How-to Guides, Postage and Mailing, USPS

An Ultimate Guide to the USPS: Move Update, Certified Mail, Postal Optimizations, Mailer Scorecard

FSSI logo FSSI on July 21, 2022

USPS Ultimate Guide Header.

In the world of mail management, the United States Postal Service (USPS) offers an array of tools, services, mail types, discounts, regulations, and insider tips that can be challenging to grasp. To shed light on this complex landscape, we present a comprehensive guide that empowers businesses to effectively navigate and leverage the diverse range of USPS offerings. If you need additional terms defined you can refer to our Glossary of USPS Mailing Terms, which provides definitions of key USPS terminology, acronyms, services, and more. Below, we delve into the USPS services covered in this helpful guide:

  1. Certified Mail
  2. Postage Optimization
  3. Address Cleansing
  4. Return Mail
  5. Move Update
  6. Mailer Scorecard

To fully leverage the USPS tools and services discussed in this guide, partnering with a mail outsourcing provider is highly recommended. These providers possess the expertise and knowledge of the latest postal promotions, regulations, and updates, enabling businesses to maximize postage savings and enhance audience engagement. Mail providers offer access to presort and commingling for greater postage discounts, state-of-the-art mailing equipment, and tracking and reporting capabilities for improved workflow transparency.

Businesses that handle mail in-house can still benefit from USPS tools and services but not with the same ease and optimization as an outsource mail partner. With that in mind, let’s jump into your USPS guide.


examples of certified mail.

Certified Mail®: USPS’s Secure Delivery Solution

Exclusively provided by USPS, Certified Mail guarantees secure delivery by providing the sender with a mailing receipt and electronic verification of delivery or delivery attempts. This service is available only for First-Class Mail® or Priority Mail® within the United States. Discover the benefits of Certified Mail and learn why many companies rely on it for proof of mailing, secure delivery, and archival of delivery records.

Who Uses Certified Mail?

Due to business and regulatory reasons, many companies send Certified Mail. This offers companies proof of mailing, secure delivery, as well as archival proof of delivery.

What is the Difference Between Certified and Registered Mail®?

The main difference between Certified Mail and Registered Mail is an additional layer of security. Registered Mail adds another level of protection with specific sealing and packaging requirements as well as staying in a locked safe when transported. These differences tend to make Registered Mail costlier for businesses, but Certified Mail is highly secure as well. Learn more about the benefits of Certified Mail below:

Benefits of Certified Mail

  • Creates a sense of urgency
  • Proof of Mailing verifies when mail was sent
  • Return Receipts verify when mail was delivered
  • Mailpiece tracking uses barcodes to track each mailpiece
  • Prioritized delivery ensures delivery within one to three days
  • P.O. boxes can receive delivery of certified mail
  • Records for archival are provided with every certified mailing

Certified mail helps simplify the proof of mailing process; although, keeping track of receipts can become cumbersome when dealing with mailing high volumes. FSSI’s electronic solution solves this problem for businesses.

FSSI’s Electronic Certified Mail Solution – eCertify™

Cataloging and finding the hardcopy “green cards” of these important Certified Mail documents is difficult to manage and expensive for companies, using the traditional methods. FSSI’s eCertify tool simplifies the process by creating and printing the required labels in line with the actual document to be mailed and inserting them into a special Certified Mail window envelope, resulting in high-quality, secure processing. The delivery confirmation is then posted online, including the signature from the recipient and the reasons for non-delivery, if applicable.

Electronic Delivery Confirmations and Return Receipt Signatures are posted online within hours of receiving a signature for a document. FSSI can also transmit this same information for upload into clients’ in-house archival systems.


Postage Optimization: Maximizing Savings and Efficiency

Optimizing postage costs is crucial for efficient mail management. Explore key areas for postal optimization, including address management, presort discounts, Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMb) usage, commingling, co-palletization, USPS postage promotions, standard-size mailpieces, paper stock selection, and high-volume discounts.

Discover how these strategies can help your business save on postage expenses and enhance your mailing campaigns.

Postal Optimization Categories

  • Address Management
  • Presort Discounts
  • Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMb)
  • Commingling and Co-Palletization
  • USPS Postage Promotions
  • Using Standard Size Mailpieces
  • Using the Right Paper Stock
  • High-Volume Discounts

Address Management

The hygiene of your address database is the first place you should look for postal discounts. Diligent address management, which includes pinpointing bad addresses, duplicate addresses, and multiple mailpieces being sent to the same household, can make a big impact on wasteful postage costs. By simply sifting through the data, you can quickly identify the accuracy of your data and make changes to optimize your costs. 

