. There is a process that must be followed in IRT/POS Post Offices. The standard operating procedures for this process can be found on the Retail Operations page at http://blue.usps.gov/delret/L3RetOper.htm; click on SOPs in the left navigation bar of the Web page.
Q. Can gift cards be insured?
A. Gift cards may be insured for their full value only when sent by Registered Mail service. Otherwise, gift cards sent by Express Mail service (which includes Express Mail insurance) or another class of mail with merchandise insurance are protected only up to the maximum indemnity for cash and negotiable items — $15. Customers should check the terms of their gift cards as many are replaceable by the issuer if they are lost or stolen.
Q. What if a customer wishes to purchase domestic (or international) postage online and insure the item for more than $500?
A. Insurance purchased online is limited to $500, whereas insurance purchased at any Post Office facility is available in amounts up to $5,000. Insurance purchased online cannot be combined with additional insurance purchased later at a Post Office. Customers may purchase postage online and bring the item to a Post Office to purchase insurance up to $5,000.
Q. How can a customer determine if an insured item has been delivered?
A. For any item insured for more than $200, customers can purchase a return receipt (hardcopy or electronic). A return receipt after mailing can be used if no return receipt was purchased at the time of mailing. For Priority Mail pieces, First-Class Mail parcels, and Package Service parcels, regardless of the insured value, customers can purchase Delivery Confirmation or Signature Confirmation service at the time of mailing. Delivery information is available by inputting the Delivery Confirmation or Signature Confirmation number (not the insured number) online at www.usps.com; click on Track and Confirm. Customers may also call 800-222-1811. Always encourage customers to save their insurance receipt in case they need to file a claim.
Q. Are there any changes to the criteria for mailpieces eligible for Delivery Confirmation or Signature Confirmation service?
A. No. Delivery Confirmation and Signature Confirmation services are available for all Priority Mail pieces, First-Class Mail packages, and Package Services packages (e.g., Parcel Post). First-Class Mail and Package Services items must be greater than 3/4 inch thick at their thickest point, unless the item is prepared in a strong and rigid fiberboard or similar container or in a container that becomes rigid after the contents are enclosed and the container is secured. The rigid package must be greater than 1/4 inch thick, and be able to maintain its shape, integrity, and rigidity throughout processing and handling. Customers cannot pay First-Class Mail package rates for items that are classified as letters or flats.
Q. Are there any size (shape) standards for items sent with postal insurance?
A. No. All mail shapes — letters, large envelopes, and packages containing insurable merchandise — may be insured and sent as Priority Mail, First-Class Mail, or Package Services items.
Q. What is PAL or Parcel Airlift?
A. PAL (parcel airlift service) provides air transportation for parcels on a space-available basis to or from military post offices (MPOs) outside the 48 contiguous states. It is available for Package Services mail that does not exceed 30 pounds or 60 inches in length and girth combined. Packages must be marked “PAL” on the address side, preferably below the postage and above the addressee’s name. The applicable PAL fee must be paid in addition to the Package Services postage.
Q. What is SAM or space available mail?
A. SAM (space available mail) provides air transportation for parcels on a space-available basis to or from military post offices (MPOs) outside the 48 contiguous states. It is available for Package Services mail that does not exceed 15 pounds or 60 inches in length and girth combined. Packages must be marked “SAM” on the address side, preferably below the postage and above the addressee’s name. There is no additional fee for SAM.
Q. Are Priority Mail parcels using a Business Reply Mail label or Merchandise Return Service label subject to balloon-rate or dimensional-weight pricing?
A. Yes, parcels greater than 84 inches in combined length and girth returned from within Zones 1-4 are subject to balloon-rate pricing. Parcels greater than 1 cubic foot capacity and returned from Zone 5 or beyond are subject to Priority Mail dimensional-weight pricing.
International Mail FAQs
Q. Can the Forever Stamp be used on international mail?
A. Yes, however, since international postage rates are always higher, additional postage would have to be affixed. Any nondenominated stamps (except for those that bear unique markings, such as First-Class Presort, Nonprofit Org.) may be affixed to items that are sent to foreign destinations. The postage value of such stamps is linked to its appropriate domestic rate (e.g., the Breast Cancer Research semipostal stamp and the American Flag stamp have a postage value of $0.41).
Q. Why were changes made to the structure of international mail?
A. The international mail product line was restructured to better meet customer needs. Over time, customers had expressed the desire for clear and concise product options to choose from. They wanted to have the same quick, easy, and convenient shipping options that are available domestically. Also, customers had stated a preference for using the same Postal Service-provided packaging for both domestic and international shipments, free Carrier Pickup service, and better tracking and package visibility — all at the Postal Service’s competitive prices.
