Direct Mail

We could furnish a link to the 1,800 page USPS Domestic Mail Manual, but you’d be lost in the maze.  So here are the basics.  And as always, contact your Print Consultant with any questions.

Classes of Mail

First Class
The best-known class, First Class can either be a straight retail purchase or sent pre-sorted, using a commercial permit. Any personal statements or correspondence must be sent First Class. A minimum of 200 pieces is required to send through a commercial permit, and postage is paid at a single piece rate. A minimum of 500 pieces is required to take advantage of presort and barcode postage discounts.

Also known as bulk mail or 3rd class, standard class is used for advertising or solicitation. It must be presorted and submitted to the Post Office through your commercial permit, or use the Union-Hoermann Press permit. A minimum of 200 pieces is required to send through a commercial permit at discounted rates.

Non-Profit is a sub-class of Standard Mail. The USPS gives special postage discounts to IRS approved non-profit organizations that go through a USPS approval process. If you are a non-profit organization that does not take advantage of these special rates, please contact a Union-Hoermann Press Print Consultant to start the process and start saving.

Bound Printed Matter
A sub-class of Package Services, this class is used mainly for catalogs, directories, or any other permanently bound mail piece that is too heavy for 1st class or Standard Mail. The maximum weight is 15 pounds. There is a minimum of 300 pieces required for this rate.

This is a special rate class for authorized publications, generally magazines and newspapers. To qualify, the publication must be issued at least four times a year at a consistent frequency from a designated Post Office location and be sent to a dedicated subscriber list. The publication must also include specific publication identification according to USPS standards. This extensive approval process generally eliminates everyone other than magazine and newspaper publishers.

Categories of Mail

This is the most frequently used category of mail. It generally describes mail pieces that are between the sizes of 5 – 10 1/2” in length, 3 1/2 – 6” in height  [Effective January 5, 2013] and between .009 and .25” in thickness. A letter must also fall within an aspect ratio (length divided by height) of 1.3 – 2.5 or be penalized with a surcharge. Mail pieces printed on cardstock may have rounded corners, but cannot exceed a radius of 1/8”. Self-mailers that are of letter-size category also have special tabbing requirements.

A sub-category of Letter, this special designation class gives postal discounts on First Class mail. The dimensions to qualify for Postcard rates are 5 – 6” in length, 3 1/2 – 4 1/4” in height, and between .007 and .016” in thickness.

This category generally describes pieces larger than a letter. The USPS dimensions for flats are 11 1/2 – 15” in length, 6 1/8 – 12” in height, and 1/4 – 3/4” in thickness. The mail piece only has to exceed any one of the minimum letter dimensions to be considered a flat. A flat must also have some flexibility and be generally uniform in thickness. The maximum weight is between 13 – 16 ounces, depending on the Mailing Class used.

What is NCOA Certification?

The Move Update Regulation, which went into effect in November of 2008, requires all presorted mail to undergo a Move Update process against the mailing list within 90 days of the mailing date. The National Change of Address (NCOA) process satisfies the Move Update requirement.

Union-Hoermann Press has adjusted our list processing procedures to automatically include the National Change of Address (NCOA) processing on all lists that we presort. The NCOA runs your list against the USPS National Change of Address database and corrects any moved addresses. The USPS NCOA database is compiled of mail recipients who have correctly filed change-of-address forms with the USPS within the last 48 months. We are then able to generate a report for you of any corrected addresses.

How does this regulation benefit you?
This new procedural regulation can have tremendous benefits to you. The most obvious benefit is that more of your mailings will reach their intended audience. Furthermore, if you use mailer endorsements such as “Address Service Requested” or “Return Service Requested,” we recommend contacting a Union-Hoermann Press Print Consultant, as it’s possible you are paying unnecessary fees for a service that NCOA already provides.  Ultimately, you should see a significant drop in undeliverable mail due to moved addresses. The end result is less additional cost for the undeliverable mail surcharge, less wasted postage on the initial mail piece, and a higher rate of effectiveness for your mailing since it will reach more of its targeted audience.

Helpful Resources

Domestic Mail Manual
This is the Holy Grail of mailing regulations. Go to and click on the download DMM, or search it online.

The Postal Bulletin that has the most up-to-date info on postal changes, it also has links to many other USPS resources. Go to