It used to be you had two options to process mail. You either waited in line at the Post Office and kept inventories of stamps or you got a postage meter or PC Postage solution that might have hefty charges. There are now three ways that you can process mail through the internet for free (Or almost free) that we will go over in detail. If you are doing hundreds or thousands of dollars in mail per month these might not be the right solutions for you, but they may fill in some of the gaps.
Here are the main places that I see these solutions being helpful:
- People working out of their homes or in small offices that do less than $100 per month in postage or need simple ways to process packages.
- Travelling workers who need to post letters and packages while on the road.
- Entities that have lots of locations and want to distribute postage to their field sites and control the expense centrally.
- Starting on January 25, 2015, Postage Meters users will get a 7-78% increase on their Priority and Express Mail® rates because the USPS will require a full address label with the barcode as shown below. Anyone who does not use these labels will only be eligible for the Retail rates (Vs. the Commercial Rates they get today) which are 7-78% higher. These free solutions can meet these labeling requirements and maintain your current discounts.
I have done extensive research and spoken to all of these providers to better understand what their offerings can provide. The chart below is a full comparison of their features so you can see which will be most important to your application. Instead of going through each line on this chart, we are going to break the discussion into two areas so you can see what is best for you:
- Processing Packages
- Processing Letters and Flats
The impressive part in looking at all of the providers is the amount you can do online through their tools for free.
The United States Postal Service now offers tools where you can process packages online and order stamps that can be shipped in 3-5 days to your office. These tools have come a long way from when they were first launched and can be a great solution for your organization.
The site has a lot of capability when processing packages. You can validate and store addresses, process bulk shipments, and the site has great visibility to all of the different options available through the USPS. The only complaint that I had is this site may be difficult for the casual user as there are so many options. This will not be an issue for someone who ships regularly but the occasional user may find it cumbersome to get through. The good news is there are no fees to use the system to process packages and you can take advantage of Commercial Based Prices which save 7-78% over the retail rates.
Letters and Flats
The USPS offers a way for you to order stamps that can be shipped to your office and cost $1.35-1.85 per order (Based on quantity and Include Priority Shipping). They have hundreds of stamp options to choose from of all different designs, denominations and quantities. The downside to this is you need to plan your purchases and it may be difficult to have the exact stamp value for odd sized pieces.
Postageanywhere.com is a startup out of Silicon Valley that is on a mission to make postage simple. They have designed a site that is incredibly easy to use with the ease you would expect on a smartphone App. According to Greg Ojeda the CEO and Founder of PostageAnywhere.com:
“We created PostageAnywhere to make shipping simple and fast, giving our users access to the products and services they want, from any internet connected device, all without monthly fees. This is only the tip of the iceberg, in the coming months we are launching exclusive pricing discounts and features that are going to revolutionize the small and mid-volume shipping markets.”
This site was incredibly easy to process packages and anyone with almost no experience could figure it out in minutes. They can do almost everything you can do on USPS.com but it was much faster to complete a transaction. What impressed me when speaking with Greg Ojeda the CEO and Founder was their ability to customize the application for the future. As an example, they can create a front end that can be branded for a large organization that will be a central portal for all packages to be processed across the enterprise – All for free!
Letters and Flats
They are only doing packages at this time but have plans to expand the capabilities in the future.
Endicia.com provides this offering as a no cost way to be able to process mail and parcels. They are one of the leaders in PC Postage and also produce their own line of scales, label printers and supplies. It is the only offering that can generate postage for letters and flats online. The system has options that will satisfy many small volume mailers and the system can be upgraded to increased functionality through its paid plans starting at $9.95 per month. According to Amine Khechfé, General Manager and Co-founder, Endicia:
“Smart businesses take advantage of technology like DYMO Stamps for a quick and easy way to print on-demand the exact values of postage right from their desks. Our unique no-monthly-fee DYMO Stamps service means they can run their mailing operations like the big dogs even when working from a home office.”
The system can process packages, but the free version is not as robust as the other two offerings. It can produce Priority and Express Mail but you will not be able to get the Commercial Based Rates discussed above unless you upgrade to the paid version. This site will let you connect to their USB label printers and scales (If purchased) or you can key enter the amount and print from your local printer. They have a good amount of flat rate shipping options and you can key in the sizing. Heavier items may need to have the rates entered manually.
Letters and Flats
This is where this system shines. You can print on sheets of labels from your local printer that can be ordered from their website or through your office supply store. The label sheets come 24 to a page and the system is very easy to print 1 stamp, multiple different denomination stamps or an entire sheet at the same amount. You can add reference numbers to your transactions and all of the postage can be tracked on a central dashboard for 1 site or the entire enterprise. What I liked is the amount of payment options including Credit Card, ACH or linking to your CAPS Account with the USPS. Finally, when you process letters, you get a 2% savings on the rate over buying stamps.
Each of the providers offers a tremendous value for free or with only minimal fees. The type of mailer/shipper will determine which one is right for you.
USPS.com has a lot of functionality for packages but may be too complex for the casual user. Also, it is great to be able to order stamps and have them shipped to your office but many may need faster turnaround times.
Postageanywhere.com is great for simplifying the shipping process and has future plans that are worth following that will expand services.
Dymostamps.com is hands down the best solution if you are doing letters and flats but lacks some of the package functionality of the other two. This can be rectified with low monthly subscriptions.
For most basic mailers and shippers the ideal solution would be taking the shipping simplicity of Postageanywhere.com and combining it with the letter and flats capability of Dymostamps.com for an unbelievable free option that can make it easy to mail and ship whatever and where ever you are(in an office, home or on the road). Regardless of the solution, it is truly amazing what is available online at little or no cost to make your mailing and shipping lives easier.