Q. What are some of the major changes that were made to international mail?
A. The changes include a simplification and rebranding of all international products. Eight international products with overlapping prices and service standards were combined into four: Global Express Guaranteed (GXG), Express Mail International, Priority Mail International, and First-Class Mail International.
Q. What international products are no longer offered?
A. Economy (surface) products including economy parcel post; economy letter post; publishers’ periodicals, books, and sheet music; and economy M-bags are no longer offered. In place of these services we now offer comparable air product alternatives. In addition, aerogrammes and recorded delivery service were eliminated. First-Class Mail International letters and cards are alternatives to aerogrammes, and Registered Mail is an alternative for recorded delivery.
Q. What are some of the benefits that the new international services offer?
A. Customers have the convenience of using domestic shipping supplies, including “flat-rate” options, as well as increased visibility and more specific delivery times to major destinations. Additionally, online shippers qualify for postage discounts of up to 10 percent for GXG, Express Mail International, and Priority Mail International when paying postage online at www.usps.com or through authorized PC Postage vendors.
Q. Can Express Mail and Priority Mail “prepaid” Flat-Rate Envelopes be used for international mail?
A. Yes. However, since international rates are always higher than the postage value, additional postage as well as appropriate customs forms would have to be affixed. Express Mail and Priority Mail prepaid envelopes are only available for purchase online at http://shop.usps.com.
Q. Which of the four new international products offer insurance and tracking?
A. GXG and Express Mail International include insurance up to $100 for loss, damage, rifling, or document reconstruction. Priority Mail International also includes limited insurance coverage. Additional merchandise insurance is available at the mailer’s option. Tracking is included in the price of these products. Insurance is not available for items mailed in a Priority Mail Flat-Rate Envelope.
Q. Where is the tracking number located?
A. The tracking number is located immediately below the barcode on either the mailing label or customs form, as appropriate:
- GXG has a 10-digit number and barcode on the bottom right of the sender’s copy.
- Express Mail International has a 9-digit number and barcode in the upper left of the customer copy.
- Priority Mail International uses the customs form that has a 9-digit number and barcode in the upper left corner of the sender’s copy.
Q. How is delivery information accessed?
A. Customers can go to “Track & Confirm” on www.usps.com or call 800-222-1811.
Q. Does the Postal Service provide free packaging for international services?
A. Yes. We continue to provide GXG packaging. Customers using Express Mail International or Priority Mail International can use the same packaging they use for domestic shipping including flat-rate envelopes and Priority Mail Flat-Rate Boxes. Shipping supplies can be ordered online at www.usps.com/shippingsupplies or by calling 800-610-8734.
Q. Must customers declare the specific contents and value on customs forms?
A. Yes. The package contents description is required on shipments going to foreign countries and is subject to the restrictions and prohibitions of that country. If the item is not properly described, it might be rejected by Customs before entering the country and is at risk of not being delivered.
Q. Is the sender required to state the value of an international shipment sent as a gift on the customs form?
A. Yes. Shipments may be subject to duties and taxes based on contents and their value. Because each country has regulations about what it will allow into the country, everything that enters that country and its value must be identified.
Q. Which international products can be sent with Registered Mail service?
A. Registered Mail service (without insurance) is available for purchase for all First-Class Mail International items and for the Priority Mail International Flat-Rate Envelope. Limited indemnity of $43.73 is included against loss, damage, and rifling. See the IMM for individual country restrictions.
Q. Other than new pricing, were there any other changes to IPA and ISAL service?
A. Yes, a separate rate group was established for Australia, and an IPA M-bag option is now available.
Q. What mailing options are there for books, sheet music, and publishers’ periodicals that used to be sent as surface mail?
A. Mailing options include International Priority Airmail (IPA), M-bag, and International Surface Air Lift (ISAL) service. “Single-piece” mailing options are First-Class Mail International and Priority Mail International service.
First-Class Mail International
Q. Is pricing for First-Class Mail International items based on shape like it is for domestic mail?
A. No. Shape-based pricing does not apply to First-Class Mail international.
Q. Can domestic stamped envelopes be used for international mail?
A. Yes, but since international postage rates are always higher than the domestic postage value, additional postage would need to be affixed.
