What is a Postage Meter?
All You Need to Know About Postage Meters
Postage meters are devices designed to apply postage on mail, without the use of stamps. The process of applying postage on an envelope or parcel is called franking. Franking, A which is also another term for postage, can be done directly on envelopes, or on labels that are subsequently affixed to parcels, envelopes, etc. Postage from postage meters can be issued for any type of mail: first, second, third, or fourth class; airmail, registered mail, and any other special service offered by the US Post Office.
Types of Postage Meters
There are two main types of meters used today: digital meters and internet and stamp-based meters. Internet and stamp-based meters are more commonly used for applications such as returning online purchases. Users on sites like eBay can use these meters to print their own postage from their printer and apply them directly on packages. For consumers sending out infrequent, and limited amounts of mail this seems to be a practical option. However, most businesses choose to use digital meters.
Digital meters are most commonly used by businesses to send out letters, packages, and other mail without having to go to the post office. Digital postage meters come in all shapes and sizes, meaning you can find postage meters for small businesses and postage meters for large businesses. When you use a digital meter, the postage is generally added through an internet connection to the machine. Postage is then printed with special ink from an inkjet cartridge.
Parts of a Digital Postage Meter
The digital postage meter has several parts that work together in order to send out your mail.
The meter is the central part of your postage meter system. It stores the postage and prints the indicia, which is the printed information on the envelope that tells the USPS the amount of postage paid for that envelope or parcel, and the services associated with it. Normally, when someone says postage meter, they are actually referring to the meter of a postage meter.
The base is the portion of your postage meter that handles the envelope, transporting it to be stamped. There are four parts to a base: feeder, sealer, stacker, and tape dispenser.
Feeder: A feeder guides envelopes through the meter. This is important if you feed more than a couple of pieces a day, as the process can be tedious and time-consuming. Some meters come without a feeder, but we recommend considering this feature.
Sealer: A sealer moistens the envelope flap and closes it.
Stacker: A stacker clears mail from the machine after it is stamped.
Tape Dispenser: In some cases, it is not possible to print an indicia directly onto a mailing piece – like with a large package. In these cases, strips of adhesive paper, called tape, are fed through the meter and affixed to the package. The tape is stamped with the indicia or postage amount.
Other Parts of a Digital Postage Meter
Digital postage meters also come with a display screen. This enables you to change the settings of the postage you are applying and view details such as the remaining postage. Many postage meters also come with a scale either fixed to the machine or an external scale that can be plugged into the postage meter. Scales can weigh letters or packages and indicates how much postage to apply to your mail piece, based on the current rates applicable to the service selected. Some models automatically apply that amount when running the piece through the meter. Some models even allow you to shop the best rates, comparing different carriers. FP RateGuard™ insurance is available to guard against multiple USPS® rate increases. Postage rates are set by the USPS®
What Will the Actual “Stamp” That the Postage Meter Creates Look Like?
Pictured above is an example of an Information-Based Indicia (IBI), along with a sample company logo, which can be imprinted by the postage meter on an envelope. See below for a description of the Information-Based Indicia Program (IBIP) initiated by the USPS®. Your company logo can be replaced with a company advertisement, which you can change and customize. The 2-D barcode includes the following information: licensing post office, rate category, date of mailing, postage amount, device, or meter ID number.
What is IBIP?
The Information-Based Indicia Program (IBIP) was introduced by the USPS® to improve the security of postage meters by indicating electronic payment for postage. Meters that print Information-Based Indicia (IBI) differ from internet and stamp-based meters and are considered to be more advanced systems. The IBI printed from digital postage meters use a 2-D barcode combined with additional characters and symbols. These characters and symbols provide information that can be decrypted by the post office into information such as the amount of postage, mail class, zip code, destination, weight, and tracking number.
What Are the Reasons for Having a Postage Meter?
Printed postage can help your business in a variety of ways:
- Promoting a professional image. By using a postage meter, you can include your company logo and even a message with your indicia. This helps solidify your brand and makes you appear more professional to your customers or clients.
- Assign exact postage. By using a scale and pre-built-in postage rates, you can assign exact postage to each piece of mail you send out. No more guessing how many stamps to put on an envelope, or getting returned mail.
- Eliminate trips to the post office. By using a postage meter, you no longer need to take trips to the post office. Send mail in different classes by printing indicia and labels directly to your letters, envelopes, and packages.
- Track costs. When you use a digital postage meter, you can track your overall costs related to the meter, but you can also track the costs for every campaign you do. No more guessing how much mailing is costing your business, you’ll know down to the penny!
It has been calculated that using postage meters can save your business up to 20 percent in mailing costs over time.
How Can a Postage Meter Help My Business?
Because all of your postage is purchased through the meter, using a postage meter gives the advantage of tracking postage costs for your business or organization. Additionally, postage meters come in different sizes for different volumes of mail. Whether you send out a couple of dozen pieces of mail a week or even hundreds, a postage meter can help save you money on postage and make you more efficient.
Moreover, you actually get discounted mail when you use a postage meter. As of January 2021, using a postage meter saves $0.05 per envelope weighing up to 2.5 ounces, lowering the cost of a typical First-Class Mail® letter to $0.50.
Frequently Asked Postage Meter Questions
If you have a question about postage meters, we can answer it. Continue reading to get answers to frequently asked postage meter questions and learn how postage meters can help save your business time and money on your mailing solutions.
Postage meters are currently authorized for use on all mail services (except periodicals), including Domestic First-Class Mail® services, Priority Mail®services, Express Mail® services, Parcel Post™, International Mail, Presorted First-Class Mail discount services, and Extra Services.
You would simply run a self-adhesive label through the postage meter and attach it to the package.
Unused indicia or postage printed with your meter can be considered for refund. The complete, legible indicia can be submitted within 60 days of the date in the meter stamp for refund at a postal retail window. For specific details, contact your local Post Office.
One of the mailing systems consultants at Offix is always available to assist you with any problems you might have. Please, note that, by law, customers are not allowed to open the meter component of the postage meter since it contains live postage.
No. Postage meters, regardless of manufacturer, are rented – never owned. These postage meters are highly regulated by the USPS® because they hold actual U.S. mint.
Federal regulations prohibit that the USPS® compete with private enterprise. The Postal Service is a regulatory authority, determining product compliance with regulations and supplying product authorization on the basis of demonstrated compliance. The USPS® only regulates manufacturers that provide postage meters; they are not allowed to supply them.
The postage is debited from your bank account into your postage account. Your contains a built-in, self-dialing modem that sets your meter’s value. For this reason, your meter needs to be connected to a standard analog telephone jack using a standard phone cord, which is supplied to you. You can also set up your account on reset debit instead of “on demand” debit so that when you reset your meter, your bank account is automatically debited without having to call FP.
No need to leave your office or business, or to send out checks. Your postage meter will download new postage directly into its system whenever you want. You can use your credit card or FP’s Reset Debit Program.
Postage meters come with postal scales, which are often integrated into the postage meter itself. Simply place the envelope or package on the scale, and the correct postage is determined and set immediately.
You would need to return your old meter to the old manufacturer. The money would be refunded from the USPS® for that account.