First Class vs Standard Mail

What’s the difference and which should I choose?

The United States Postal Service is an enormous and complex agency of the US government. It has many difficult to understand rules and regulations. Understanding these rules and regulations has been our primary focus since our inception. Our complete understanding of the USPS makes it easy for you: you don’t have to figure it out because we already have!

The following is a straightforward description of the most common classes of mail.


First-Class

First-Class Mail includes letters, postcards, large envelopes (called flats), and small packages, providing each piece weighs 13 ounces or less. First-Class Mail is processed by the USPS with the highest priority. It goes to the front of the line; ahead of the other classes of mail. Locally, First-Class will typically be delivered within one to two business days, and nationally it will be delivered in three business days. If an addressee has moved, your mail will be forwarded at no additional cost for a period of one year from when the move occured. If a piece is undeliverable, it will be returned to you at no additional charge, and it will include the reason that it was not delivered.


Presorted First-Class

Presorted First-Class Mail provides the same speed and level of service as First-Class but also offers postage savings when mailing 500 or more mailpieces. Because we’re doing some of the work for them, it costs the Postal Service less money to process and deliver these pieces of mail. The Postal Service passes those savings on to you in the form of reduced postage prices. You can achieve an approximate 20% postage savings over First-Class. To receive the lower postage rate, the addresses must be NCOA updated, CASS certified, and sorted into “presort” order. This certification and sorting process is easily done by AD-Vantage Marketing using our special software. In addition to reduced postage, you get the 2nd ounce free if your piece weighs between one and two ounces (compared to the single-piece First-Class rate).


Standard Mail

Wall of Mail TraysStandard Mail is the current term for bulk mail. Previously, it was called 3rd Class mail. Unlike First-Class Presorted, which requires at least 500 pieces, Standard Mail only requires 200 pieces to qualify. It is processed by the USPS on a lower priority basis than First-Class. There is NO GUARANTEED delivery time. Local mail is typically delivered in about 1 to 14 business days, and national mail is typically delivered in the period somewhere between seven days and three weeks. Because of this, Standard Mail should never be used if you have a rapidly approaching dated event or expiration date. Standard Mail is not forwarded if the addressee has moved and it is not returned if undeliverable. The USPS kindly places the undeliverable pieces into their recycling bin. If you would like your Standard Mail pieces to be forwarded to the recipient or returned to you with the reason for non-delivery, you must use what’s called an Ancillary Service Endorsement. Just like Presorted First Class, to receive the lower postage rate, the addresses must be NCOA updated, CASS certified, and sorted into “presort” order prior to being mailed. This certification and sorting process is easily done by AD-Vantage Marketing using our special software.

Standard Mail has two very big pros over First-Class and Presorted First-Class.

  1. It’s the least expensive commercial postage class: almost 50% cheaper than First-Class (unless you qualify for non-profit rates (see below)). This enables you to mail much more for much less!
  2. It also allows up to 3.3 ounces per piece without any increase in postage. If your mail is heavier than 3.3 ounces, the postage surcharge for being overweight increases very gradually.

Non-Profit Standard Mail

Non-Profit is simply a reduced postage rate within Standard Mail made available to those organizations that qualify for a non-profit status. It’s processed exactly the same as Standard Mail, but gets even greater discounts that can be 70% less than the cost of First-Class. If you are a non-profit, you can apply for these special reduced rates by completing the application PS Form 3624 found (with instructions) on the Completing PS Form 3624 page. More information about Non-Profit Standard Mail can be found at the USPS Publication 417 – Nonprofit Standard Mail Eligibility page. If you have any specific questions regarding non-profit postal status, you can contact your local post office using the USPS Find Locations page.


AD-Vantage Marketing Can Do it for You!

Regardless of the class of mail, the size of your mailing, or your desired target geography, AD-Vantage Marketing can fulfill all of your mailing needs. To get started, contact us, or upload your file(s) now. If you need a mailing list, we can provide one for you. Read here for information about mailing lists for purchase.