In the U.S., postage meters cannot be purchased or sold, only rented or leased. Learn what hidden fees to be aware of when calculating costs.
Who has time to go to the post office to get stamps these days? It's no surprise that more and more business owners want to have their own postage meter on-premises. These devices weigh and print postage accurately onto your outgoing business mail – essentially replacing stamps. Postage is downloaded to the meter through your computer.
There are several benefits to getting a postage meter, including:
- Discounted postage rates through USPS (United States Postal Service)
- Reduced mail processing time
- Accurate weighing and postage costs – this alone can save you up to 20 percent on mailroom expenses
- Branding opportunity – you can personalize your postage labels.
If your business spends more than $50 a month on mail, you'll benefit from investing in a postage meter. Here are some tips for making the best decision when it comes to getting a postage meter.
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1. You can't buy a postage meter.
In the U.S., you can't buy a postage meter; you can only rent or lease one from an authorized dealer. The USPS regulates the creation and distribution of all postage meters under federal law because postage is considered a form of U.S. currency. However, the USPS doesn't rent out the meters themselves. You can rent a postage meter from several authorized dealers; normally, you'll sign a one- to two-year contract and pay a monthly rental fee.
2. There are three types of postage meters to choose from.
The size of your business and the amount of mail you send will determine what type of postage meter is best for your needs. While most postage meters share the same features, including printing postage for any type of mailing (domestic or international) and the ability to refill postage, there are other important features to consider when choosing a postage meter.
- Small postage meters: For businesses that send a low volume of mail throughout the week. Generally, these meters have a speed of 15 to 40 letters per minute (LPM), a built-in scale that weighs a maximum of 10 pounds, and the ability to create a customizable graphic for the postage.
- Medium postage meters: For medium to large businesses that send a high volume of mail per week. These meters are semi-automatic, capable of handling mail of different shapes and sizes, have a speed of 100 to 200 LPM, have a built-in scale that weighs a maximum of 15 pounds with the option of adding an external scale to increase the weight to 100 pounds, and the ability to create customizable graphics to add to the postage.
- Large postage meters: For large corporations. These have the largest set of functions and advancements. They have a built-in scale that weighs a maximum of 15 pounds with the option of adding an external scale to increase the weight to 150 pounds, the ability to create customizable graphics to add to the postage, are often fully automatic, and run at a speed of 100 to 350 LPM.
3. Small fees can add up quickly.
Beyond the monthly rental fee, consider the following additional fees you may incur:
- Actual postal fees for your mail sent during the month, the cost of insuring the meter
- Adhesive tape or labels, special meter-compatible ink (not all meters require these specialty inks)
- Refilling the postage
- Resetting the postage rates
- Other machine add-ons – such as sorters, stackers, sealers, etc.
- Property taxes for the mailing equipment
4. There are several factors that determine the right postage meter for your business.
The volume of mail you're sending should be the primary deciding factor for determining the best size and type of meter. Don't always assume the larger meter is you best option when a higher-end, smaller meter might be better. For example, if most of the mail you're sending is of similar size and weight, such as leaflets or letters, you don't need the largest model of meter even if you're sending out a high volume of mail. Instead, look into getting a high-end medium-sized meter that can handle a high volume of mail; it'll be more cost-efficient in the long run.
If you have the extra allotment in your budget, choose a postage meter that includes online access. This allows the meter to receive automatic updates to the its system, keeping the machine up-to-date with the current postage costs and preventing you from having to pay any underpayment fees.