How Many Stamps Do I Need To Send A Letter?

In the era of texting and emailing, a handwritten letter might seem outdated but it is still a thoughtful and classic way to express how you feel for someone. Though it takes a little effort and time to mail a letter, it is worth. A common question that comes before mailing is – how many stamps do I need to send a letter? To clear your confusion, here is a clear insight about stamps and postage.

How Many Stamps Do I Need To Send A Letter?

Affix 1 Forever Stamp (costs $0.49) or 1 First Class Letter Stamp at the top right corner of an envelope to send a letter. Forever Stamps are best for mailing 1-ounce letters (of standard size) within the U.S. Affix more than 1 Forever Stamp if the letter weighs over 1 ounce. First Class Letter Stamps are ideal for letters that weigh within 3.5 ounces.

Note: Every extra ounce will cost $0.21. The First Class Mail will deliver a letter within 3 days.

  • Maximum Weight Of A Letter: 1 ounce (if you are using 1 Forever Stamp)
  • Maximum Weight Of A Letter: 3.5 ounces (if you are using 1 First Class Letter Stamp)

The more the pages in an envelope, more will be the weight and more you will have to stick the stamps. If you don’t affix the stamps according to the envelope’s weight, it will be sent back.

First Class “Standard Size” Letter Rates

Envelope’s Weight

Postage Required

Equivalent To

1 ounce

$0.49

1 Forever Stamp

2 ounce

$0.70

1 Forever Stamp + $0.21

3 ounce

$0.91

1 Forever Stamp + $0.42 or use 2 Forever Stamps ($0.07 goes as a donation to the Post Office).

Historical Values Of “Forever Stamps”

Date

Price

22 January 2017

$0.49

10 April 2016

$0.47

26 January 2014

$0.49

27 January 2013

$0.46

22 January 2012

$0.45

11 May 2009

$0.44

12 May 2008

$0.42

12 April 2007

$0.41

Note: By 21 January 2018, the price of one forever stamp might change to $0.50

What Are Forever Stamps?

The USPS (United States Postal Service®) created the “Forever Stamps” in 2007. They are also known as the non-denominational First Class postage, meaning that they can be used to send First Class letters despite the current postal rate.

Say, for instance, in 2013, the cost to mail a normal-sized letter (1-ounce or less) within the United States was $0.46. All it required was one forever stamp. In 2014, the price of the stamp changed to $0.49. Now, the customers who bought Forever Stamps in 2013 for the rate $0.46 can still make use of those stamps in the current day without adding extra postage on the envelope.

How Do Forever Stamps Work?

The Forever Stamps are best for sending 1-ounce, normal-sized letters within the U.S. Letters without appropriate postage will be returned back. If a mail piece exceeds 1 ounce, make sure to include extra postage with the Forever Stamp. Or, just buy higher denomination stamps for heavier packages at the Post Office.

Never place 2 Forever Stamps for a heavier mail because additional ounces are cheaper. Every additional ounce will cost only $0.21. So, rather than sticking a $0.49 worth forever stamp, it is wiser to pay $0.21 for the extra ounces of a letter. For example, if you affix 2 Forever Stamps on a 2-ounce letter, you will end up paying $0.98, when you could actually do it for $0.70 by sticking 1 forever stamp and $0.21 for the additional ounce. You could save $0.28.

Size Requirements

PostcardsEnvelopesLarge Envelopes

They have to be rectangular in order to qualify for the First Class Mail. If a postcard is oversized, it will be charged as a large envelope or letter.

 

Minimum

Maximum

Length

5 inches

6 inches

Height

3 ½ inches

4 ¼ inches

Thickness

0.007 inches

0.016 inches

A standard-sized envelope has to be rectangular in order to qualify for the USPS letter requirements.

 

Minimum

Maximum

Length

5 inches

11 ½ inches

Height

3 ½ inches

6 1/8 inches

Thickness

0.007 inches

¼ inches

A large envelope has to be rectangular in order to qualify for the flat pricing. If a large envelope exceeds the size requirements, it will be considered as a “package” and will be charged accordingly.

 

Maximum

Length

15 inches

Height

12 inches

Thickness

¾ inches

Types Of Mail Services

The USPS (United States Postal Service) is an independent agency of the federal government, which is responsible for offering postal services in the United States.

The USPS has various mail classes ranging from usual First Class Mail Letter service to overnight speed postal service like Priority Mail Express. Here is a table that lists every service from USPS to help you choose the correct mail class for your package.

Mail Class

Price

Max. Weight

Speed

Restrictions

First Class Mail Letter

$0.49

3.5 oz.

1 – 3 days

Shape & weight restrictions

First Class Mail Flat (envelopes)

$0.98

13 oz.

1 – 3 days

Shape & weight restrictions

First Class Package Service

$2.67

13 oz.

