If you frequently send mail using USPS, you may have come across the First-Class Packaging Service Retail and started to wonder what this entails and how it differs from standard First Class Mail, which USPS also provides.
The First-Class Packaging Service Retail is the service by which most people send their packages via USPS’s First-Class Mail service. This service does not involve any postcards, letters, or flats, and it is a fairly economical and quick mailing option. Commercial rates are also available for businesses.
What Is The First-Class Packaging Service Retail?
The First-Class Packaging Service is a standard kind of mailing that is among the most popular of the services offered by USPS, and it’s thought that around 50 billion pieces of mail are sent using this option every year.
The retail service is what you will receive if you approach the USPS counter with a package, or if you buy your labels online without an account – essentially, the retail price. This is what the vast majority of everyday people and even many small businesses will use.
You will pay the standard retail rate for your package (the cost will depend upon how much your parcel weighs and how far it is traveling), and you won’t receive any discounts, even if you send a lot of mail.
This is the service that many people use day to day, and unless you run a business, you might choose to continue doing so in order to keep your life simple. However, be aware that this is more expensive, and if you wish to access cheaper rates, you need to look into the First-Class Packaging Service Commercial.
Talk to a USPS employee if you aren’t sure which postal option suits your needs. It can be a challenge to work out what you need at times, and an employee should be able to help you determine what the cheapest option is according to how swiftly you want the package to travel and where it is going.
This is particularly useful if you have a lot of packages you need to send, and the price is important to you.
What Is The Difference Between The First-Class Packing Service Retail And The First-Class Packing Service Commercial?
The major difference between these two services is simply that commercial services are cheaper because they are designed to allow businesses to enjoy cost savings as a result of sending large numbers of packages.
Businesses usually send a lot of parcels (if they send any at all) and therefore USPS offers lower prices. They can afford to make a smaller margin because the customer is using their service a great deal.
Of course, not everyone can access the Commercial rates that USPS offers, and if you are not a business or you are only a small business, you may not qualify. If you send small amounts of packages over the course of a year, you will probably have to pay the standard retail prices.
If, however, you send more than five thousand pieces of First-Class mail every year, you may want to sign a customer commitment agreement, and this will give you access to the commercial rates.
You will need to create an account and discuss your shipping requirements with the account manager that you will be given. If your shipping numbers drop, you may lose access to the Commercial rate; you must ship five thousand packages a year to maintain this.
Talk to a USPS employee if you are interested in learning about the First-Class Package Service Commercial, especially if you are running a small business and you spend a lot of money on sending mail. Note that to meet the five thousand quota, you will need to be sending mail using the First-Class service, not other postal services.
Having an agreement for other USPS services (such as if you have a Commercial agreement for Priority Mail) does not mean that you automatically qualify for the First-Class Package Service Commercial. You will have to apply for this service separately, and meet the quota separately.
How Fast Does Mail Shipped With The First-Class Package Service Retail Travel?
Overall, First-Class Mail is usually delivered in one to five business days (for letters and postcards), and small packages are delivered within one to three business days. The First-Class Package Service should only take one to three days because it is specifically designed for packages, not letters.
This is slower than the Priority Mail service, so if you need items to be delivered quickly, it may not be such a great option, but it does cost less. It can often provide a nice balance between the two services, particularly if you are shipping as a business and you need to offer competitive rates but reasonable shipping speeds.
How Much Does The First-Class Package Service Retail Cost?
How much this service costs will depend on what you are sending and where it is going. If you are sending a small, light package to one of the low number zones (e.g. Zone 1, 2, 3, etc.), you will pay significantly less than if you are sending a heavy package to one of the high number zones, such as Zone 9.
Prices in Zone 1 and Zone 2 start from $4.50, and this goes up for both weight increases and zone increases. The further you are sending an item and the heavier it is, the higher the cost of the First-Class Package Service Retail will be.
You should also check that the package falls within the allowable dimensions and is under the weight limit for packages.
How Heavy Can A First-Class Package Service Item Be?
Items that you send using the First-Class Package Service must be under thirteen ounces if you buy your shipping from a Post Office. There are no exceptions to this, which can be quite frustrating if you are used to purchasing your shipping online – where the allowance is higher.
If you purchase the shipping online, your First-Class Package Service will allow you to send packages up to fifteen ounces. This is also true of the First-Class Package Service Commercial, which is another reason to access this kind of shipping if you are able to.
