What is the difference between First Class and Standard Class Mail?

One of the most common questions in Mail Survey budgeting is the kind of postage to use. Depending on your survey you may be able to cut on cost by using standard instead of first-class mail, however, think about this carefully, as you risk lowering survey response and reducing data quality. To help you decide, we’ve identified some key differences between the two. Choose the best one to fit your project.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) processes mail based on the mail type. The following are the most common types of mail. 

  •  Express Mail – Typically overnight services
  •  Priority Mail – Guaranteed delivery in 1-3 days depending on location
  •  First Class Mail
  •  Standard/Bulk Class Mail


What is the difference between First Class and Standard Class Mail?


First Class Presort

First Class mail will be delivered in 1-2 days for local addresses and nationally; all of it should be delivered in about 4-5 days. If your party has moved and submitted a change of address with USPS, your mail will be forwarded at no cost for a period of 1 year. If it’s undeliverable, it will be returned at no cost with the reason why it could not be delivered.

The mail file must have at least 500 records, be NCOA address updated, CASS certified, and put in presort order before being delivered to the postal service. Typical savings off of list rates depend on the zip code sort; you can expect to save 10-20%. 


Standard Class (formerly known as Bulk Mail)

There is a significant saving using Standard Class mail (aka Bulk mail). Standard mail is processed by the USPS on a “time available” basis. There is NO guaranteed delivery time, only “typicals.” Local mail is typically delivered in about 3-6 workdays, and national mail can be 1-3 weeks. Sometimes it’s faster, and other times it’s slower. Just remember there is no guarantee, and mail is processed as they have time. In our experience, we see longer delays around the holidays. 


  • The “pros”: It’s the least expensive postage mode, almost half the price of 1st class, which enables you to mail a higher volume for less. It also allows up to 3.3 ounces, all for the same low postage rate.  


  • The “cons”: Due to the delivery time, NEVER use Standard mail if you have a rapidly approaching event or expiration date. Standard mail is not forwarded and usually not returned if undeliverable. It merely goes into the USPS recycling bin. Standard Class mail requires a minimum of 250 pieces to qualify for these rates.


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Managing a mail survey project can be overwhelming when you have different vendors to deal with. Streamline your project by partnering with a data collection expert that can handle all your needs. Our one-source solution is uniquely designed to align with your organization’s mission at the strategic level while saving you time, risk, and money! For more information on data collection or any aspect of survey mail management, contact us today!

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