Postage Meters Explained
In America, postage meters are licensed by the United States Postal Service (USPS) and it is a highly regulated business with only a select few companies being authorized to supply the machines.
The authorized manufactures are: Pitney Bowes, Neopost, Hasler Inc, FP Mailing Services and Data-Pac.
These suppliers provide a wide range of machines depending on your business's mailing needs. These start with meters which can frank a few letters a day right through to integrated postage systems suitable for the largest mailrooms.
Benefits of a Postage Meter
There are a number of benefits available to your business if it invests in a postage meter. These include:
- Time saved by not having to buy stamps (or worrying about losing them).
- Reduced risk of under or over payment of postage through the use of integrated scales.
- Ability to top up your postage anytime you wish.
- Postage rates updated automatically online.
- Better utilization of staff who will no longer be required to fix stamps to bulk mailings.
There is also a more distinct financial advantage to postage meters, as due to the fact that USPS will only allow companies to lease rather than buy the machines.
They do not have to be declared as assets in your accounts. Because these meters are shown as lease expenditure, this will reduce the obligatory taxes associated with assets.
Another financial benefit is that experts estimate the average company will save between 10 and 15% on their postage costs through reduced wastage and higher accuracy.
And in terms of corporate promotion, meters can also be used to print marketing messages onto your mail alongside the postage mark.
How to Invest in a Postage Meter
The reason postage meters cannot be purchased in the US is that the government views postage as currency, hence it is highly regulated and sale of this equipment is forbidden by federal law. To rent or lease a postage meter you will need to contact one of the approved suppliers detailed below.
If you want to make bulk mailings at bulk prices then you will have to apply for a bulk mail permit, also known as form 3615. This form can be obtained from post offices or downloaded from the USPS website. There is a $200 annual fee to hold this license.
Pitney Bowes Postage Meters
Pitney Bowes is what the original American Postage Meter Company evolved into and the company is widely known one of the largest manufacturers and suppliers of postal meters & franking machines worldwide.
Pitney Bowes postage meters are split into three categories: low, mid and high volume. The smallest machine is the Mailstation 2 which can process up to 18 letters per minute and is designed for businesses that mail up to 100 letters each month.
The mid volume range of models such as the Connect+ 1000 or the DM575 can process between 65 and 180 letters per month. These machines have additional features such as color printing, which can prove highly beneficial as people who receive mail are twice as likely to open something that has a color message printed on it as opposed to a monochrome one.
The high volume range starts with the Connect+ 2000 which can process 180 letters per hour, through to the dm infinity which can process over 350 letters per minute.
Prices for a Pitney Bowes meter can be anywhere between $20 - $1,500 a month depending on the model.Find out more here: Pitney Bowes postage meters
Neopost Postage Meters
Neopost offer a similar broad range of machines, starting with the IJ-25 which prints up to twenty letters a minute and can store up to eight marketing messages, and finishing with the IJ-15k which can process up to fifteen thousand pieces of mail an hour.
Neopost meters showcase some innovate technology such as 'hot-swappable' ink cartridge units which can be changed without stopping the flow of your mail, and a new mini indicia print mark which minimizes ink consumption.
Neopost also produce letter folders, inserters and addressing equipment to further improve the efficiency of your postage department.
Rental prices will depend on the unit you are interested in, but range from $20-$1000+ per month.
Find out more here: Neopost postage meters
Hasler Inc Postage Meters
Hasler offers four models for each business postage requirement, whether that is high, mid or low volume. Regardless of the size of your business, Hasler aims to offer a postage meter that matches your needs.
The most basic low volume model is the WJ20 which can be rented for around $20 to $30 a month. The model designed to match the needs of the busiest high production postage department is the WJ Pro which rents for hundreds of dollars each month.
For more see: Hasler postage meters
FP USA Postage Meter Machines
FP is based in Addison Illinois and from there it runs one of the largest postage meter businesses in the US.
Its latest model is the PostBase which is notable for its flexibility. With this machine, a simple software update allows you the option to increase its speed from 30 to 45 or even 65 letters per minute.
It also comes in a range of six pleasing colors to make sure it fits right into your office environment. For a small machine, it holds an impressive 200 departmental accounts.
Rental prices for the PostBase range start from around $50 month depending on what optional features you decide to take.
For larger businesses, FP offers its CentorMail system. In fact, the CentorMail Max is the only postage meter to sort its mail vertically like USPS, helping boost speed even further.
For more see: FP postage Meters
Data Pac Postage Meter
Data Pac is the newest meter machine supplier on the US market, and in fact it was the first new company to be approved to supply postage meters in 25 years.
The company aims to provide high tech postage solutions at the lowest cost. Their America 2 postage meter is now in active distribution and is fast becoming popular with a wide range of businesses.
This is a product which is manufactured in America and designed to be as robust as possible. The America 2 meter was the first in the US to offer its users internet based postage fund top ups.
For more see: Data Pac postage meters
Parts of a Postage Meter
A postage meter consists of more than just a franking mechanism. In addition to the actual meter, they will often contain the following parts:
- Feeder - to guide envelopes into the correct position in the meter.
- Sealer - which dampens the envelope flap and then seals it.
- Stacker - which moves franked mail away from the machine after it has been franked.
- Tape dispenser - for printing the frank marks onto tape when posting large parcels.
- Weighing scale - to calculate the weight of each item to be mailed.
Postage meters can be used for first class mail as well as priority, express, international and bulk mail (although the latter requires an additional special permit).
Digital Postage Meters
Most postage meters today are digital with an internet connection (modem or LAN based). In fact, the earlier rotary print head and manual set models have now been decertified for use in the US as people were able to tamper with them with relative ease.
Digital meters use Information Based Indicia which is a data matrix (or alternatively a bar code) that combines with symbols and characters which are visually recognizable.
This matrix, which is printed on the envelope, includes the amount of postage paid, the zip code of the originator, the class of mail, the weight of the package and information which can be used for tracking.
This mark may be known as a franking mark or you may refer to mail that has been metered.
The amount of information packed into this mark allows many of the best postage systems to link into mail carriers such as USPS and track packages or check for delivery confirmation.
Many manufacturers of postage meter mailing solutions are now incorporating accounting software into their systems, enabling data to be collected centrally and accessed at the touch of a button.
A meter with accounting software included will be able to:
- Accurately record, analyse and report on all mailroom expenditure.
- Automatically process all USPS delivery confirmations and signature checks.
- Make allowances for verification of mail delivery via an integrated USPS tracking application.
- Shop around all of the available USPS rates during processing, allowing the most advantageous rate to be applied to the mail.
- Calculate the optimum CBP (Commercial Based Pricing) discounts automatically applied to each mailed item.
- Interface efficiently with both the ExcelScale and the FP Flexi Scale for accurate weighing of packages.
Which Postage Meter to Choose
The best postage meter for your business will depend on your budget, the amount of postage you produce each month and the features you require.
Thus you will have to make a comparison. Many of the postage meter suppliers offer free trials of a number of their products, so you can see if the model proves sufficiently beneficial to your company before you commit to the terms of the lease.
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