Ultimate Stamp Price Guide 2019

“Be like a postage stamp. Stick to one thing until you get there.”

― Josh Billings, 19th-century American humorist

Effective 1/27/19, the United States Postal Service (USPS) has made changes to the price of a stamp. While some decreases can be found, the big change came in the largest-ever stamp price increase in history. And some prices have seen no changes at all. Read on for a complete guide to the price of a stamp and other postage increases 2019!

USPS Postage Price Changes – At a Glance

  • Mailing Services Products – approximate increase of 2.5%
  • Priority Mail Express –  approximate increase of 3.9%
  • Priority Mail increased approximate increase of 5.9%

Stamp Prices Are Low – An Overview

The USPS reportedly has some of the lowest postage rates in the world and offers competitive rates for shipping. The USPS, unlike other carriers, does not add extra fees for things like fuel, residential delivery, weekend delivery, or holiday season delivery. In addition, seeing zero tax dollars for operations, it subsists solely on sales of postage, products, and services to support its entirety. Before we get into the new prices, to whet your appetite, here are a few other USPS facts:

  • 493.4 million mail pieces are processed each day
  • That is 20.6 million each hour
  • Per minute, 342,638 are processed
  • And 5,711 mail pieces are processed every second

So, when you send your grandmother a letter letting her know you’re doing just fine, and yes you did get that $5 she mailed last week (thanks, Oma!), that’s factored into these statistics. When you sell your DVD boxset of The Nanny on Ebay because you have a digital copy now, and you ship that on to Utah, that’s another tick on the ol’ USPS fact sheet. When your hand has uncramped enough to finally get around to physically mailing out those thank you notes from your graduation party six months ago, those too are included in the 493.4 million mail pieces process each day!

Price Increases for First Class Mail

Here’s a recap of what First Class Mail gets you, at just the price of a stamp:

  • Best priced service for mail up to 13 oz
  • Delivery in 1 to 3 business days
  • Insurance for loss or damage up to $5,000 for merchandise only
  • Can combine with extra services to confirm delivery
  • Up to 3.5 ounces free with commercial priced letters and cards

Changes to Price of a Stamp for Letters and Postcards

With the 2.5 percent price increase for Mailing Services products, the most notable of the new rates is a five-cent increase to the price of a First-Class Mail stamp, from 50 cents to 55 cents. The 10 percent hike is the largest price increase in the history of the USPS. The second largest price hike was in 1991, when the price of a stamp increased from 25 cents to 29 cents.

Even though the basic 1-ounce price of a stamp went up, another part actually went down. The “additional ounce” price for letters will see a decrease of six cents, from 21 cents to 15 cents. Additional ounces cover anything that weighs more than 1-ounce which is typically a larger document or invitation. This means the 150 wedding invitations (typically a 2-ounce stamped letter) you need to send out may only cost 70 cents a piece, rather than 71 cents. And who doesn’t want to save $1.50?

Complete Pricing Breakdown

  • Letters (1 oz.) $0.55
  • Letters – Additional Ounces: $0.15
  • Non-Machinable Surcharge: $0.15 (see below!)
  • Letters (metered 1 oz.): $0.50 (metered mail is when a postage meter stamps directly onto the letter)
  • Outbound (Outgoing) International Letters (1 oz.): $1.15
  • Domestic Postcards: $0.35

Please note the base price of $0.55 is for a standard-sized, rectangular envelope. If your envelope is square, oversized, or unusually shaped, costs for stamps begin at $0.70. This factors in your non-machinable surcharge (see below).

In the same vein, stamps for standard-sized, rectangular postcards start at $0.35. Any oversized postcards require letter stamps, which as we’ve now learned, start at $0.55.

Complete Sizing Guide

Letters qualify under the following dimensions:

  • Length – minimum 5”, maximum 11 ½”
  • Height – minimum 3 ½”, maximum 6 ⅛”
  • Thickness – minimum .007”, maximum ¼”

Cards qualify under the following dimensions:

  • Length – minimum 5”, maximum 6”
  • Height – minimum 3 ½”, maximum 4 ¼”
  • Thickness – minimum .007”, maximum 0.016”

What is a “Non-Machinable” Surcharge?

