Postage meters make sending direct mail more convenient. Does your business need one?
- Postage meters allow you to efficiently and conveniently label mail from your own facility.
- Many model and leasing options are available to allow you to choose the solution that works best for your business.
- When choosing a postage meter, consider your average monthly mail output, contract stipulations and how much you are willing to spend on consumable costs.
When you run a small business, every minute counts, so you don't want to stand in line at the post office to process all of your incoming and outgoing mail. Whether you manage a small Etsy shop or you're on the cusp of enterprise-level business, you may need a postage meter. You have many options when looking for a postage meter, including multiple sizes, models and contract options, as well as alternatives if you determine that a postage meter is not right for you.
What is a postage meter?
A postage meter is a postage printing machine or system that is leased by an authorized provider for use in your home or office. A meter prints postage directly onto your package or on meter tape, which can be pressed on the package. Meters will also print a strip of ink in lieu of a traditional stamp or sticker of your logo.
An in-house meter allows you to weigh, scan, print and process all your outgoing mail and packages from your office, which can save you time, money and hassle. However, there are alternatives to postage meters that may be more cost-effective, depending on your business's needs.
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How does a postage meter work?
The vast majority of modern postage meters are digital, with easy-to-use touchscreens and updated interfaces. When you get your meter, you will prefill the machine with a certain amount of paid postage.
Your letters (or whatever you are mailing) are then sent through the machine, where they are printed with "indicia" or "franks," which are markings that show key information about the package, such as the weight, the mailer's ZIP code, the class of mail and that the sender prepaid for the postage. Certain meters also include tracking information within the frank.
Your postage funds are applied each time you send a letter or a package, and you can add more funds to your meter through an online USPS account, automated clearing house (ACH) or direct debit.
Can I buy or rent a postage meter?
The outright purchase of postage meters is prohibited by federal postage laws that consider postage a currency. Postage meters are available to rent from verified suppliers, though you must obtain a permit from your city of mailing to operate one.
Before you begin reaching out to suppliers for pricing quotes, it's important to determine your volume of mail and exactly what you need a postage meter for. This is because many suppliers include hidden charges with your rental fees if you're not using your meter to its full potential. Ask yourself these questions:
- How much mail do you send in an average month?
- What types of mail do you send? (Mostly letters? Large packages?)
- What additional features do you need (e.g., printing on envelopes, customization)?
Your mailing volume and required features will contribute to how much you pay per month for your postage meter rental. You should expect to pay anywhere from $20 per month for a very basic machine to over $1,000 per month for a large-scale mail processing station. You will also pay monthly for postage, regular maintenance, and supplies like ink, tape sheets, envelopes and envelope-sealing solution.
Where can I rent a postage meter?
There are currently five companies in the United States authorized to supply postage meters:
- Pitney Bowes
- FP Mailing Solutions
- Quadient (formally Neopost)
- Data-Pac Mailing Systems
- Hasler Inc. (available through Quadient)
Why should I get a postage meter?
Not every business needs its own postage meter, but if your business regularly handles a high volume of mail, it might be worth investing in your own system.
A postage meter can save you time and money. It helps you avoid overpaying for postage by providing the exact cost of your mail based on weight, destination and type. Many meters also offer discounts on USPS and express mail services. It saves you the inconvenience of running all your mail through the post office, and you can use it for all types of mail, including priority, express and parcel post.
Because postage meters are completely digital, you can also track your spending, purchase additional postage and ensure that your postage is accurately priced, all directly from the machine.
Why shouldn't I get a postage meter?
Postage meters are a restrictive product in that they are only offered by five authorized suppliers, cannot be owned, can only be serviced by the supplier that leased you the machine, and require a long- or short-term contract. They are also subject to fluctuating postage rates, which can be cumbersome for older, non-digital machines that cannot automatically update to the new rates.
There are alternatives to an in-house postage meter that can save you money on leasing and maintenance fees, depending on your business's needs. Stamps.com offers Postage On Demand, a service similar to a postage meter, for a single flat rate each month with no contract.
How much does a postage meter cost?
Rental costs for postage meters vary widely. The smallest and least expensive option is likely to cost you about $20 per month, while midlevel postage meters cost about $35 per month. If you need a high-volume meter, you could pay up to $1,300 per month.
In addition to rental costs, you need to factor in the cost of postage, shipping materials (envelopes, boxes and packing materials) and ink for the meter.
How do you choose a postage meter?
Before you start looking for a postage meter, it is vital to know how much you'll use your machine and what features you need. The main difference between postage meters is the speed at which they print postage on labels or envelopes.
Small businesses likely won't need much more than a small entry-level postage meter that lets you weigh your package and print postage from the machine. If you send out mail in higher volumes, you can look into leasing a meter that prints anywhere from 45 to 120 letters per minute. You will then need to comparison shop between the five available suppliers and the models they offer based on your checklist of needs.
The suppliers often offer incentives that can lower your costs, as well as free trials for 30 to 90 days so you can get a feel for the meter's capabilities. These are the main things to look out for to help you make your decision:
- After-sales support. You'll want to look for a fast response rate for technical support and information on the maintenance schedule you should expect for the lifespan of your machine.
- Consumable costs. Each machine incurs different costs for things like ink, labels and part replacements. Make sure whatever machine you choose stays within your budget with these additional costs.
- Machine size. This is why it's so important to understand your business's needs. Postage meters come in small, medium and large sizes; you don't want to end up with a machine that doesn't properly perform how you need it to.
- Contract. Because meters are rental only, your machine will come with either a long- or short-term contract. Make sure the terms of the contract are fair and agreeable to you. For example, don't sign a 10-year contract if you only plan to use the machine for a year.