What Is a Postage Meter?
A postage meter is a machine that creates and applies official United States Postal Service (USPS) postage to mail pieces. All you have to do is load postage funds into the meter and you’re good to go. Most meters have a PIN code system that keeps unauthorized users from accessing the unit (and the postage it contains) without first providing the proper credentials.
The exact components of a postage meter depend on the specific type you get and any add-ons you have. Typically, postage meters have a base that the mail is fed through for the indicia (postal mark) to be placed and a feeder that guides the mail piece through the meter, which is either automatic or hand-fed. It is common for smaller meters to have a built-in scale and larger meters to have an included, separate scale that weighs the mail and ensures the correct postage is applied.
In addition to this, many meters have sealers (which moisten and close envelopes and packages), as well as memory keys and shortcut keys. Memory keys store regular tasks, such as sending an item to a specific place under a specific account. Shortcut keys are buttons programmed for frequent tasks that allow you to press a single key instead of multiple.
All postage applied by a postage meter comes directly from USPS. Postage meters must be pre-filled with a set amount of postage, which can be refilled as the funds run low or when they run out. The indicia the meter prints on mail pieces, often referred to as a frank, contains additional information about the mail piece, such as the amount of postage paid, the class of mail, weight of the item, and the zip code of the mailing company. Some meters also apply information that lets you track the mail in the frank.
A postage meter is owned by two parties: the USPS, which owns the “meter” inside of the machine, and the postage meter vendor, who owns the machine that houses the meter and allows it to create the postage stamp.
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Types of Postage Meters
The type of postage meter you need depends on the size of your business and the amount of mail you send out. For the most part, postage meters share the same general features, such as postage refill, domestic and international postage options, and weigh features. However, there are differences between the three main type of postage meters, which are small, medium, and large.
- Small postage meters: These are ideal for businesses that process low volumes of mail. Small postage meters typically have an average processing speed between 15 and 40 letters per minute (LPM), the ability to create custom graphics for the postage, and a built-in scale that weighs up to 10 pounds.
- Medium postage meters: Perfect for medium and large businesses that process high volumes of mail, medium postage meters handle mail pieces of various shapes and sizes. Most have a built-in scale that weighs a maximum of 15 pounds and an option to add an external scale that weighs up to 100 pounds. Medium postage meters have an average processing speed between 65 and 200 LPM.
- Large postage meters: Meant for large corporations that deal with bulk mail, these postage meters offer a built-in scale with a weigh maximum of 10 pounds and the option to add an external scale that weighs up to 150 pounds. Large postage meters are often automatic, let you create custom graphics to add to your postage, and have an average processing speed between 180 and 350 LPM.
How Much Do Postage Meters Cost?
The cost of a postage meter is determined by the specific meter you choose, any add-ons, and the provider you rent from. That being said, what follows is a general pricing guide to provide an idea of what you can expect to pay for your postage meter.
- A small, basic postage meter with a process speed between 15 and 20 LPM has a starting cost of around $20 – $30 per month with a year-long contract.
- The average cost of a low-volume postage meter is around $20 – $60 per month.
- A medium postage meter with a processing speed between 50 and 100 LPM has an average cost between $35 and $65 per month.
- A large, dedicated mail processing station that has the ability to process upwards of 100 LPM ranges in cost between $500 and upwards of $1,000.
In addition to the cost of the postage meter itself, don’t forget about the additional costs that come with the machine. Materials such as envelopes, ink, and tape will need to be replaced and postage refilled. You also need to insure the machine and consider the cost of property taxes for the mailing equipment.