Get the latest information on the mailing and shipping industry.
Get the latest information on the mailing and shipping industry.
A hurricane or forest fire is mentioned in the news – how will it affect your shipment? Is there a way to stay ahead of the game and find out where and when the USPS mail service will be affected?
Post Offices can be affected by anything from fires, tornadoes, and power outages, to flooding, falling debris, and roof replacement projects. International shipments can be affected by wars, political instability, labor strikes, and natural disasters.
The U.S. Postal Service provides an information hub for all mail disruptions at: http://about.usps.com/news/service-alerts/welcome.htm
Getting Local and National Updates
On a national level, you can access detailed information about which delivery units are not accepting drop shipments or whether your Post Office is open today. If your Post Office is temporarily closed, the USPS will provide information on which facilities are handling the mail volume for that location in the meantime. Usually, a nearby Post Office will handle the mail temporarily for the area. In some cases, temporary cluster box units may be installed to provide delivery service to local residents, or if you use a PO Box, your mail will be sent to a box at another Post Office.
You can also access detailed Mail Service Disruption Reports, and you can find out whether service was suspended due to a power outage or road closure, for example, or due to a fire or flood. The option of “USPS facilities status” will provide information on whether your facility is slated to be permanently closed.
International Mail Disruptions
For mail being sent to international addresses, this helpful page will provide information such as which services are suspended or restored for countries affected by unfortunate events, such as wars or natural disasters. Mail addressed to a country seriously affected by hostilities may be returned to you so it is important to stay abreast of any issues abroad.
Keep Your Customers Updated
When you are shipping packages to domestic or international customers and a delay is expected, contact the recipient as soon as you learn about any disruptions so they are aware of possible delays to their shipments. Your customers will not only appreciate you keeping them in the loop but this practice will also help avoid customer complaints and negative reviews about your business.
The U.S. Postal Service has proposed a postage rate increase for select mail classes and services in 2016, pending approval from the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC). If approved by the PRC, the new postage rates will start on Sunday, January 17, 2016. Below are some highlights on the upcoming rate changes:
Priority Mail Express
The Priority Mail Express service will see an average increase of 15.6% in postage rates next year. 2016 Commercial Base rates for your Priority Mail Express packages will increase across the board, with the exception of packages weighing less than 0.5 lbs being shipped to Zones 5, 6 and 7.
Priority Mail Express Flat Rate Boxes & Envelopes
In 2016, Priority Mail Express Flat Rate Envelopes will see an increase of $2.55. Priority Mail Express Flat Rate Boxes will be discontinued next year.
Priority Mail rates will see an average increase of 9.4% in 2016.
Priority Mail Flat Rate Boxes & Envelopes
Postage rates for Priority Mail Flat Rate Boxes as well as Envelopes will increase across the board in 2016.
Priority Mail Regional Rate Boxes
Postage for Priority Mail Regional Rate Boxes A and B will be increasing for a large majority of the zones as shown below. Priority Mail Regional Rate Box C will be discontinued in 2016.
First Class Package Service
First Class Package Service rates will see an average increase of 12.8% in 2016. The maximum weight for First Class Package Service Commercial Base pricing will be increased from up to 13 ounces to up to 16 ounces. First Class Package Service Commercial Plus pricing will no longer exist in 2016.
Parcel Select Ground
Currently known as Parcel Select Nonpresort, this ground service will undergo a name change in 2016 and will be referred to as Parcel Select Ground next year. Parcel Select Ground rates will see an average increase of 1.9% in 2016. Postage prices will actually go down for packages weighing between 3 – 10 lbs. and being shipped to Zones 1 – 5.
International shippers will also see an increase in postage rates starting January 17, 2016. Below are some highlights on the upcoming rate changes for international mail classes:
Global Express Guaranteed postage rates are expected to rise by an average of 7.1%.
Priority Mail Express International postage rates will increase by an average of 11.6% next year. Flat Rate Boxes for this international service will be discontinued in 2016. In addition, prices for Priority Mail Express International Flat Rate Envelopes and Boxes will be further separated into additional country groups.
Priority Mail International postage rates will see an overall increase of 10.2% in 2016. Commercial Base and Commercial Plus pricing for this service will be the same next year.
First Class Package International Service postage rates will increase by an average of 21.6% in 2016, however Commercial Base and Plus prices will remain the same next year. The average price increases by pound are:
– Up to 1 lb. – Average Increase of $5.17
– Up to 2 lbs. – Average Increase of ($1.77)
– Up to 3 lbs. – Average Increase of $1.63
– Up to 4 lbs. – Average Increase of $11.58
Below are details on additional changes that will be implemented next year:
Critical Mail: In order to further simplify its product offerings, the U.S. Postal Service will discontinue the Critical Mail service in 2016 once the new rates are implemented in January.
Click-N-Ship Features: Available on USPS.com, these features will move to retail pricing once the new rates are implemented in January 2016. Commercial Base pricing for these features will no longer be available.
Stamps.com Will Automatically Update to the New USPS Rates on January 17, 2016
Stamps.com will automatically update all USPS rates inside the software and web-based version (Stamps.com Online) on Sunday, January 17, 2016. If you are a Stamps.com customer, no additional actions are needed and you will see the new USPS rates automatically.
Stamps.com recently released a Complete Guide to USPS International Shipping infographic, that includes tips for international shipping, shipping carrier cost comparisons, eBay’s top categories for international sales and much more!