If you have unusually shaped mail pieces – like uneven, stiff, square, or vertical envelopes – and the machine is unable to sort them into the correct pile, or if your mail has extras – like buttons, clasps, or string – it must be hand-cancelled (processed by a human being). These mail items are considered “non-machinable,” and a fee of $0.15 may be applied, even if they weigh less than the standard letter 1 oz.

What About Forever Stamps?

If you’re wondering about First-Class Mail Forever stamps – introduced in 2007 and designated for 1 oz letters that don’t expire even if stamp prices increase – they will still be available for purchase, but at the increased rate of $0.55. Forever stamps purchased before the increase on 1/27/19 will, of course, be honored.

Changes to Priority Mail Prices

First, here’s a quick recap of what the USPS Priority Mail service includes:

  • Delivery in 1 to 3 business days
  • Delivery available seven days a week in most locations
  • Prices starting at $7.35
  • Can combine with extra services to confirm delivery

Domestic Priority Mail Retail Flat Rate (Boxes and Envelopes)

In an attempt to simplify things, the USPS introduced the first flat rate envelope in 1991 and the first flat rate box in 2004. As their name indicates, there is a flat rate – a one-time fee – and no further weighing or calculating is needed. If they fit in the box, the price is locked and predictable. These ship in 1-3 business days.

Box TypeDimensionsPrice
Small Flat Rate Box8 11⁄16″ x 5 7⁄16″ x 1 3⁄4″$7.90
Medium Flat Rate Box (top loading)11 1⁄4″ x 8 3⁄4″ x 6$14.36
Medium Flat Rate Box (side loading)14″ x 12″ x 3 1⁄2″$14.36
Large Flat Rate Box12 1⁄4″ x 12 1⁄4″ x 6″$19.95
APO/FPO Large Flat Rate Box*12 1⁄4″ x 12 1⁄4″ x 6″$18.45
Regular Flat Rate Envelope12 1⁄2″ x 9 1⁄2″$7.35
Legal Flat Rate Envelope9 1⁄2″ x 15″$7.65
Padded Flat Rate Envelope12 1⁄2″ x 9 1⁄2″$8.00

*The USPS offers a discount of $1.50 per Priority Mail Flat Rate Box to those who want to send loved ones serving in the military a special delivery. Just look for the abbreviation APO – which stands for Air or Army Post Office – or FPO – which stands for Fleet Post Office (Navy).

A Note On First-Class Package Service and Zone-Based Pricing

First-Class Package Service, the light, fast service primarily used by businesses for fulfillment purposes will move to zone-based pricing. These zones are predetermined and factor the distance from where shipping begins to the package’s destination. According to USPS, this is to better align with the cost of service and is intended to improve value based on distance.

Concluding Thoughts on Stamp Price Increase

According to the New York Times, within the last ten years, the number of first-class mail pieces sent through the United States Postal Service has fallen by more than 50 percent. If you don’t include invitations and holiday cards, the average American household receives only 10 pieces of personal mail each year. Although the statistics presented earlier certainly seem staggering (5,711 mail pieces are processed every second?!), the fact of the matter is Americans just aren’t communicating the way they used to. And yet, a postal worker visits every mailbox several days a week, regardless of the volume.

One needs only to briefly visit the USPS website before discovering that, though the information is certainly helpful, it isn’t the most navigable or consumer-friendly. Perhaps if data was arranged in a one-stop, confusion-free way, folks would be able to move past the terms “non-machineable” and “automation,” and quickly reference whether or not their letter or package fits in a particular category, and how much that category costs. Yeah, someone should probably make that quick-reference…

So, here it is! Our Ultimate Guide to the 2019 Price of a Stamp.

Stamp Price Increase – Everything You Need to Know About the New Price of a Stamp

The United States Post Office (USPS) has announced that stamp prices will increase this weekend. What does that mean for the typical household who mails greeting cards, thank you notes, bills, and letters? For starters, the price of a stamp will now be 55 cents, up 5 cents from the previous price.  You can also expect to pay anywhere from 2.5% to 5.9% more for shipping services with the USPS such as Priority Mail or Priority Mail Express.

