Postage meters are an inexpensive way to make direct mail more convenient.
- Postage meters help businesses save time and money by printing postage directly onto letters and parcels.
- Pitney Bowes and Quadient offer some of the top postage meter solutions.
- Most postage meters today are digital meters, some with detailed touchscreens.
- Digital meters connect to the postal service and find the correct postage rates.
If your business mails a large volume of letters or small packages to customers, investing in a postage meter may save you time and money. For small businesses, convenience matters, but it isn't always easy to come by in direct mailing. Whether you're mailing a letter to an important customer or sending hundreds of direct mail marketing campaigns, it's time-consuming to go to the post office and work through all the minor items needed to send a piece of mail.
That's where direct mail solutions can help. If your business relies heavily on direct mail, it's worth considering a postage meter.
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What is a postage meter?
According to the U.S. Postal Service, "postal meters are postage printing machines or systems authorized for use in your home or office. Meters print postage directly onto your mail pieces or onto meter tape, which you affix to your mail."
The USPS explains that postage meters can only be used if you obtain a permit in the city of mailing. This process isn't that hard, but it is important.
In simplest terms, a postage meter prints postage onto your mail. Many meters print company logos and the like on mail. Instead of you buying stamps or stickers of your logo, the postage meter prints a strip of ink as postage.
How does a postage meter work?
Most postage meters today are digital. A digital postage meter normally has a touchscreen and some sort of scale. You put your letter or parcel on the postage scale, and it tells you how much postage costs. You then put your envelope into the manual or automatic feeder and wait for the postage to be added to your mail. For parcels, many meters print the postage onto a sticker that you then affix to the box.
It's a simple process that doesn't require much effort and goes smoothly. Nearly every small business employee should be able to quickly learn how to use their postage meter.
How much does a postage meter cost?
The price of a postage meter includes rental fees and may also include supplies and maintenance.
You cannot buy a postage meter; you'll need to rent one from an authorized supplier, and lease prices vary considerably. A basic model costs around $20 per month, while a dedicated mail processing station can cost over $1,000 per month. The average price falls somewhere between $20 and $200 monthly, depending on your supplier, model and usage.
You are responsible for the cost of postage supplies, which will depend on your mailing needs. However, a postage meter makes you eligible for a variety of discounts, including commercial prices on stamps and presorted mail discounts.
Depending on your supplier, you may need to cover the cost of mailing supplies. These supplies include ink cartridge refills (approximately $25 to $50 per cartridge), self-adhesive labels (approximately $45 for 50 labels) and envelope sealing solution (approximately $50 for 1 gallon). Your supplier will typically cover routine maintenance or repairs, depending on the specific terms of your lease.
Why get a postage meter?
Postage meters save time and money. Your business won't have to visit the post office for postage stamps, and the machine ensures postage is accurate.
It's also helpful to be able to work around your business's schedule. Small business owners may find themselves working at 10 p.m. on a Friday night and want to prepare mail. In this case, you can't run to the post office to buy postage, but your postage meter works whenever you need it.
Pros and cons of a postage meter
Before renting a postage meter, consider your business's needs and processes to make sure it's right for you. To determine whether your business really needs a postage meter, consider these pros and cons.
- You can print postage in seconds.
- You will receive automatic rate change updates and can easily track expenses.
- You can weigh, calculate and print postage all with one device.
- A postage meter is not dependent on a server.
- You need to pay a lease fee, as you cannot buy a postage meter.
- A postage meter can’t print addresses.
- A postage meter is not Wi-Fi enabled.
- You'll need to use an online service to print shipping labels.
What are the best postage meters?
A few companies jump out among the best postage meters available. Quadient (formerly Neopost) and Pitney Bowes are two of the biggest companies in the direct mail industry. They offer quality options for postage meters that might be worth your consideration.
Pitney Bowes Mailstation2
The Mailstation2 is designed specifically for small businesses and home offices. It only weighs 8.7 pounds, and the scale is an additional 2 pounds; at just over 10 pounds, the machine is easy to move around and put in different places throughout the office if needed. It fits easily on a desk as well.
This Pitney Bowes model comes with a free USPS basic subscription for online connection. This ensures that the printed postage is accurate according to postal service guidelines. Following postal service guidelines can be one of the trickiest parts of utilizing direct mail, and this postage meter eliminates that concern quickly.
It also comes with USPS carrier access, and you can upgrade to include FedEx and UPS. There's also the option to upgrade to a 5-pound scale. The machine costs $19.99 per month after a 60-day free trial.
This postage meter is an ideal option for small businesses. The IS-280 is similar to the Mailstation2 in that both cater to small businesses. The IS-280 also features a 2-pound scale, with the option for a 5-pound scale.
This postage meter has nice visual features. There are about 100 stock images it can print onto your mail. This introduces an element of creativity to the direct mailing process.
The IS-280 holds its own in speed, processing 18 pieces of mail per minute. That's not lightning fast, but it's plenty fast enough for small businesses that use direct mail sparingly. The machine is best used for letters and tiny packages.
Other solutions to consider
ARC has been providing print services and document management solutions since 1988, specializing in construction. It offers a managed print services calculator to help you keep a handle on your printing and shipping costs.
Established in 1935, Avery Dennison creates products such as pressure-sensitive materials, bonding solutions, RFID solutions and postage meter labels. Its labels are specifically designed to work well with Pitney Bowes machines.
Do I need a postage meter?
Quadient and Pitney Bowes both offer a few tremendous postage meters for small businesses, but that does not mean your business definitely needs a postage meter. In the decision-making process, take a count of how frequently your business uses direct mail. Can your business benefit from a postage meter, or will it be an unnecessary expense?
For businesses that send direct mail a few times a month, a postage meter can be a good way to save time and money. The direct connection to postal service rates is beneficial and makes the postage process more convenient. If you only send direct mail once every few months, a postage meter is probably unnecessary.
Make the buying decision based on your business's needs. Every business differs, and there are numerous postage solutions for different types of businesses. Find the solution that makes sense for you.
Bennett Conlin contributed to the reporting and writing in this article.