Due to federal regulations in the U.S., postage meters can only be leased not purchased and are only available from limited authorized manufacturers.
The United States Postal Service (USPS) oversees the postage industry, setting strict regulations which must be followed. The USPS also determine the postal tariffs and prices for mail.
Failure to adhere to these strict rules could lead to the licensee having themailing license revoked.
Regulations Set by the USPS
Since 1st January 2009, it is only permitted to lease digital postage meters. No non-digital postage meter may be rented and as a result of this update, many machines have been discontinued.
The five current approved providers are listed below:
The listed providers install and setup the meters, they also set the servicing and leasing fees. As a result, the cost can vary from one supplier to another. The USPS states that the vendors of postage meters ''must conduct inspection of certain meters on a scheduled basis'' and that ''the customer must comply''.All machines must also use the same fluorescent ink.
Learn more: Stamp price timeline
Type of Post Permitted for Use in Postage Meters
Postal meters may be used to add postage to first class mail, priority mail, pre-sorted first class mail, express mail, international mail and all packages, though these require postage to be fixed using adhesive tape. Periodical mail (reserved for publications like magazines) cannot be stamped using a postage meter.
Bulk Mail Regulations
To use a postage meter to process bulk mail, different rules apply. The operator has to apply for a permit using form 3615: 'Mailing Permit Application and Customer Profile'. The meter can only be used to add an estimated amount of postage to each item of bulk mail, any difference in postage is then paid at the Post Office. As a result, bulk mail cannot be dropped into a mailbox.
To process bulk mail, you also have to complete a 'postage affixed' postal statement and take this to the Post Office along with the bulk mail to ensure that the correct tariffs are attributed.
Postage Drop Off Rules
Most types of metered mail can be dropped directly into a collection box. According to USPS regulations, these must be "at locations designated by the postmaster of the licensing Post Office shown in the machine stamp unless authorized by the Postal Service to deposit it at a different location," or given to a mail carrier.
However, discounted mail classes such as bulk mail (as stated previously) and pre-sorted first class mail need to be taken to the Post Office to verify the correct postage has been added.
Mail must be deposited into a mail collection box on the day when it is stamped. If you fail to do this, the date can only be corrected once, after which a new postage stamp must be applied. To correct a date, a new label must be printed with the new date for postage and the postage amount should be set to zero.
This new label is then affixed next to the original stamp. Likewise, if a label has been printed without enough postage, another label needs to be placed next to the original, detailed the remaining amount to be paid.
For a full and comprehensive list of the rules & regulations which govern the use of postage meters in the US, visit the USPS website or contact one of the approved vendors.
It is completely free to apply for a permit to use a postage meter. However, if approved you will have to pay $200 per year for the license.
Once the permit is issued, you are able to enjoy the benefits including reduced mail costs and greater convenience. The $200 dollar fee does not include the cost of postage for each item of mail.