Read on to learn more about how you can ensure that yourmail has sufficient postage with the imminent stamp price increase.

When will the new stamp price be effective?

The new price of a stamp will take effect Sunday, January 27, 2019.  This is the date when the price changes are slated to take effect. Whether your post office will continue to postmark and deliver mail that has been dropped off in post office boxes before Sunday with the old pricing depends on your local post office’s practices. Many post offices will return mail with insufficient postage to the sender and others will let some letters through for the next few days.

Those who have already mailed First Class letters which have been postmarked before Sunday, January 27 will not be affected by the price increase. A postmark is meant to cancel affixed postage and indicate that the USPS has taken custody of the letter or package for its delivery. You can read more about postmarks in the USPS handbook here.

Individuals who use a Forever Stamp to mail letters weighing less than 1 oz. will not be affected by the price change, and can continue to use their old Forever Stamps which they bought at the lower stamp prices.

How much are postal rates increasing?

The most significant change to the postal rates for those who regularly pay bills by mail, send greeting cards, etc., is the price increase for the cost of the Forever Stamp. Forever Stamps were created by the USPS in 2007 to mail First Class letters regardless of the postage rate. On January 27, 2019, the price of Forever Stamps will increase from 50 cents to 55 cents.

Does this increase apply to any other postage pricing?

  • First Class letters that are metered will undergo a rate increase from 47 cents to 50 cents for metered mail weighing less than 1 oz.
  • First Class outbound international letters will not undergo a rate increase and will remain at the current rate – $1.15 for letters weighing up to 1 oz.
  • First Class Domestic Postcard stamps will remain at their current rate – 35 cents.
  • Priority Mail and Priority Mail Express services will also see a price increase. Priority Mail Express prices will go up by 3.9%, while Priority Mail will increase by nearly 6 percent. This includes both Priority Mail flat rate boxes and envelopes as well as “zone-based” Priority Mail pricing (which is based on geographic location as well as the weight of the letter or package). In general, as reflected by its most recent price increase, the USPS is moving toward zone-based pricing for both consumers and businesses to improve its efficiency. Check with your local post office for specific zone prices.

Will my stamps still work the same way?

Because the Forever Stamps were designed to work regardless of the exact “price of a stamp,” those who use Forever Stamps will largely remain unaffected by the rate change. You can still use your old Forever Stamps, regardless of how much you paid for them and when you bought them, to mail First Class letters weighing up to 1 oz. without affixing additional postage to the envelope.

First Class mail which weighs more than 1 oz. will require additional postage, but the price for additional ounces of mail will decrease with the most recent stamp prices which go into effect this weekend – down to 15 cents for each additional ounce rather than 21 cents. Therefore, using the old pricing rate for mail greater than 1 oz. will still ensure that your mail arrives promptly without interruption (because you’ll be paying a little more!). However, it’s best to consult with your local USPS office or use a postage scale to determine the new rate you will need to pay for letters weighing more than 1 oz. 

The bottom line is that unless you are mailing heavier envelopes that are greater than 1 oz., you can continue to use your Forever Stamps with no interruptions or changes. You can continue to use the old pricing for extra ounces on First Class Mail (as the additional ounces pricing has decreased in the most recent price updates). For First Class letters greater than 1 oz., obtain the most up-to-date postage pricing to ensure that your mail is delivered without interruption and at the lowest price.

What do I do with old stamps worth 50 cents or less?

For stamps you have purchased at the post office that are not Forever Stamps – for example, specialty stamps or extra postage you may have received at an Automated Postal Center – you will need to ensure that you affix at least 55 cents of postage – the current Forever Stamp rate for 1 ounce letters. This will ensure you’ll have no interruptions in mail delivery, such as your mail being returned to you as undeliverable due to insufficient postage.

What are my options for buying the new stamps and postage?

