Postage Meters

By Dan Barraclough

What Are Postage Meters?

A postage meter is a machine that prints postage directly on envelopes and/or sticky labels for any type of mail. It calculates correct postage costs to save you time and money.

In short, postage meters make it easier, faster and more efficient to send lots of mail.

The Neopost IS-6000

A great postage meter like the Neopost IS-6000 will work miracles in any mailroom

Why Use a Postage Meter?

If you send direct mail in any shape or form, you’ll know all about the challenges of:

  • Keeping postage costs to a minimum
  • Processing your business mail efficiently
  • Tracking spending by department or cost center
  • Finding ways to streamline mailroom admin

Here are some of the ways a postage meter can help you out.

Mailing Prospects

We’re living in the so-called ‘Age of the Internet’, but nothing’s better at turning prospects into customers than an envelope in their mailbox. Direct mail gets higher response rates than any digital marketing channel, and it’s not even close. When you consider how much more expensive it is to acquire new customers than to keep existing ones, sending direct mail to prospects is a particularly shrewd way to spend your marketing dollars.

The return on investment (ROI) is even better with a postage meter, thanks to faster mail processing speeds and much lower postage costs.

Communicating with Customers

According to Experian, 70% of Americans think physical mail is “more personal” than email. A letter in the post is a great way to show customers how much you value them.

Postage meters let you add an even more personal touch by printing customized logos and graphics on your envelopes. Software packages like NeoSlogan (Neopost) and MyGraphics Designer (Pitney Bowes) make it easy to brand your business mail and create the right impression with your customers.

Delivering Orders and Packages

Packages, large flat envelopes and tubes look more professional when they’re not covered with postage stamps. Some postage meters print an indicia (a postage mark) directly onto the package, while others use labels or self-adhesive tape. Either way, it’s a clean look that’s sure to impress your customers.

It’s also effortless to execute, since the postage meter’s built-in weighing scale and label printer handles everything for you.

Billing and Invoicing

Lots of studies show that consumers prefer paper invoices to digital ones. With a postage meter, the ROI is even higher, thanks to mailroom analytics.

Mailroom analytics software helps you track your spending and how well it’s working. It’ll give you a bird’s eye view of your direct mail response rates, helping you to separate the hot prospects from the not-prospects.

Key Features of Postage Meters

Modern postage meters are so full of features that it can be difficult to understand all their benefits.

Here’s a jargon-free look at the most important ones:

Processing Speed

A postage meter’s processing speed is the rate at which it’s able to add postage to items of mail. You’ll usually see it measured in terms of ‘pieces per minute (PPM)’ or ‘letters per minute (LPM)’, but it’s sometimes expressed as ‘pieces per hour (PPH)’ for high-volume postage meters.

Expert Tip: The more mail you send, the more speed you’ll need. Processing speed – or PPM – should be your first consideration when you’re shopping for a new postage meter.

The Feeder

The feeder is the technology that moves your mail through the postage meter. Manual feeders require you to load each piece by hand, semi-automatic feeders automate some parts, and fully-automatic feeders are completely automated. Most entry-level postage meters are either manual or semi-auto, but top line solutions like the FP PostBase integra have auto feed capability.

Expert Tip: Postage meters with automatic feeders aren’t necessarily better – it depends whether they can handle poorly stacked items of mail. If they can’t, you might end up spending more time fixing jams than you would with a manual feeder. If you’re not sure, ask suppliers for a free trial so you can try before you buy.

The Weighing Scale

All postage meters have a built-in scale that weighs each item to calculate the correct postage. One of the main differences between models is how much weight they can handle. The most basic Neopost meter (the IS-280) has a small 2 lb scale for envelopes, which is a far cry from the 70 lb set of scales in the most advanced FP postage meter.

Expert Tip: Even if your average piece of mail only weighs a few ounces, choose your postage meter according to the largest, heaviest package you expect to send.

The Printing System

This is what actually prints the postage mark on a piece of mail. Some meters use thermal printing, which is a reliable option that prints well on glossy surfaces. Others use inkjet printing, which prints faster than thermal and is easier to buy ink refills for.

Expert Tip: There isn’t really a difference in the quality of different printing systems. It really boils down to the cost of ink refills, which do vary a lot by make and model.

The Sealer

The sealer moistens the glue flap on envelopes and applies pressure to seal them shut.

Expert Tip: Factor the costs of postage meter supplies, like sealing solution, into your buying decision. These add up over time, so it makes sense to think about them from the start.

▶ Now read: How Much Does a Postage Meter Cost?

The Exit Tray

This is where processed mail gathers once it’s been weighed and stamped. It’s often just a static container that you have to empty every so often, but some meters feature an automatic conveyor to keep mail from building up in one place.

Expert Tip: Look for postage meters that stack mail neatly in the exit tray, as these will make life easier (and more efficient) for your mailroom employees.

Who Uses Postage Meters?

