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All About USPS Postal Zones

September 8th, 2017

Imagine that the originating point of your mail is your home or office. Your mailpieces, bearing postage printed with the powerful Stamps.com program, will travel to a wide variety of destination points on the map. If you draw a perfect circle on a piece of paper with a compass, your originating point will be where the compass needle hits the paper, and the arc would represent the destination zones.

The USPS uses a distance-based system of postal zones. This means that the area that is considered Zone 1, for example, would change depending on where you are. The farther a zone is, the higher the zone number.  Distance also affects the price of postage and the farther a zone is, the higher the postage cost if you are sending non-Flat Rate mailpieces. The farther the zone, the longer the mail will take to get there.  Simple, right?

Make this radial, distance-based system work for you. The Postal Service’s Domestic Zone Chart has two useful tools. First, you can get a Zone Chart by entering the first 3-digits of your ZIP Code—for example, “967” for ZIP Code 96795.

You can also plug in a mailpiece’s origin ZIP and destination ZIP to determine the appropriate zone. Say you’re sending a case of bottled water from Manchester, New Hampshire (ZIP Code 03101) to Honolulu, Hawaii (ZIP Code 96795). For this pair, Zone 8 pricing and travel times would apply. If you’re sending the package from Manchester, but this time it’s headed to Concord, New Hampshire (ZIP Code 03301), it would be Zone 1.

If you’re an e-commerce seller, this will help determine what you want to charge for shipping and whether switching to Flat Rate Boxes, in which the price remains the same regardless of distance, is a better fit.  If you have a secondary office or a partner working from another location, you may want to coordinate your efforts to ensure that certain items are sent over shorter distances.

Using the Stamps.com software 

The Stamps.com platform will take the guesswork out of zones. You’ll never have to enter the zone number. However, it is helpful to keep zones in mind as you look for the most economical way to ship your packages. When using zone-based mailing and shipping services, you’ll notice that you may have to enter dimensions for some mailpieces. The higher the zone number (and longer the travel distance), the more likely you’ll have to enter package dimensions.

To ensure you’re paying the correct rate of postage, always enter the dimensions when the software asks that you input them. For non-Flat Rate envelopes and boxes, you may be subject to a USPS Dimensional Weight Surcharge for Zones 5-8. The Stamps.com software will take stress out of the equation and calculate this automatically for you.

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