Postcards, Letters, Flats. What’s the Difference?

Postcards, Letters, Flats. What’s the Difference?

And why knowing can save you thousands on your next direct mail campaign.

The way the post office classifies your direct mail piece may be different from the terminology you use. What the general consumer calls a postcard may be classified as a letter by the USPS. These USPS categories are important to know because they dictate how a piece is handled and the final postal cost. Having your direct mail piece just 1/8 of an inch smaller could mean a much longer delivery time as well as a hefty postage bill.

 

Postcards:

A postcard is described as a one or two sided card typically on a heavy stock that mails with no outside envelope or tabs enclosing or sealing the piece. Standard postcard sizes are a 5.5 x 8.5, 5 x 7, 4 x 6, 6 x 11, and a 6 x 9. Out of all of these sizes only one is considered a postcard according to the USPS. Can you guess which one that is? It’s the 4 x 6.

 

USPS dimensional specs that define a postcard:

Length: Min. of 5 inches and Max. of 6 inches

Height: Min. of 3.5 inches and Max. of 4.25 inches

Thickness: Min. of 0.007 inches and Max. of 0.016 inches

 

PostcardDimensions

If your piece fits into the dimensional specs outlined above you will qualify for the postcard category which means it is mailed out first class. This is the fastest service. Your mail is also automatically forwarded to the correct address if the address is incorrect. There are no entry discounts available which means you cannot receive the additional discount of $.033 or $.044 per piece for delivering your mail piece into the designated facility. Many times this discount can lead to thousands of dollars in postage savings. Lastly, postcards do not qualify for carrier route rates. Carrier route rates are highly discounted postal rates that only apply to letters and flats.

 

Recap:

Deliver Class: First Class only

Mail Forwarding: Free

Entry Discounts: NO

Carrier route rates: NO

Delivery Time: 2-4 days

 

Letters:

When people think of letters they think of an 8.5 x 11 standard sheet of paper folded and mailed in an envelope. But to the post office a letter covers all sorts of direct mailers.

USPS dimensional specs that define a letter:

Length: Min. of 5 inches and Max. of 11.5 inches

Height: Min. of 3.5 inches and Max. of 6.125 inches

Thickness: Min. of 0.007 inches and Max. of 1/4 inch

 

LetterDimensions

Postcards, self mailers, invites, and letters are typically categorized as letters. With letters you have the choice of first class or third class. Mail forwarding is included if you’re mailing first class but not with third class. If your address is incorrect then technically the mail carrier can discard your mail. However, letters mailing third class can take advantage of both entry level discounts and carrier route discounts. These are very discounted rates ranging from $0.153 -$0.295 per piece.

 

Recap:

Deliver Class: First Class OR Third Class

Mail Forwarding: Yes on First Class but no on third (unless adding an endorsement)

Entry Discounts: YES

Carrier Route Rates: YES

Delivery Time: 7-14 days

 

Flats:

Flats are the big mailers and are also the category that is required to mail Every Door Direct Mail. Flats are used many times for legal documents that cannot be folded or for mailers that want to make a really big impression.

 

USPS dimensional specs that define a flat:

Length: Min. of 11.5 inches and Max. of 15 inches

Height: Min. of 6.125 inches and Max. of 12 inches

Thickness: Min. of 1/4 inch and Max. of 3/4 inch

 

FlatsDimensions

Flats are similar to letters in the services available but the main difference we see is the amount of time it takes the postal facility to deliver them. Because they tend to be more cumbersome, the mailing equipment that the USPS uses to process these pieces is not as fast as letters or postcards.

 

Recap:

Deliver Class: First Class OR Third Class

Mail Forwarding: Yes on First Class but no on third (unless adding an endorsement)

Entry Discounts: YES

Carrier route rates: YES

Delivery time: 7-14 days

Though we all have our own terminology, the post office only has three types of direct mail pieces. We know this may be a lot of info to take in but don’t fret! We know this stuff pretty well and when in doubt we are only a phone call or email away. We can be reached at 561-393-4722 or marketing@maildmi.com

 

Want to read more:

5 Postal Rules You May not Know but Should

10 Benefits of Using Intelligent Mail Bar-Codes in Your Direct Mail Marketing

 

 

 


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