Priority Mail: A Preview of USPS Changes for 2013

It is February 2013 and time for a look at changes you’ll be making to move your customer’s mail from where it is to where your customers want it to be. Besides the annual postage rate increase, there are new standards for mail processing to qualify for automation-based postage rates, new postage discount programs, and some odds and ends of interest.

The annual USPS postage rate increase took effect on January 27, 2013. Overall, the rate increases average two to three percent, consistent with the Consumer Price Index. To help your customers with budgeting for 2013, report the average percentage increases for the mail categories they use most.

  • • Single piece letters, cards and flats: For single-piece mail, the price for a first class stamp for letters weighing up to one ounce rose from 45-cents to 46-cents, or about 2.3 percent. For cards, the increase is from 32-cents to 33-cents (about 3.1 percent) For flats, the increase for the first ounce is from 90-cents to 92-cents, or about 2.2 percent.
  • • Presorted first class letter, cards, and flats: The increase for presorted letters weighing up to one ounce and for cards rose by about 2.5 percent; flats by about 2.7 percent.
  • • Standard mail letters and flats: Standard mail letters up to three ounces increased by about 2.7 percent and flats by about 2.6 percent. Periodicals mail rose by about 2.5 percent, with non-profit periodicals continuing to receive a five percent discount.
  • • Standard mail high-density/saturation: High-density/saturation rates for standard mail letters up to three ounces increased by about 2.2 percent, while high density/saturation flats increased by about 2.3 percent.
  • • EDDM: The lowest EDDM rate (for DDU entry) increased from 14.5 cents to 14.9 cents (about 2.3 percent).

The new rates can be viewed at the Postal Explorer website ( or as a PDF of Notice 123 (the ratefold):


Intelligent Mail Barcode

Mailers got a respite in 2011 when the USPS changed the Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb) implementation date from May 2011 to January 2012, but now it is upon us. Effective January 28, the POSTNET barcode was replaced by the IMb to qualify for automation-based postage discounts. Use of the IMb gives the USPS more flexibility in sorting mail and enables tracking as mail moves through the mail processing system. Eventually IMb will provide door-to-door tracking, though not in this first implementation.

Here are a few tips to help the transition to IMb:

  • • IMb requires more space than POSTNET. When designing a mail piece, remember that IMb is taller than POSTNET and may require more space on the address panel. This is especially important for mailings that use window envelopes. Mailers may have to use a 1.25-inch window opening rather than the standard one-inch, depending on how many lines are in the outbound address.
  • • IMb is now required on all reply mail. As your customer’s business reply cards and letters come up for reprint, you will need to use the IMb in place of the POSTNET barcode. This means your customer will need a Mailer ID (MID), which can be obtained from the Business Customer gateway at Then ask your Mailpiece Design Analyst (MDA) to provide artwork that includes the IMb.
  • • Full service IMb will be required in January 2014. During 2013, mailers can use IMb basic service and still qualify for automation discounts. But in January 2014, mailers will be required to upgrade to full service IMb to keep the automation discounts. Among other things, this will require submitting Mail.dat files for mailings over 10,000 pieces and assigning unique barcode numbers to each mail piece. Mailers who intend to maintain qualification for automation-based discounts should begin now to prepare for the shift to full service IMb.

Letter-sized Folded Self-mailers

Effective January 5, letter-sized folded self-mailers (FSM) must comply with new standards to be eligible for automation-based postage discounts. The changes are designed to prevent jams in high-speed mail processing machines and consequent damage to mail pieces. The USPS is also aiming to discourage mailers from converting letter-sized self-mailers to flat size.

The USPS defines an FSM as a mail piece consisting of a single sheet of paper or multiple unbound sheets of paper that have been folded and sealed to create a letter-sized mail piece. The primary elements of an FSM are overall dimension; fold style and orientation; paper basis weight of cover; closure method (tabs, glue); and thickness, total weight, and number of layers or panels. Optional elements include loose inserts secured in a pocket, interior attachments, die-cut on cover, and perforations.

Mailers should note that the new requirements do not apply to cards, envelopes, booklet-style letters (e.g.: letter-sized bound booklets), and mail pieces designed to carry disks or flats. If you are in doubt as to whether a mail piece is a letter-sized bound booklet or an FSM, check with your MDA while the mail piece is still in the design stage.

To review, here are the current standards for FSMs (in effect since January 2012):

  • • Length: A minimum of five inches and a maximum of 10.5 inches
  • • Height: A minimum of 3.5 inches and a maximum of six inches
  • • Thickness: A minimum of 0.007 inch; (0.009 inch if the height exceeds 4.25 inches or if the length exceeds six inches); the maximum thickness is 0.25 inch
  • • Maximum Weight: Three ounces
  • • Rectangular: With four square corners and parallel opposite sides
  • • Within an aspect ratio (length divided by height) of 1.3 to 2.5, inclusive

Here is what’s new:

  • • Number of panels: For bi-fold, trifold, or oblong (e.g.: a fold vertical to the length) FSMs, a minimum of two and maximum of 12 (there is an exception for FSMs printed on newsprint)
  • • Final fold panel: Creates non-address side of mail piece by folding from bottom to top (i.e.: final fold is at bottom) or lead-to-trail edge
  • • Tabbing: Depending on design, two or three tabs measuring one inch, 1.5 inches, or two inches may be required. Tab placement is either at the top or lead/trail edge, within one inch of adjacent edges. Tabs cannot be perforated.
  • • Paper basis weight: The minimum paper basis weight of 60-pound book is no longer allowed; it has been increased to 70-pound book/text. If the FSM weighs more than one ounce, then 80-pound basis weight must be used. Mailers should consult their MDA for clarification on the paper basis weight for interior sheets of an FSM consisting of more than a single sheet of stock.

With the new standards, the USPS accommodated the request of mailers for a variety of permissible designs. Easy to understand illustrations of possible folds and the consequent tabbing requirements can be found on the RIBBS website at

Throughout 2013, the USPS is offering price incentives for mailers to participate in various promotions. However, all of them require use of full service IMb and eDoc (electronic documentation for the statement of mailing). For a listing and explanation of the incentives, visit

Nancy DeDiemar is a former chairman of NAQP and Printer of the Year. She is the co-publisher of Printips (, a newsletter subscription service for printers. Contact her at