Article at a Glance
- Postage meter rates are up to 9% cheaper than first class stamp rates
- Presorting with bulk mail software is up to 24% cheaper than letting the USPS do it for you
- A typical small business can save a day of admin each month with a postage meter
- Postage meter prices start from just $19.75 per month
As the effectiveness of online advertising wanes, marketers are returning to direct mail in droves. In fact, thanks to rising response rates and healthy returns on investment (ROI), lots of small businesses think direct mail is the most effective way to engage with their customers.
That’s not the whole story though. Sure, business mail is effective; but if your mailroom isn’t automated, it’s hardly efficient.
Enter, the postage meter – a literal time and money-saving machine. Equip your business with the right one, and you’ll soon see a return on your investment.
But here’s the big question; how much does a postage meter cost? Here’s everything you need to know.
Explore postage meter rates below, and find out how much your business could save in 2020
How Much Does a Postage Meter Cost?
Postage meter costs vary considerably, and rental fees are only one part of the equation. Rental prices typically start at around $20 per month for the most basic machines and rise to over $1,000 per month for dedicated mail processing stations.
Postage Meter Rates
First class mail sent with a postage meter is eligible for lower United States Postal Service (USPS) rates. Whereas the retail rate for sending a first-class mail letter (1 oz.) is $0.55, the postage meter rate is $0.50 – a 9% saving per letter when compared to the post office.
Where Can I Lease a Postage Meter?
Currently, only five companies are authorized to supply postage meters in the United States.
These companies are: Pitney Bowes, FP Mailing Solutions, Quadient (formerly Neopost), and Data-Pac Mailing Systems.
Postage Meter Suppliers in the US
- Pitney Bowes
- FP Mailing Solutions
- Data-Pac Mailing Systems
Postage Meter Pricing Breakdown
What exactly are you paying for when you lease a postage meter?
Postage meter costs fall into four main categories:
- Lease costs
- Postage costs
- Mailing supplies costs
- Maintenance and repair costs
Let’s take a closer look at each cost type.
Cost 1: The Lease
Since it’s impossible to buy a postage meter, your best bet is to get one on a lease. That means paying an authorized supplier a small fee every month to rent one of their machines.
Fixed Fee vs Usage-based Leases
Some suppliers charge fixed fees, while others bill based on usage (the volume of mail you process). The type of lease you can get often depends on the particular type of postage meter you’re interested in. For example, Pitney Bowes offers the low-volume SendPro C200 for a flat rate of $36.99 per month, whereas for an ultra-high volume machine like the SendPro P3000, they’ll usually put together a custom quote that’s tied to the amount of mail you use it for.
Fixed fee leases are the most straightforward option when you want to place a hard cap on your monthly spend. A usage-based fee structure makes sense when you send varying volumes of mail each month and you want your bill to reflect this.
▶ Read more: Postage meter rental price guide 2020
The Bottom Line
Anywhere from $20 to $200 per month, depending on the supplier, model and sometimes your usage.
When you’re comparing postage meter lease prices, research beyond the websites of postage meter companies themselves. Speaking to suppliers on the phone is the best way to negotiate preferential pricing and find out about special offers they might not advertise online.
Cost 2: The Postage
As we mentioned earlier, a first class stamp for a letter weighing 1oz costs 55¢ (the retail rate).
If you used a postage meter to process the same letter, you’d pay just 50¢ (the commercial rate).
That’s already a 9% reduction on your direct mail costs.
Presorted Mail Discounts
It gets better. An even cheaper set of Commercial First Class Mail rates is available for businesses that send their mail in bulk. To qualify for these rates, you’ll need to presort your mail before passing it over to the USPS for delivery.
Now, when it comes to presorted mail, there’s bad news, good news, and really good news.
The bad news is that to qualify for the lowest rates, you need to sort your mail quite carefully. Batches need to contain at least 150 pieces being sent to the same five-digit ZIP code.
The good news is that any good mid-level postage meter can presort everything for you.
And the really good news?
With five-digit presorting, postage is 24% cheaper than first-class retail mail.
Rate Protection Guarantees
As if that wasn’t good enough, you can sweet talk some postage meter companies into offering rate protection guarantees. This means that your supplier will freeze metered postage rates at their current level when you sign the lease. So, if you sign a 36 month lease when the rate is 47¢ for a 1oz letter, USPS postage rate hikes in subsequent years won’t affect your company one bit.
The Bottom Line
USPS postage rates vary according to (1) package dimensions, (2) weight, (3) distance sent and (4) shipping speed. Here’s a table of all the factors that affect how much it costs to send different types of mail with a postage meter:
|Type of mail|
|Postcards||Letters||Flats (large envelopes)||Parcels|
|Dimensions||Min||3-1/2in x 5in x 0.0007in||3-1/2in x 5in x 0.0007in||6-1/8in x 11-1/2in x 1/4in||3in x 6in x 1/4in|
|Max||4-1/4in x 6in x 0.016in||6-1/8in x 11-1/2in x 1/4in||12in x 15in x 3/4in||22in x 18in x 15in|
|Distance limit||Anywhere in the US||Anywhere in the US||Anywhere in the US||Anywhere in the US|
|Speed||1-3 days||1-3 days||1-3 days||1-3 days|
To send letters exceeding these dimensions or packages heavier than 16oz, or to send them faster than First Class, you’ll need to use a different service. Other USPS mail classes include:
- Priority Mail Express
- Priority Mail
- Flat Rate Priority Mail
- First-Class Mail
- USPS Marketing Mail
- Package Services/USPS Retail Ground
If you’re considering leasing a postage meter, all you need to know at this point is that these services are great for sending large, heavy and/or urgent packages. Using a postage meter to weigh and stamp your mail saves you having to take it to the post office. Plus, once you’ve prepared it, the USPS can collect it straight from your office or warehouse. It doesn’t get much easier than this.