Q. Are prices for international postcards still available?
A. Yes, postcards are part of First-Class Mail International service. The price for eligible cards is $0.69 to Canada and Mexico and $0.90 to all other countries (exception: postcards to the Marshall Islands and Micronesia are $0.52). Remember, for postcard rates, cards can be no larger than 4-1/4 by 6 inches.
Q. Can aerogrammes still be mailed?
A. Aerogrammes may be mailed as First-Class Mail International items; however, additional postage must be affixed.
Q. Is there a nonmachinable surcharge for letters?
A. Yes, the nonmachinable surcharge for First-Class Mail International letters weighing 1 ounce or less is $0.17. As always, 1-ounce letters that do not meet aspect ratio or that have any nonmachinable characteristics are subject to the nonmachinable surcharge.
Priority Mail International
Q. What level of tracking is available with Priority Mail International?
A. Tracking is available to major destinations in Canada, Europe, and Asia for variable-weight packages and flat-rate boxes only. Tracking is not available for the Priority Mail International Flat-Rate Envelope at this time.
Q. Is insurance available with Priority Mail International?
A. Priority Mail International packages include limited indemnity coverage against loss, damage, or rifling. Limited indemnity coverage, however, does not include coins; banknotes; currency notes (including paper money); securities of any kind payable to the bearer; traveler’s checks; platinum, gold, and silver; precious stones; jewelry, watches and other valuable articles. Additional merchandise insurance is available at the mailer’s option. The Priority Mail International Flat-Rate Envelope may not be insured.
Q. Is it true that Priority Mail Flat-Rate Boxes and Priority Mail Flat-Rate Envelops are now available for international use?
A. Yes. The flat-rate box has a 20-pound weight limit for allowable contents, and the flat-rate envelope has a 4-pound weight limit. Note: Use former domestic packaging until supplies are depleted. Although the packaging says “For Domestic Use Only,” it can be used for both domestic and international shipments.
Q. How does a Priority Mail International label generated and paid for online through Click-N-Ship service or another authorized PC Postage vendor receive a round-date stamp?
A. A Priority Mail International label that is prepared and paid for online will contain a preprinted round-date stamp when it is printed.
Q. When do Priority Mail International labels generated and paid for online receive scans?
A. In most cases, packages receive a scan at the International Service Center (ISC) upon leaving the country and then a delivery scan in major destinations in Canada, Europe, and Asia.
Q. Does balloon-rate and dimensional-weight pricing apply to Priority Mail International packages?
A. No. Neither applies to Priority Mail International.
Q. What extra services are available with the Priority Mail International Flat-Rate Envelope?
A. Registered Mail service is available with the Priority Mail International Flat-Rate Envelope only. A certificate of mailing, which only provides evidence of mailing, is available for all Priority Mail International shipments.
International Mail Extra Services
Q. Were there any significant changes to extra services?
A. Except for the elimination of recorded delivery service, all other extra services remain unchanged. The IMM Country Listings should be referenced for country-specific availability of extra services.
Q. How is an insurance inquiry initiated for international mail items?
A. An inquiry must be initiated before a claim can be filed. For GXG, Express Mail International, and Priority Mail International service, customers must call 800-222-1811 to initiate an inquiry. Upon determination that a claim can be filed, we provide the customer with a claim packet containing detailed instructions.
Q. What should a customer do upon receipt of a damaged package?
A. If a customer receives an article from a foreign country in damaged condition, or with some or all contents missing, the customer needs to take the mailing container, wrapping, packaging, and any other contents to any Post Office for inspection. The postmaster will verify damage and give the customer a PS Form 2855, Claim for Indemnity — International Registered Mail, Insured, Ordinary Parcel and Express Mail, to complete. The postmaster then completes PS Form 2856, Damage Report of Insured Parcel and Contents, to go with PS Form 2855.
Note that for Registered Mail service, regardless of the declared value, the maximum amount of indemnity payable for loss, damage, or rifling is $43.73.
Q. Do the discounts for paying international postage online through Click-N-Ship or an authorized postage vendor apply to any extra services purchased online?
A. No. The discounts apply only to the postage amount.
Q. What if a customer wishes to purchase international (or domestic) postage online and insure the item for more than $500?
A. Insurance purchased online is limited to $500, whereas insurance purchased at any Post Office is available in amounts up to $5,000 (as limited by the individual country, content, or value). Insurance purchased online cannot be combined with additional insurance purchased later at a Post Office facility. Customers who wish to insure items for more than $500 must come into the Post Office. In this case, a customer may pay the postage amount online and then bring the item into the Post Office to purchase insurance.