How Large Can A First-Class Package Service Item Be?
Although the items are priced by weight, there are size limits to take into account, and you will not be allowed to send an item over a certain size using this service. Packages that are sent using the First-Class Package Service must be less than 108 inches overall.
They should also be less than twenty-two inches long, eighteen inches wide, and fifteen inches thick. However, items that are less than 0.007 inches thick will not count as packages, and must be sent as First-Class Postcards, First-Class Letters, or First-Class Flats (large envelopes).
The disadvantage of this is that you will not enjoy the one to three day delivery estimate; all three of the First-Class services above can take up to five business days to arrive.
It may be better to send mail via the Priority service, but as a letter. Discuss the cheapest option with your local USPS employees if you are unsure as this may depend upon zones and weight, as well as size.
What Happens If My Item Is Over The Weight Or Size Limit?
If you attempt to send a package that is over the allowance for First-Class Mail (either a package or a letter), your item will have to be sent using another service. You may be asked to choose this at the Post Office counter, or charged extra if you have purchased your shipping online and mailed an item that does not fit the criteria.
There is no way to send items above the weight limit for First-Class Mail unless you choose another shipping option; this is a fixed limit that cannot be exceeded.
Are First-Class Package Service Items Tracked?
Yes, the First-Class Package Service Retail items are all sent with tracking as a standard, and there is no way to remove the tracking option even if you do not want it. You will be given a tracking number and the ability to track the package on USPS’s website, which will help you to establish when the package will arrive.
Does USPS Provide Boxes For Their First-Class Package Service?
Although USPS provides free boxes for customers who wish to use the Priority Mail service, they unfortunately do not provide these for those who are using the First-Class Mail service. You will have to use your own packaging if you want to utilize First-Class Mail.
Do not use the Priority Mail boxes for First-Class Mail, even if you already have one of these boxes and you are planning to cover up the label. This can be tempting, especially if you don’t already have packaging to hand, but it is not permitted and USPS will charge you a Priority rate. This packaging is exclusively for Priority Mail customers.
You can use any plain sturdy packaging that you like for First-Class Mail. Cardboard boxes or padded envelopes are good options. These packages do not need to be flat; as long as they are within the dimensions mentioned above, they can be any shape or size.
Are The First-Class Mail Service Delivery Times Guaranteed?
Unfortunately, the delivery times for First-Class Mail are estimates only, and you will not have any comeback if USPS takes longer to deliver the item than they predicted. That means that even if your item takes more than five days to arrive, you will not be able to claim any recompense or your shipping costs back.
This is frustrating, but if you need items to arrive quickly, it is best to select a guaranteed service, such as Priority Mail. If this is delayed beyond the guaranteed delivery time, you can reclaim your shipping costs.
Are First-Class Mail Package Service Items Insured?
No, there is no insurance on standard First-Class Mail of any kind, as this is considered one of the most basic delivery services (although there are cheaper options). If you would like the item to be insured, talk to a USPS employee about this so you can decide what the best insurance option would be.
If you are sending low value items, it is unlikely to be economically viable to send items insured, so First-Class Mail is probably your best option in spite of the lack of insurance.
What Causes An Item To Be Classed As A Package?
If you are sending an item that is almost flat, you might be wondering whether your item is likely to be sent via the First-Class Package service or if it is okay to send it as a letter.
The USPS employees should be able to clarify this for you, but in general, any item that is over a certain depth (up to ¾ of an inch for large envelopes, or ¼ of an inch for standard letters) will count as a package. Items that are not rectangular or that vary in thickness will also need to be sent using the First-Class Package Service.
You should always check that a letter is under the maximum thickness, or you may find that you get charged additional mailing costs.
Understanding the intricacies of the First-Class Package Service Retail is a good way to ensure that you are getting the best deal when shipping items, and not paying over the odds for a package you need to send.
It’s a great option that offers a quick but economical service, and many small businesses and individuals find the retail option is perfect for their needs, even if they are unable to access commercial rates.
If you want to maximize the simplicity of sending and receiving packages, you may wish to look into getting a Virtual Mailbox from US Global Mail; this will give you a super convenient way to receive packages even when you aren’t at home. You can securely accept items and view them online, and then pick them up at your leisure.