Difference between metered & stamped mail

Even in an increasingly electronic world, businesses and non-profits still do a significant amount of mailings via the United States Postal Service (USPS.) For bulk mailings--advertisements, brochures, reminder postcards, mass letter mailings--the USPS offers two options: stamped and metered mail.

Which option is best for your mailings?

Stamped Mail

When most think of mailing an item, their first thought is of placing a stamp on the item and dropping it in a mailbox. Stamped mail is perfect for the individual mailing a few pieces at a time.

If mailing as a part of a business or non-profit, buying stamps and applying them to each piece of mail might be too daunting when faced with thousands of pieces. The time and manpower costs might significantly increase the mailings' budget.

If stamped mail is preferred for a large mailing, businesses and groups are encouraged to apply for a pre-cancelled stamp permit. Pre-cancelled stamps allow mail to skip the usual cancellation process, which legitimises the stamp. Applying for a precanceled stamp permit is free. Once received, permit holders just show their permit at any post office to purchase pre-cancelled stamps. Pre-cancelled stamps have a short time frame in which they can be used--sometimes as short as one day.

Metered Mail

Metered mail is widely used by businesses and non-profits who have bulk mailings. The cancellation and postage information is printed directly onto the piece of mail or a sticker by a postage meter.

Postage meters are available for purchase by five authorised manufacturers in the US: Pitney Bowes, Data-Pac Mailing Systems, FP Mailing Solutions, Hasler Inc. and Neopost. In addition to purchasing the meter and accessories, a business or non-profit must apply for a metered mail permit.

Using a meter lets a business or non-profit automate its bulk mailings. The postage meter will keep track of the amount of items you are mailing, and the cost can be deducted from a bank account you specify. If you are mailing many items of different weights, some meters come in conjunction with a postage scale, and you would then manually set the meter to the amount equal to the weight of the mailing.

Metered mail is then either picked up by the USPS or can be dropped in a metered mail specified mailbox.

Business or Non-Profit Use

Both stamped and metered mail have a place within a business or non-profit setting. Selecting a postage option will depend on an organisation's frequency and size of mailings. Is the organisation's mailings regulated to one holiday appeal letter and the occasional brochure sent to an individual upon request? The cost of leasing or purchasing a postage meter and the time invested in researching and setting up that option would not be appropriate for the organisation.

However, if mailing is a major part of the organisation's business--sending hundreds or thousands of the same piece at once--a postage meter will save time and effort. It will also give the business an opportunity to have postage meter service and supplies delivered, a significant time and resource saver.

Personal Use

Individuals mailing items do not have the volume to consider metered mail as a legitimate option. The cost of leasing the meter is not cost-effective for an individual. First-class stamped mail is the best option for individuals--no matter how long your annual holiday letter list is.


Given the USPS's recent moves to shutter thousands of post offices across the country, it will become increasingly inconvenient for individuals and businesses to handle mailings through the post office. This might cause more organisations to move toward metered mail. The USPS has an online option for purchasing large quantities of stamps, which will keep stamped mail a viable option for some.