Your options for buying the new stamps and postage remain exactly the same as before. Postage can still be purchased at a local post office, online at usps.com, though a postage scale and at a variety of local retailers such as drugstores and grocery stores. On the USPS website, you can continue to purchase stamps and postage at the most up-to-date rate.

Why is the stamp price increase so large this year?

The postage rate increases were approved by the US Postal Regulatory Commission, the US Postal Service’s regulating body, last fall. The USPS is constantly balancing competitive pricing with making sure the operation actually works. The across-the-board average increase of 2.5% is meant to ensure that the USPS postal prices can keep up with inflation.

Before this weekend’s price increase, the largest stamp price jump occurred in 1991, when postage stamp prices increased 4 cents to 29 cents (a 16% hike). Therefore, this weekend’s First Class stamp price increase, while only a 10% hike, is the largest increase – 5 cents — in USPS history.

The Bottom Line

The USPS is raising postage prices in an effort to keep up with inflation, stay competitive, and be able to deliver the best services to customers while also generating enough revenue to operate. 

In summary, for those who are mailing normal-sized envelopes using Forever Stamps, with a weight of both less than or greater than 1 oz., you do not need to make any changes as your mail will still have sufficient postage and therefore be delivered without delays or interruptions.  Those using Priority Mail or Priority Mail Express services to mail packages and letters can expect to pay anywhere from 2.9-5.9% more.

Customers can obtain the most up-to-date pricing at a USPS location or bookmark our homepage to make sure they always know the price of a stamp!

Price of a Stamp Increases by Two Cents — Forever Stamp Value Going Up

Beginning today, the price of a stamp has increased by two cents to a grand total of 49 cents. Any new purchases of Forever Stamps will now cost customers 49 cents each although any Forever Stamps bought before today will increase in value and cover the cost of mailing a letter — requiring no action by you.

This stamp price increase clocks in at 4.2%. Although 2 cents and a few percent don’t sound like much, when Forever Stamps are purchased in rolls of 100, the increase will cost consumers and businesses an extra two dollars. Organizations that depend on mailing standard letters and consumers who buy lots of stamps will be impacted the most.

Other postage prices are changing too

Discounted “metered mail” letters will actually go down by half a cent (this is usually reserved for businesses and bulk mailers). First Class mail “flats” will increase by 4 cents and settle at 98 cents. Postcards will remain the same price and the cheapest way to send mail at only 34 cents.

The price of a stamp before today’s increase

The price of a stamp has actually been exactly this high before. In a strange and unprecedented move, the price of a stamp actually went down in April of 2016. It was 49 cents at that time too and the change last year caused the price to settle at 47 cents after pressure in Washington forced the U.S. Postal Service, which controls the price of a stamp, to move the price down. In other words, just before this increase, the price of a stamp was 47 cents.

Here’s a summary of the recent changes:

  • As of January 22nd, 2017: 49 cents per stamp
  • As of April 10th, 2016: 47 cents per stamp
  • As of May 31st, 2015: 49 cents per stamp

The last time our stamp price was 49 cents was considered an “exigent” increase permitted by regulatory agencies largely due to the U.S. economic recession. We’ve explained the larger history of stamp prices in a previous post.

Why is the price of a stamp changing so much?

Forever stamp increased to 49 cents

Forever Stamps maintain their value even when stamp prices go up.

This stamp price hike has been inevitable and we’ve known about it ever since the USPS announced it in October. The U.S. Postal Service is allowed to raise the price of a stamp to keep pace with inflation. That’s the rationale the USPS cited in their press release explaining the price change.

But behind the scenes, the USPS has been eager to make price changes upward because of the rising cost of maintaining their business. The huge burden that makes the mailing service challenging to maintain is a ballooning retiree health benefits program that costs billions per year. For bureaucratic reasons, their retirement health program isn’t integrated with Medicare and hasn’t been revised by Congress. Additionally, technology like email, unpredictable oil prices and the increased competition from other services like Amazon and FedEx have made it hard for the USPS to balance their budget. In 2016, they posted a massive $5.6 billion net loss. Any price increases, including adjustments of just a few cents, can help make up for this loss.

Stamp Price Increase — Why the Change in Postage Prices?

