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We've come a long way from the days of standing in line at the Post Office to buy stamps, and then licking and sticking them individually. Today, most organizations take advantage of technology to ensure they have the most accurate postage - and as quickly and efficiently as possible. You have numerous choices, but most organizations find themselves choosing between Stamps.com and a postage meter. Which option is better for your business depends entirely on the particulars of your organization. This article walks you through the pros and cons of each, as well as costs, to help you decide which option better suits your needs.
What Is Stamps.com?
Licensed by the United States Postal Service (USPS), Stamps.com lets you print postage directly from your computer. You can access any mail class or USPS service you need. Each plan includes a digital scale that connects directly to your software via a USB cable. And, as with postage meters, you get cost codes, multiple payment options, reporting analytics, and a whole host of features to help manage your shipping costs.
The Stamps.com software integrates with a variety of programs, including QuickBooks, Microsoft, Lotus, and Corel. You can also import address books as well as save manually-entered addresses.
Stamps.com, the Pros and Cons
- Automatic: Rates update automatically via the Stamps.com software, so you always use correct postage.
- Simple: You don't need any extra equipment or special ink, just a standard printer and computer.
- Try before you buy: Stamps.com lets you take their software for a four-week test drive, with no penalties if you decide to cancel.
The main con is how much slower Stamps.com is compared to a postage meter. Although you can print postage labels as quickly as your printer can process them, you still need to affix each one by hand. This makes it a better option for smaller organizations, or at least ones with lighter mail volume. If you have to process a lot of mail, this probably isn't the way you want to go.
What Are Postage Meters?
Companies have been using postage meters for decades. They allow you to process outgoing mail and packages easily and quickly. You can only rent a postage machine. For security reasons, the USPS does not allow anyone to buy a postage meter.
Postage meters vary widely in capabilities. Models range from small units that process 15 to 20 envelopes a minute to enormous machines that run through 10,000 or more in an hour.
At the basic level, all postage meters do the same thing: stamp an envelope or label with a frank, also known as an indica. This is a mark that includes the amount of postage, the date, and mail class. The frank may also include tracking information, destination zip code, weight, and more. All of this information helps the Post Office process the piece more quickly and accurately.
The Pros and Cons of Postage Meters
Postage meters have many of the same advantages as Stamps.com, particularly as regards automatic updates and ensuring you always use the correct amount of postage. In addition, postage meters knock 3 cents off the price to send every piece of mail, as an incentive for businesses to use them. You may also receive discounts on your postage - up to 1 percent on first class - based on the volume of mail sent. When you use a postage meter, even though it's only pennies, those savings add up over time - particularly if you send thousands of pieces of mail a day.
The analytics features are also handy, since they help you determine costs and assign postage expenditures to the right accounts. But, the greatest advantage of postage meters over Stamps.com is the speed and efficiency, particularly at higher mail volumes. The ability to process thousands of pieces in an hour makes postage meters the obvious choice for organizations that send high volumes of mail.
There is only really one con to a postage machine and that's the fact that they aren't cost-effective for smaller offices or organizations that spend less than $50 per month on postage.
How Much Does Stamps.com Cost?
To use Stamps.com, you need to open an account and pay a monthly fee in addition to any postage used.
- The four-week trial period is free, just don't forget to cancel before the trial period ends if that's your preference.
- Pro includes a single user and location and costs $15.99 per month.
- Premier allows you to have three users in a single location and costs $24.99 per month.
- Enterprise is available for multiple locations, with pricing coming directly from Stamps.com.
How Much Does it Cost to Rent a Postage Meter?
Postage meter rental costs vary widely, depending on speed and extra features.
- The most basic units process 15 to 20 pieces per minute (ppm) and rents for around $20 per month with a year-long contract.
- Mid-range postage meters process from 50 ppm to 200 ppm and rent from $35 to $65 per month on average.
- Dedicated mail processing stations process tens of thousands of pieces per hour and rent for anywhere from $500 to $1,000 or more.
In addition to the rental fee, you'll likely have expenses for:
- The postage itself
- Labels and adhesives
- Sorters, stackers, and sealers