Below is the complete infographic. Learn how to ship your USPS packages to international customers and expand your business globally by tapping into the growing demand for American-made products. Download your FREE copy of the Complete Guide to USPS International Shipping eBook here!
Can’t see the Complete Guide to USPS International Shipping infographic? View it here (use your browser zoom to enlarge).
Want to learn more about expanding your business and selling to customers across the globe? Download the FREE eBook, Complete Guide to USPS International Shipping.
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The first thing to remember is that U.S. Territories are considered domestic mail, so you would use the Stamps.com domestic sections for sending mail to these locations. Due to USPS requirements regarding tracking barcodes, we recommend using the “Packages” option within the Stamps.com software if the thickness of your mail piece is over 3/4″.
Like U.S. states, territories and possessions have two-letter codes and each address will be matched and cleansed according to USPS mailing standards. The codes are:
AS – American Samoa
GU – Guam
MP – Northern Mariana Islands
PR – Puerto Rico
VI – Virgin Islands
UM – U.S. Minor Outlying Islands
Do I need customs forms?
This will vary according to the location. You do not generally need a customs form for mail headed to Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands. See below for all other U.S. Territories.
Preparing your Customs Forms and Shipping Labels
You will always need a customs form for all the other U.S. territories. Stamps.com takes the guesswork out of this process. When printing a shipping label, the Stamps.com software will automatically alert you or convert the label into the appropriate Shipping Label/Customs Form when you enter a territorial address!
Alternatively, you can manually select Stamps.com’s Online Customs Form (2976-A). This form for Priority Mail combines postage and customs forms into one convenient label and you can print this on plain paper! You can fill out the required customs form information electronically on our software. How? Follow the simple steps below:
– Select your content type.
– Enter your itemized package content details and click on “Add Item” for each separate type of product/article you are shipping.
– Enter an ITN number if your package’s total value exceeds $2,500 or if your particular goods require an export license.
Stamps.com’s Online Customs Form (2976-A) option can be found under the software’s Packages and Batch sections. Once you enter an address for a U.S. territory, you’ll see “Plain Paper 2976-A 3 sheets per label” appear on the drop-down Printing On menu.
Micronesia, Palau, and the Marshall Islands
Wait, aren’t the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of Palau, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands independent countries? Yes, but they have a special arrangement with the United States known as the Compact of Free Association, and use USPS domestic mail service. They also use 2-letter state codes:
FM – Federated States of Micronesia
MH – Marshall Islands
PW – Palau
To send mail to these countries, you may use the Domestic options within the Stamps.com software.
Shipping your packages to U.S. Territories with Stamps.com
So you have your label and package ready to ship. What’s next? In the Stamps.com software, you can schedule a pickup for these mailpieces if your request includes at least one or more Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express mailpieces.
After sending out your packages, just keep in mind that shipment times to destinations outside of the contiguous United States may be longer than normal. While delivery time is never guaranteed, your Priority Mail package to Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands may take up to 3 days to reach its destination, whereas it would have taken only 2 days to reach a destination within the contiguous states.
A smooth shipping process not only helps streamline your operations as an e-commerce seller, but also ensures your products reach your customers without undue delays. Moreover, you can focus your efforts on growing your business instead of dealing with customer complaints and questions around package delivery status or postage due at the time of delivery.
What can you do to ensure a seamless shipping experience from the time your package leaves your hands and reaches your customer? Follow these five easy USPS shipping guidelines!
Pay Attention To Your Package
Guideline #1 – Round up on Weights: Did you know that the USPS rounds up package weights to the nearest ounce or pound depending on the mail class used? To avoid underpaying for postage or even worse having your customer pay postage at the time of delivery, always round up your package weight. As an example, if your package weighs 10 lbs. and 5 oz., you should use the shipping rate for an 11 lb. package.
Guideline #2 – Check the Dimensions: Your package size can make a difference in how much you pay shipping! Dimensional (DIM) weight may apply to a USPS package that is larger than 1 cubic foot (12″ x 12″ x 12″). Pay attention to the dimensions of your package and avoid unnecessary empty space to lower shipping costs.
Does Your Shipping Label Match Your Package?
Guideline #3 – Verify the Mail Class: What mail class should you use to ship your package? This depends on the weight of your package, how soon you need it to be at its destination and also how much you want to pay for shipping. Remember, each mail class allows packages up to a certain weight limit only. Choose First Class Package Service for packages weighing up to 13 ounces and Priority Mail for packages over that weight limit!
Guideline #4 – Double check the Shipping Zone: USPS Shipping Zones are calculated based on the distance between the origin and destination addresses. Stamps.com customers should verify that the origin zip code (the zip code for where you ship your packages from) is set up correctly.
Guideline #5 – Match the Label to the Packaging: Your shipping label should match your package! For example, based on the package weight, size and shipping zone of your package, if you have decided to use a Flat Rate Priority Mail Box for your package, make sure to choose the corresponding mail class while printing your label. Also, your Flat Rate label must only be used on a Flat Rate box.
USPS Shipping Made Easy With Stamps.com
When you ship with Stamps.com, you don’t need to worry about underpaying for postage. Use your Stamps.com digital scale to accurately weigh your package and the software will automatically use the rounded up weight and charge you the appropriate shipping rate. Next, enter the package dimensions so Stamps.com can determine whether or not DIM weight applies to your package. Select the correct package type or enter the dimensions of your package. Also, make sure to set up your origin zip code correctly. When you enter the destination address, Stamps.com automatically calculates the correct shipping zone for your package. Finally, choose your mail class and Stamps.com will print the appropriate USPS shipping label for your package.
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