Wait! Didn’t the price of a first class stamp increase about, oh, five minutes ago? So why has the Postal Service announced yet another stamp cost increase?

If it seems postal rates increase every year, you’re right. On January 26th, the cost of a first class stamp went from 46 to 49 cents. This 3 cent rate hike in the price of a stamp is the Postal Service’s largest in more than a decade. Last year’s increase was by only 1 cent. It is now more expensive to mail a postcard as well, though that fee has only increased by a penny, to 34 cents.

Clearly, the mailing public didn’t make this decision. The Postal Service has been asking for a larger price hike for about three years now. Requests for these increases must go through the agency’s watchdog, the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC). And the PRC is a tough overseer: they turned down the Postal Service’s 2010 request for an abnormal rate increase, claiming that they didn’t provide sufficient evidence of financial hardship. And the Postal Service was persistent — they then filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals, which agreed with the PRC and turned it down.

USPS Corner MailboxesFor this go round, the Postal Service presented evidence claiming that the agency had a loss of $22 billion between the years of 2008 and 2012. They also estimated a loss of $44 billion for the period between 2013 and 2014. The PRC uses a different calculation method than the Postal Service, however, and their grand profit loss total came in at just under $3 billion…

Therefore, they’re finally allowing the Postal Service to make only this amount in profits over the next eighteen months using higher than normal pricing. The Postal Service, which is hoping to keep this large rate hike permanent (the PRC says no, although this doesn’t mean postal rates will go down) is in the process of appealing the PRC’s decision to allow permanent increased rates.

So what did the PRC decide justified a stamp price increase at all? There are four main factors in their order granting the increase and they include losses suffered due to the economy, legal ramifications, the typical rate hike according to inflation and business risks around the USPS’s ability to operate.

Losses Due to the Great Recession and E-mail

The PRC agreed with the USPS that the recession was to blame for some profit losses in shipping, mailing letters, and doing business by mail; but they also blamed “electronic diversion” for much of the agency’s losses. This term refers to doing business over the Internet, e-mailing, etc. You should have seen this coming folks, and you didn’t, the PRC told the Postal Service. This reasoning plays a part in why the PRC thinks the Postal Service has lost much less money than they’re claiming.

The Stamp Price Increase Meets Legal Guidelines

Legally, the Postal Service’s rates are not permitted to rise at a greater rate than that of inflation and the PRC is required to enforce that. However, if the Postal Service can provide evidence of extreme financial hardship if capped by inflation, than this legal rule can be suspended (although this is somewhat debatable). The Postal Regulatory Commission says they have been provided with enough justification by the USPS to use this loophole. This is why they’re calling it an “exigent” rate hike.

Prices Can Go Up with Inflation Too

Despite all these mailing increases, the Postal Service actually hasn’t been keeping up with inflation over the years, so the decision issued by the PRC allows for an additional bump in price by 1.7%, just to keep up with inflation. This blends with the “exigent” part of the hike for a grand total of a roughly 7% increase.

USPS Services Were at Risk

In the PRC’s December decision, it was stated that the Postal Service “lacks a sufficient level of liquidity”(money) to provide services (like delivering packages and letters), and that the inflation-based rate alone will not be sufficient to finance operations. Because the USPS could show that their basic services were at risk, the PRC could justify a larger increase.

The PSRC will be reviewing this case to determine the fate of the exigent hike in May. In a strange twist in events, it’s possible that the price of a stamp will go down. Stay tuned…

Stamp Price Increase — Save on Postage by Buying Stamps This Week

While I’m not one to dole out financial advice (and neither is this blog), there’s one investment you should probably make in the next 7 days unless you’d like to address all your bills, thank you notes and wedding invitations to Ripoffsville this year. The price of a stamp is about to skyrocket on Sunday, January 26th and your best way around it is to invest in some Forever stamps before the postage increase.

What do I mean by “skyrocket”? Ultimately, the price of a stamp is only going up by 3-cents… from 46 cents to 49 cents. Doesn’t seem like a big deal, right? Well, percentage-wise, this is a 7% stamp price increase! By buying Forever stamps, you’d save 6 percent! …You still don’t seem persuaded. I get it… It’s barely even as good as a Bed, Bath and Beyond coupon.

