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What is the most cost effective way to ship via USPS?

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We'll be the first to admit it - shipping is complicated!  One of the first questions that any online retailer faces is, what is the most cost effective way to ship my packages? We understand that controlling your bottom line is vital, so we've put together a few things that you'll want to consider:

Size versus weight:

The size and weight of a shipment is a good place to start in narrowing down your options.

Custom packages:

Weight based rates: using custom packaging means that your shipping rates will be based on the weight of the shipment and how far it is going (which zone it is in). As a general rule, the heavier the package and the farther it travels (higher zone) the more costly it will be to ship. Learn more about zones.

Dimensional based rates: for ShippingEasy Plus and above subscribers, we also offer a dimensional shipment option - Flat Rate Green - that uses the package dimensions to calculate the rate. This can yield tremendous savings if you ship small, but heavy packages. Learn more about Flat Rate Green.

Flat Rate packaging:

Depending on the size of your packages, USPS Flat Rate options might also be a good choice. These have rather high weight limits (70 lbs for domestic, less for international) so they can also yield significant savings if you're shipping heavier product. See a list of all USPS Flat Rate package dimensions. We list the rates for Flat Rate packages in our rate tables: USPS rate tables.

NOTE: Starter subscribers receive Commercial Base Pricing on all shipments. Commercial Plus Pricing is available to Basic and above subscribers. Learn more about our USPS rates.
Service restrictions:

Some services are restricted to specific weight ranges as well as dimensions. First Class packages must weigh less than 13 ounces (except if you use a shipping solution such as ShippingEasy or have an exception from USPS). Other USPS services permit weights up to 70 lbs. Likewise, envelopes have specific dimensional requirements and packages have their own limits. Learn more about dimensional limits.

Speed versus cost:

The faster your package is delivered, the more the postage will cost.

Priority Mail Express:

For delivery guaranteed within 1-3 days, Priority Mail Express is your best option. Since this is a guaranteed service, you can receive a refund for your postage if the package is delivered late. Learn more about Priority Mail Express.

Priority Mail:

If you want something received quickly, but not immediately, then Priority Mail is a great choice. Packages are usually delivered within 5 business days, but there is no guarantee that they'll be delivered this quickly, so no refunds are available for a delayed shipment. Learn more about Priority Mail.

First Class:

These packages are sure to reach your customers, but not as quickly. There are also low weight restrictions. Learn more about First Class Mail.

Parcel Select:

Rates and delivery times are similar to First Class, but weight limits are significantly higher. Learn more about Parcel Select.

Media Mail:

This service is reserved for flat books and educational materials. Rates and delivery times are similar to First Class, but weight limits are significantly higher. Learn more about Media Mail.

Tracking and Insurance:

Some services include delivery confirmation (tracking) and insurance. Others don't include it automatically and have the option to add these on. Then some services just aren't compatible with these at all.

Tracking:

Also known as delivery confirmation. If it's important that you or your customers can track their shipments to the destination, then you'll want to be sure to either select a service that includes this or add it to a shipment "a la carte". Learn more about delivery confirmation.

Insurance:

If you're shipping high valued goods, it might be worth while to consider insuring them. Some USPS services include a base amount of insurance coverage, others don't include any. Sometimes the base amount provided is sufficient, but sometimes you'll want to add more. Learn which USPS services include insurance and find out more about our options to add additional insurance.

Rate Tables vs Browse Rates:

Once you've identified which options are likely the best fit for you, you'll want to compare the specific rates for those services, weights or dimensions, and zones.

Rate tables:

We make rate tables available for the USPS services we provide: USPS rate tables.

NOTE: Starter subscribers receive Commercial Base Pricing on all shipments. Commercial Plus Pricing is available to Basic and above subscribers.
Browse Rates:

If you have specific orders to test, one of the best ways to see the exact rates that different package types will get is to use an existing order, or create a test manual order, on the READY TO SHIP page. Our browse rates tool is a quick way to view all options for the specific shipment. Learn more about the browse rates tool.


Related articles:

Shipping Tips
ShippingEasy Rates: what you can expect to save on USPS postage
ShippingEasy's USPS Rate tables
What is the Browse Rates tool?
Is there a way to get even cheaper international rates?

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