More than 90% of Fortune 500 firms, for a start. But you don’t need to be a multi-billion dollar company for it to be worth getting one. Businesses of all sizes, in almost any industry, can benefit.

Here’s are some small and mid-sized postage meter success stories from across the US:

City of Leon Valley

The City of Leon Valley in Texas delivers a range of utilities for more than 11,000 citizens each year. Fast and accurate billing is essential; but until recently, it was a slow process fraught with human error.

That all changed when the Public Works department acquired a Neopost postage meter to lighten the load. Suddenly, processes that used to take hours could be done in seconds, and productivity went up almost overnight. Best of all, the ability to track documents in real time with Neopost’s Neotouch software has contributed to huge savings of $600 per month in billing expenses.

Minnesota Twins

How does a Major League Baseball team field more than 50,000 parcels, packages and fan letters each season? Simple: the Pitney Bowes SendPro P3000.

The powerful auto-feed machine isn’t fussy about size or weight. Whether it’s a parcel containing a baseball cap or a signed team photo, it finds and applies the lowest rates and stacks everything ready for shipping.

The result? While Twins players are hitting home runs, the mailroom staff are making fewer runs to the post office, and saving a staggering $20,000 a year on postage.

How to Get a Postage Meter

Believe it or not, it’s impossible to just buy a postage meter. The US government regulates ‘postage’ as though it were a form of currency, which means any machine that lets you print it is subject to strict controls.

If you want to get hold of a postage meter, you’ll need to rent one from one of the five authorized suppliers listed below:

  • Pitney Bowes
  • Neopost
  • FP Mailing Service
  • Data-Pac

▶ Now read: Our guide to renting a postage meter

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Postage Meter Suppliers

Pitney Bowes Postage Meters

Pitney Bowes postage meters

Pitney Bowes makes a wide range of postage meters for businesses of all sizes. Since creating the first commercially available postage meter more than 90 years ago, they’ve helped more than 90% of Fortune 500 companies make their mailrooms more efficient.

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Pitney Bowes postage meters span a broad spectrum of capabilities. Their smallest machine, the Mailstation 2, processes up to 18 letters per minute and is a great choice for businesses that mail up to 100 letters a month.

The mid-range tier of models includes the Connect+ 1000 and the DM575. These machines are ideal for sending 65-180 letters per month, and come with additional features like color printing.

The high volume range starts with the Connect+ 2000 which handles up to 180 letters per hour. For the busiest mailrooms, the DM Infinity can process over 350 letters per minute.

Prices for Pitney Bowes postage meters range between $20 – $1,500 a month.

Neopost Postage Meters

Neopost postage meters

Neopost is one of the most popular postage meter suppliers. With a huge selection of highly capable machines, they’ve got an option to match every type of business.

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Neopost’s range of machines starts at the entry level, with the IS-280. The IS-280 is capable of printing 18 letters per minute and storing up to eight marketing messages at a time. A marketing message could be a slogan, logo, or a generic message to help personalize your mail and maintain your brand’s image.

At the opposite end of the scale, the advanced IJ-15k postage meter can deal with up to 250 pieces per minute.

Neopost meters showcase innovative technology including ‘hot-swappable’ ink cartridge units which you can change without interrupting the flow of your mail. A mini indicia print mark also does a lot to make your ink supplies last longer.

Complementary Neopost products include letter folders, inserters and addressing equipment.

FP USA Postage Meters

FP postage meters

FP may be the second oldest supplier in the US, but their postage meters have the most modern look and feel of any on the market. FP machines are ergonomic, dependable and easy to use.

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The compact FP PostBase mini powers through 17ppm, making it the perfect choice for small office and home setups.

You can install a simple software update to increase the processing speeds of machines in the PostBase series up to 65 letters per minute.

For larger businesses, FP offers its CentorMail system. It’s also the only postage meter to sort mail vertically like the USPS, which makes processing even faster.

Data Pac Postage Meters

Data Pac postage meters

Data-Pac is the youngest postage meter supplier on the market, and the first to be approved by the USPS in 25 years. They specialize in high-tech, high-volume hardware and software solutions.

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The Data-Pac America 2 postage meter is in active distribution and is fast-becoming popular with a wide range of businesses. It’s made in America and is designed to be as robust as possible. The America 2 was actually the first meter to let you to top up your postage balance online.

Data Pac prices vary on a quote-by-quote basis.

▶ Now read: Our in-depth guide to the best postage meter companies

Next Steps

On paper, choosing the perfect postage meter is simple. But there’s a dizzying array of models to choose from, so it pays to carry out careful comparison shopping first.

You’ll need to:

  1. Understand how much mail your business processes each month
  2. Decide which features would be most useful to you
  3. Find a model within your budget

Use our free price comparison service to find out which suppliers offer the best solutions for your needs and budget.

Dan Barraclough
Dan Barraclough
Dan’s a writer for Expert Market, specialising in a range of cool topics. He loves web design and all things UX, but also the hardware stuff like postage metres and photocopiers.
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