Postcards are great examples of direct mail that work well when done well. Compared to other options, they’re usually
inexpensive to produce, and they allow you to quickly get your message across.
But is that single-sheet mail piece you’re so set on using for your next campaign really a postcard? Are you sure about that?
To find out, and avoid frustration, please check out this quick review of USPS postcard specifications and postage guidelines.
USPS Postcard Size
To qualify as a postcard, a mail piece must be rectangular and meet these dimensions:
- At least 3-1/2” high X 5” long X 0.007” thick
- No more than 4-1/4” high X 6” long X 0.016” thick
- Have finished corners that do not exceed a radius of 0.125”
By the way, the length is the measurement of the side that’s parallel to the address.
That’s about it … no official postcard size, just a range of allowable sizes for the paper you’re printing on so that your mailer gets through USPS’s equipment more easily.
Many other single-sheet mailings can really stand out in a mailbox and drive response. A jumbo measuring 6” X 11” is a popular size … but to the USPS, it’s not a postcard. And because of that, it has to mail at letter rates.
Need a “big picture” USPS direct mail breakdown? Head over to our USPS Guide to Direct Mail (That’s Useful) and get your questions answered.
USPS Postcard Rate
On January 21, 2018, the USPS postcard rate for a single postcard under First Class mail went up by one cent to 35 cents. But that’s for the single-piece rate, with a stamp. To mail at commercial rates, your campaign needs at least 500 pieces.
Let’s say that you have that amount and more. Depending on how your mail is printed and prepared, your bulk campaign can qualify for either machinable or automation rates.
Machinable means that you have an accurate address and have met the correct size and weight standards. The single presort price for a postcard is now 28 cents each.
Automation means that you’ve done some of the work for USPS by helping to process the mail with a delivery point or Intelligent Mail barcode. And you’ll have to meet certain design standards. Your postcard’s aspect ratio has to measure between 1.3 and 2.5; take the length of your postcard and divide it by the height to get that figure.
Here’s how you can save money.
USPS uses 3 levels of presort when pricing, 5-Digit, AADC, and Mixed AADC. With the 5-Digit tray preparation (mail with the same 5-digit zip code), the current per piece rate is 25.7 cents, a savings of up to 2 cents per postcard over the other 2 options.
Ideas to Use
- As long as you meet thickness guidelines, use UV coating on the front side to make your postcard’s color images and graphics pop more.
- On the address side, set up clear zones for the placement of postage indicia, IMb, and the address on the postcard. Consult the Domestic Mail Manual for more details.
- If timing is not a big deal for your postcard campaign, you may want to use Marketing Mail instead of First Class. But remember: letters and postcards all mail at the same rates in that class. And you miss out on forwarding and return services that come with First Class.
Fortunately for everybody, USPS has several pre-processing address file tools to supplement commercial list hygiene solutions that are available.
For example, you can use Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS) certification to verify and standardize your addresses, and National Change of Address (NCOA) to catch any new movers. And bonus! They’ll also help you be eligible for automation discounts.
Know Your Formats
Mail has to comply with USPS regulations in order to get through its processing equipment. Normally, that isn’t a problem if you’re mailing standard envelope, postcard, and folded self-mailer formats.
But if you want to try a very different kind of mailpiece, talk to your printer first. They’ll know all about the right size, weight, postage, tabbing, and folding requirements to pass muster, or they’ll reach out to the USPS for an OK.
Ideas to Use
- A strong relationship with USPS -such as a nearby Business Mail Entry Unit or an in-house verification – will go a long way in preventing any headaches because of design or mailing questions.
- Using or adding an envelope converting or printing capability rather than outsourcing will likely shave several days from the timeline of your print job and get it to USPS mail delivery time faster.
- Review USPS regional performance reports each quarter, and raise any issues with local officials as well as Postal Customer Council (PCC) representatives.