1 – 3 days

Shape & weight restrictions

Priority Mail

$5.95

70 lbs

1 – 3 days

Not Applicable

Priority Mail Express

$21.18

70 lbs

1 – 2 days

Not Applicable

Retail Ground

$6.65

70 lbs

2 – 9 days

Not Applicable

Medial Mail

$2.63

70 lbs

2 – 9 days

Content restrictions applicable

The types of USPS delivery services are:

  • First Class Mail
  • Priority Mail
  • Priority Mail Express
  • Media Mail
  • Parcel or Standard Post
  • Retail Ground

1. First Class Mail

This is an inexpensive and quick shipping method for any item that weighs 13 oz. or less. In fact, all the stamped packages and greeting cards go through First Class Mail. It can be an envelope, a box, or a package. The charge is calculated based on the weight.

When To Use: If your package or mail is 13 ounce or less and you don’t need an overnight delivery, First Class Mail is the ideal option.

Pros:

  • Rates are not affected due to distance.
  • No home delivery or fuel surcharges.
  • Fast and inexpensive for lightweight packages.

Cons:

  • The maximum weight is 13 ounces.
  • The First Class letters and flats are not eligible for USPS tracking.

2. Priority Mail

Any item can be shipped via Priority Mail, but the starting charge is about $5. If a parcel is 13 ounce or less, First Class is a cheaper and better method. The rates of Priority Mail depend on the item’s weight and the total distance between the source and the destination.

When To Use: If your package or mail is above 13 ounces and you need a fast delivery at a reasonable price, then Priority Mail is the best option.

Pros:

  • Free packaging and free USPS tracking.
  • Fast delivery. Delivers the package in 1 – 3 days.
  • Rates are fair for the weight and delivery speed.
  • Maximum weight of the package is 70 lbs.
  • Flat rate options for simplified shipping.

Cons:

  • Expensive than the other mail classes.
  • Rates depend on the weight and distance.

3. Priority Mail Express

This mail option is the best if your package is within 70 lbs and you want it to be delivered overnight within the United States. The price is highly expensive but if money is not a barrier, then Priority Mail Express is all what you need.

When To Use: If you want your package to be delivered very quickly (overnight) and price is not an issue, then Priority Mail Express is the ideal option.

Pros:

  • Overnight delivery for 365 days a year.
  • No home delivery or fuel surcharges.
  • Free packaging. Guaranteed delivery dates.
  • Maximum weight of the package is 70 lbs.

Cons:

  • The most expensive mail class from USPS.

4. Media Mail

This option is only for videos, books, records, and CDs. However, there are a few restrictions in Media Mail. The item can be in a nice, padded envelope but not in an ordinary, plain envelope with extra padding. Also, you cannot bubble wrap a book in a manila envelope.

If you are using a box, there should only be books without additional padding. You cannot send anything that has advertisements on it (e.g. magazines and newspapers). All the packages of Media Mail are subject to inspection. This means that the USPS has complete rights to open and check them.  If you happen to ship magazines or newspapers via Media Mail, it will be returned as a Postage Due.

Media Mail is a cheap option for education materials but can be slow because the USPS works on the “Space Available” approach. This means that all the other mail types go on the transportation first and only if there is a space, Media Mails are allowed. If there is no space, the package has to wait.

When To Use: Media Mail is great for sending educational materials like books and DVDs at low shipping rates for not-so-quick deliveries.

Pros:

  • No home delivery or fuel surcharges.
  • The cheapest option for any item that is over 13 ounce.
  • Maximum weight of the package is 70 lbs.
  • Price is based on the weight and not distance.

Cons:

  • Pretty slower than the other mail classes.
  • The content can only be sound recordings, books, printed music, recorded videos, and computer media (DVDs, CDs, & diskettes).

5. Parcel Post or Standard Post

This is somewhat cheap but takes a little longer. Any item can be dispatched through Parcel Post. That’s one reason most buyers prefer this option. Anything, that has to be shipped, which the recipient is not in a hurry to receive it, this mail class could be of great use and can help you save a lot on the shipping cost.

When To Use: If your content doesn’t meet the criteria of Media Mail and shipping charges are important than delivery speed, then go for Standard or Parcel Post.

Pros:

  • Packages can be a maximum of 70 lbs.
  • No home delivery or fuel surcharges.
  • Inexpensive. Price is based on the weight and not distance.

Cons:

  • Very slow than all the other mail classes.

6. Retail Ground

This is economical and reliable ground shipping for oversized packages. It is good if your package doesn’t need to be delivered that quickly. It is available for shipments that weigh 70 lbs or less.

When To Use: If the package doesn’t fit the Priority Mail requirements and is “oversized,” then consider the Retail Ground mail class.

Pros:

  • Packages can be a maximum of 70 lbs and 130 inches in both length & girth.
  • Free USPS tracking.

Cons:

  • Available for retail only.
  • Price depends on the weight.
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