Buy postage stamps

Let’s look at it this way: historically, the price of a stamp has barely even kept pace with inflation — so, in a way, first class letter postage has actually gotten cheaper and cheaper each year. For instance, a 32 cent stamp in 1995, adjusted for inflation, would have been worth worth 49 cents in 2013. By comparison, this makes our actual 2013 rate, 46 cents, look like a bargain. And this historical pattern of inexpensive postage has persisted for quite a long time. In fact, something called the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 was supposed to force the USPS to raise stamp prices no faster than the rate of inflation. Forever stamps should never be a good deal, because legally speaking, stamp price increases should never exceed inflation.

Counter to all this, the USPS filed a request for an “exigent” price increase (by complaining about the Great Recession) and it was approved by the Postal Regulatory Commission. So, now the price of a stamp is actually bumping up to a full 49 cents — an increase of 6.5% — clearly higher than the rate of inflation. Inflation over the course of 2014 (which we can assume will be at least 1%) will remove the purchasing power of your postage budget as the year wears on. These economics will finally make this stamp price hike a bad one for consumers.

TL;DR: Buy some Forever stamps this weekend and thank me at the end of the year when you’re sending Christmas cards at a 6% discount. If not for the sake of beating the system, saving one more trip to post office hell will easily pay for many more stamps.

2014 Stamp Price — How Much is it Going Up? When’s the Change?

If you’re following USPS news and the price of a stamp closely, you’d know that the first class rate for postage stamps is rising this year. But even the Postal Service is making it hard to answer the two most fundamental questions: By how much is the price of a stamp increasing? And when is this all happening?

The simplest answer is: 49 cents and January 26th, 2014. That’s not all — so read on.

The Stamp Price Increase

The new price for a first class stamp will be 49 cents. That’s a never-before-seen 6% increase to the old price which was only 46 cents. It might not seem like that much of a hike but for a rate that businesses depend on, it’s huge. If the USPS were following the convention typically enforced by the Postal Regulatory Commission, the price would only go up by 1 cent. The real change is 3 cents. So, relative to expectations, the new price is a 300% rate surprise!


Forever stamps will increase in value when the price of a stamp changes this year.

Don’t forget that the USPS has already helped us deal with its constant price changes by selling Forever stamps. If you own Forever stamps (or buy them before the price changes!), their value will automatically rise with the price increase. However, if you go to the post office even just the day after the price increase to buy Forever stamps, you’ll pay the new price of a stamp: 49 cents.

When the Price Changes

The price of a stamp increases to 49 cents on Jan. 26th, 2014 according to the USPS, but what does that really mean? Jan. 26 is a Sunday — very few corner mailboxes are serviced on Sundays and nearly every single post office is closed. The postal service doesn’t even deliver mail on Sundays.

The USPS’s wording suggests that the new 49-cent price takes effect on January 26th, so we can assume that the actual change takes place at midnight or close-of-business on Saturday, Jan. 25th. In other words, if you drop something in the mail on or after Jan. 26th, you should plan to apply postage valued at the new price: 49 cents. Or, if you buy stamps at a kiosk or at a post office that’s open on Sunday, you’ll get charged the new price of a stamp.

However, we know from past price increases that the USPS permits a very unofficial “grace period” where it will continue to deliver mail stamped for the old postage price. If you’re lucky, this will last all day Sunday, Jan. 26th. On Monday, Jan. 27th, be sure that all of your mail has 49 cents of postage attached or it might be returned or discarded.

Stamp Price Increase in 2014 — Going Up at Unprecedented Rate

On Christmas Eve, the Postal Regulatory Committee (PRC) officially approved an unprecedented increase to the price of a stamp — a full 3-cent increase — to take hold at the end of January 2014. This will bring the total price of a first class stamp to 49 cents from the current rate of 46 cents. The official change takes place on January 26th.


Three cents may not seem like a lot but this is a 6 percent increase to the price of a stamp which is unprecedented.

