Photo: Updraw Illustration Library
When you're sending out direct mail, you may think that the type of postage
service you use makes little difference. However, nothing could be
further from the truth. After selecting a campaign type and form of mediathat works, one of the most important decisions you'll make is whether you
use first-class or standard mail.
What's the Difference Between First Class Mail and Standard Mail?
Here are the defining features of each service:
Costs more (about 15 cents more per piece)
Has return service
No minimum weight
Package maximum weight 13 oz
Letter maximum weight 3.5 oz
1-to-3-day local delivery
3-to-5-day national delivery
Can be enhanced with registered or certified mail services
Can be pre-sorted for discount bulk rate (minimum 500 pieces)
Cheaper (by about 15 cents per piece)
No return service (default)
No minimum weight
Maximum weight 16 oz
2-to-5-day local delivery
1-to-4-week national delivery
Can be enhanced with return service by ancillary service endorsement
Bulk mail discount based on size and weight (minimum 200 pieces or 50
The Scoop on First-Class Mail
First of all, this is the more expensive option, but it has a couple of stand-
out benefits. First of all, first class mail simply delivers more quickly. It will
take between one and five shipping days to get to its destination,
depending on where you're sending letters.
Another key advantage is its return service , which sends any
undeliverable mail back to you. This is great for you to keep your contact
list up to date so you're not sending mail to dead addresses.
First-class mail is great for smaller weight packages, letters and postcards.
It's also pretty consistent with its delivery times, even when things get busy
around the holidays.
When Should You Use First-Class?
When your mailing is time-sensitive
If you're mailing during peak periods
To maintain an up-to-date contact list
To conduct a direct mail test before a mass campaign
If you mail infrequently
If your budget allows it
If you send your mail standard (aka bulk) class, then you're simply not
sending it as first-class or as a periodical. This the cheapest option and
can save you money if your campaign isn't time-sensitive. It's also ideal for
campaigns with lots of pieces because the costs can add up quickly. It's
most commonly used to send ads, fliers, newsletters, small packages and
Standard mail delivers more slowly. Depending on whether you send
locally or nationally, it can take from two days to four weeks to reach its
destination. Mail is priced based on its weight and size.
To keep this mailing option affordable, return service isn't
available unless you pay extra for it through an ancillary service. If you
choose to not have return service, it can be a drawback if you want to keep
your contact list current.
Delivery times are longer during peak times because they get pushed down
in the level of priority over first-class and mail with higher postage.
When Should You Use Standard-Class?
There is a large number of mailings.
You mail frequently.
You don't need to update your contact list.
There is a limited marketing budget.
Your campaign isn't time-sensitive.
You're not sending during peak times of the year.
Which One is the Best for Your Business?
You'll need to consider your budget, your marketing needs and the
impression you want to make on the recipient. Overall, first-class makes a
more favorable impression because you have spent more and the person
receiving it feels like more of a priority. It's also good for more time-
sensitive campaigns like holiday greetings or special offers because it's
faster. Standard-class is easier on smaller budgets and is good for regular
campaigns such as monthly mailings.