Cost 3: The Supplies
Postage meter supplies are another important cost to consider when you’re shopping for quotes. While some suppliers include complimentary ink refills or stationery as standard, others won’t offer anything of the sort. If a supplier’s website doesn’t say whether or not these extras are included in your rental fee, make sure you clarify this over the phone.
The Bottom Line
Here are some typical postage meter stationery costs:
- Black ink cartridge refill x 1: $50
- Red ink cartridge refill x 3: $25
- Postage tape sheets (self-adhesive labels) x 50: $45
- Envelope sealing solution x 1 gallon: $30
It’s nearly always cheaper to order postage meter supplies through an office supply store. Save money by finding a postage meter supplier whose deals exclude supplies like labels and ink.
Cost 4: The Upkeep
Last but not least, upkeep. When you lease a postage meter, the equipment still belongs to your supplier. In theory, that means they’re responsible for all routine maintenance and repair work.
But in practice? It depends on the specific terms of your lease. All the more reason to do your research and thrash things out fully with suppliers before committing to anything.
Hardware Maintenance and Repair
The main thing you want to know is, does your supplier send repair technicians to you, or do you have to send faulty units back to them for repairs? What kinds of hardware damage does their warranty cover, and what kinds of insurance do they offer?
Pitney Bowes, FP, Quadient and Data-Pac all offer mailing automation software. On paper, they all claim to make your mailroom even more efficient. But you should still do your due diligence to find out if that’s really the case. For example, for how long will they continue to release free bug fixes and software updates? And how easy is the software to use? If it’s got a steep learning curve or a confusing design, it could do more harm than good…
The Bottom Line
Generally speaking, postage meter suppliers cover the costs of repairing or replacing faulty units. Mailing automation software from the ‘big three’ suppliers (Pitney Bowes, FP and Quadient) is generally well-supported.
Don’t hesitate to ask postage meter companies how they handle service and repairs.
How Much Time Do Postage Meters Save?
To answer that question, we thought it would be useful to compare how long it takes to add postage to mail by hand vs with a postage meter.
Using data from the National Small Business Poll, we estimated how much time an average small business that sends 600 pieces of mail each month would save with the help of a postage meter:
|Action||Average Time Taken by Hand||Average Time Taken by Postage Meter|
|Make a round trip to the post office to buy stamps||**30 minutes||Topping up your postage balance online takes seconds|
|Weigh 600 pieces of mail one by one and write down the required amount of postage||200 minutes||5 minutes to load a semi or fully-automated postage meter tray with mail – it will do the rest|
|Apply the appropriate number of stamps to every piece of mail||200 minutes||Zero staff time required, and your postage meter will complete the job in under half an hour|
|TOTAL||7.2 hours||5 minutes|
**This assumes a round trip distance of five miles, an average driving speed of 30MPH, and 20 minutes spent inside the post office.
The Bottom Line
Going by this conservative estimate, the average small business is looking at a minimum of one full day wasted on postage each month. That’s an entire day that your direct marketing team could be spending on acquiring new customers.
How Do I Choose Between Suppliers?
We’ve already looked at how fee structures vary from one supplier to the next. If you want to get the best deal, comparison shopping is a must.
In particular, look out for dealer incentives that can help you control costs.
Many suppliers offer free trials of their postage meters that you can use to aid your decision. These typically last between 30 and 90 days, depending on how good you are at negotiating. Free trials are a great way to ‘try before you buy’, but don’t forget to cancel before the end of the trial period to avoid paying unwanted fees.
A rushed decision could lock your business into an expensive and unnecessary contract. Err on the side of caution, since it’s usually easier – not to mention cheaper – to upgrade later than to rent “too much” machine from the start.
Best Value Postage Meters
Best for Small Businesses
Best for Mid-Sized Businesses
Best for Large Businesses
To recap, here are the main costs and benefits of renting a postage meter machine:
- Postage costs upwards of 50¢ per piece
- You have to manually weigh and presort mail
- You spend a day processing mail each month
- You’re at the mercy of rising USPS postage rates
- You have to collect post office receipts to track spending
- Guessing mail weights leads to postage overspend
- Paper stamps encourage wastefulness
- Postage costs are 9% cheaper
- Mail processing is up to 24% cheaper
- More productive staff and up to a day of time saved each month
- More control over postage costs with rate protection guarantees
- More visibility over postage costs with easy online tracking
- No more ‘guesstimating’ weights – you pay the right amount every time
- Secure mailroom software prevents fraud and abuse
On balance, the potential savings heavily outweigh every postage meter cost.