The USPS is not ordinarily permitted to increase its prices beyond the rate of inflation. The ordinary price restrictions would have only raised prices by 1.7 percent — only enough to add one cent to the price of a stamp. Although a 3-cent increase sounds like nothing, the rate increase that the PRC approved comes to about 6 percent price hike which is unprecedented in USPS history… and an increase like that can have a real impact on businesses that depend on mailing letters.

The PRC made clear that this is a temporary increase to the price of a stamp and that it may only last 2 years although they did not outline a plan or guidelines for how the USPS will reverse the new rate. Instead they place the onus on the USPS to “report quarterly on revenues generated by the rate increases” and to come up with their own schedule to “phase out the rates once they have produced the revenue justified by their request.” Since the 1-cent portion of the price hike was in line with inflation, only 2 cents worth of the price increase will have to be rolled back.

The USPS has been suffering for a variety of reasons — from technology to inefficiencies in how it operates — however the regulatory committee that approved the USPS’s stamp price increase blamed the Great Recession for what they’ve been calling an “exigent” price hike. The agency believes that the financial harm caused to the USPS during the recession is an extenuating circumstance that justifies an extreme price increase.

Postage Rate Increase in 2014 — USPS Hopes to Hike Stamp Price by 3 Cents

Today, the USPS announced a proposal requesting permission to increase the price of a stamp by 3 cents in January 2014. That would hike the price of a stamp from 46 cents to 49 cents. But don’t jump the gun and invest in forever stamps just yet — the rate increase might not get approved.

It’s no secret that the Postal Service is losing tons of money — some say up to $15 billion per year. The reasons behind these losses run the gamut: from truck fuel and retired employee healthcare to competition from email, social media and private mail services. This increase request is another attempt at raising revenue to help cover ballooning costs and impossible margins. According to the USPS, these new price changes will add $2 billion in revenue in 2014.

When the USPS wants to enforce a postage rate increase, it proposes them to the “Postal Regulatory Commission” or PRC. The commission is an independent government body which regulates how the Postal Service operates and it’s required by law to prevent the price of a stamp from increasing by more than the rate of inflation each year. This is what would makes this proposal so controversial: the dollar has only inflated about 1% in the past 12 months and isn’t expected to deviate much more than that by 2014. Unfortunately at 1% inflation, the USPS should only be allowed to increase the stamp postage rate by one cent. Instead, they’re asking for 3 cents. The last time this happened, this year in January, the USPS raised the stamp price to 46 cents from 45 cents… which was copacetic with inflation and approved by the commission.

3-Cent Postage Rate Increase in 2014

The USPS is hoping to increase stamp prices to 49 cents.

Mickey Barnett, the Chairman of the Postal Service Board of Governors, called this a “last resort” to help deal with the USPS’s financial challenges. They’ve made attempts at reforming the organization through legislation, including a threat to end Saturday delivery, which wasn’t successful. The Postal Regulatory Commission has the latitude to raise prices faster than inflation if circumstances are “extraordinary or exceptional,” and while the Post Office’s fiscal situation may suit that qualification, it hasn’t been a sufficient justification in the past. So, it seems unlikely that you’ll find the stamp price increasing by more than one cent in January. If your business depends on mailing letters, do count on a postage rate hike early next year (and stock up on forever stamps!) but it’s unlikely to outpace inflation.

The USPS hopes to enforce the new postage pricing on January 26th, 2014. The full proposal also includes a one-cent hike to the postcard rate, making it 34 cents; and a one-cent increase on additional weight for letters, making it 21 cents per ounce. They’ll submit the proposal to the PRC tomorrow.

Update 9/26/13: The USPS submitted their proposal today, as promised. The chair of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee commented, pointing out that such a hike is a desperate measure and will push businesses away from using the USPS all together. Other blogs are posting about how buying forever stamps in advance of the increase could be a scheme for making quick cash.

Stamp Price Increase — How to Prepare for the New Price of a Stamp

On January 27th, 2013, the US postal service will officially enact a brand new stamp price: 46 cents for a standard 1-ounce letter. A slew of other new postage increases are also a part of the change and they’re detailed here.

The same exact thing happened this week one year ago — a one-cent increase to the price of a stamp — so it’s pretty certain that every year around mid-January, you’ll have to scramble to take advantage of the imminent change. Make sure you’re not losing out because of the price change!

What You Need to Do Before the Price of a Stamps Goes Up

Stock up on forever stamps: Now’s your last chance to grab forever stamps for the lower price of 45 cents. Forever stamps are always valid for mailing a letter regardless of future postage increases — they’re always good for mailing a standard 1-ounce letter. However, because of the price adjustment, buying a single forever stamp will cost one cent more. A roll of 100 stamps next week will cost a dollar more. If the price of a stamp increases at the same rate, in a decade, that same roll could cost about $10 more. Buying stamps now, especially if you do a lot of mailing, will save some cash and hassle in the long run.

Use up your old stamps: If you still have official 45-cent stamps that aren’t labelled “forever” (most novelty, collectable or themed stamps aren’t forever stamps) you need to use them quickly! Send out your bills early or drop other letters you’ve been procrastinating on in the mail. Even though the price of a stamp officially changes on Sunday, since many corner mailboxes aren’t serviced on Sundays, there’s a short implicit “grace period.” If you can get your mail in the box on Monday, January 28th, it will probably reach its destination — just make sure you’ve listed a return address just in case. So, you’ve got time. If you have any leftover stamps on Monday, you’re still in luck. The USPS offers one-cent stamps which you can also add to the corner of a letter to bring your postage total up to the new 46-cent requirement.

History of the Price of a Stamp

Generations before us, folks paid pennies to send a letter across the country. But times have changed and over the decades, the price of a stamp has ballooned from only a few cents to almost half a dollar. The table below charts the precise stamp price increases and the dates of their introductions. Using the table, you can get an idea of how the price of a stamp has changed over a timeline of over 100 years in the United States.

Before you see the table, you might like to understand the changes it demonstrates. Although it seems like the price of a stamp has risen at an alarming rate, this mostly has to do with inflation. Let’s find out why. The graph below depicts the price of a first class stamp in two different ways: the dark blue section shows the actual price of a stamp as it’s listed in this table against the year the price was in effect; the second shaded section in light blue shows the inflation adjusted price of a stamp using the value of US cents in 2008.

Stamp Price History

The price of a stamp over time compared to its inflation-adjusted price.

This inflation-adjusted graph proves that the price of a stamp has remained surprisingly stable over more than a century. This is because even though the cost of postage was increasing steadily, the value of the US dollar was inflating. That inflation means that the purchasing power of the cent was going down. With the purchasing power falling and the prices going up simultaneously, the net result is a stable stamp price.

Some of the sudden jumps up and down in the graph can just be explained by some of the the earliest stamp price changes. If you look at the table below you can see that since the stamp price was so low, an increase of just a cent means a relative increase of 50% or more. Were it reasonable to change the price of a stamp in increments of partial cents, there would be a less perceptible change in those areas of the graph. So, these changes had less to do with irrational inflation or pricing and more to do with relative changes in price.

Date of Price Change Price of a Stamp in Dollars
03/03/63 .06 (.03 per half ounce)
03/03/83 .04 (.02 per half ounce)
07/01/85 0.02
11/03/17 0.03
07/01/19 0.02
07/01/28 0.02
07/06/32 0.03
01/01/52 0.03
08/01/58 0.04
01/07/63 0.05
01/07/68 0.06
05/16/71 0.08
03/02/74 0.10
09/14/75 0.10
12/31/75 0.13
05/29/78 0.15
03/22/81 0.18
11/01/81 0.20
02/17/85 0.22
04/03/88 0.25
02/03/91 0.29
01/01/95 0.32
01/10/99 0.33
01/07/01 0.34
07/01/01 0.34
06/30/02 0.37
01/08/06 0.39
05/14/07 0.41
05/12/08 0.42
05/11/09 0.44
04/17/11 0.44
01/22/12 0.45
01/27/13 0.46

Here’s just one of many excellent resources on the stamp price’s history and its changes relative to inflation.