Presort Discounts

The USPS manages and sorts millions of pieces of mail each day. Did you know that the USPS offers significant discounts for mailers that presort their mail by zip code? This process results in lower postage because you’re doing the legwork for the post office. Since it costs the USPS less to process and deliver the mailpieces, the savings are passed onto you, making this option a worthwhile undertaking to curb postage costs.  

Intelligent Mail® Barcode

Utilizing the Intelligent Mail® Barcode (IMb) enables you to get the lowest automation rates (if all other automation requirements are met) and qualify for participation in other USPS service programs. The IMb was created by the USPS and is a 65-bar Postal Service™ barcode that allows mailers to simultaneously use a single barcode across several different services and programs. It is required for use on letters and flats prepared for automation prices. In addition, it allows mailers to track individual mailpieces and provides greater visibility into the mailstream. 

Commingling and Co-Palletization

Commingling helps reduce postage and delivery costs. Commingling is a process where multiple companies combine and organize their mailings to send to targeted neighborhoods or zip codes to qualify for volume and other postal discounts. Commingled mail qualifies for discounts because it’s already sorted to its final destination. Co-palletization is combining trays of mail into pallets. The difference between commingling and co-palletization is that with commingling you share space inside a tray and with co-palletization, you are sharing space on a pallet, with both providing discount opportunities. You just need to determine the best option for you.  

USPS Postage Promotions

Each year, the USPS offers a variety of postage promotions, which can provide large savings on your overall postage costs. Stay on top of USPS postal discounts and see if you qualify. 

Examples of First-Class mail promotions include: 

  • Earned Value Reply Mail Promotion: If you register your Mailer ID and use eligible Intelligent Mail barcodes on your Business Reply Mail (BRM), Courtesy Reply Mail (CRM) and Share Mail pieces, you may receive a postage discount for each applicable mailpiece placed in the mailstream and scanned during the promotion period. 
  • Personalized Color Promotion Discount: Receive a discount for bills and statements featuring color messaging to help encourage the overall engagement and response rate of mailpieces. This promotion strives to increase the value of First-Class Mail and encourage color print technology, providing an upfront discount to mailers who use dynamic/variable color print. 

Examples of Marketing Mail promotions include:

  • Tactile, Sensory and Interactive Discounts: Utilizing innovations in papers/stocks, substrates, finishing techniques and inks serve to drive engagement and response rates. Taking a multi-faceted approach to your mailing efforts can lead to additional discounts as you employ the latest tactile/sensory mailpiece features that reinforce brand awareness while providing an interactive experience. 
  • Mobile Shopping Promotion: The USPS also offers discounts for mailers that integrate mobile devices as a call-to-action for online shopping, especially useful during the holiday season. Utilizing mobile-friendly technology, such as direct codes, this promotion serves to link the convenience of mobile devices with the online shopping experience.
  • Standard-Size Mailpieces: Consider the shape and size of your document when creating the overall design. Why? Postage rates vary greatly among different sizes of mail. If you create a document or postcard that has an odd-shaped design, you will likely pay more for your postage. There are specific minimum and maximum sizing requirements to keep in mind when preparing your envelopes, or “flats.” Utilizing the optimum size will help keep costs in line and eliminate any additional charges.
  • Paper Stock: Variations in the weight of each paper type can add to your postage rates. Some good news is that with increases made to the maximum weight of automation letters and cards to 3.5 ounces, you have greater flexibility with the choice and amount of paper stock you use. Get samples of the paper and envelope and weigh them to see if you’re within postage limits. If needed, a lightweight alternative can help keep costs in line, especially if you go over the weight limit and intend to mail a large volume. 
  • High-Volume Capabilities: Having the proper infrastructure in place helps to support the functions of high-volume print and mail. To best manage the capacity, you can utilize technology and software to optimize operations, have the staff and equipment on hand to support the mailpiece volume and build strong vendor relationships to maximize cost savings. These factors can help streamline the mailing process, so your operations run efficiently, and you eliminate any potential for waste.  

Person sweeping with a big manilla folder in the background that says customer data.

Address Cleansing: Improving Data Quality for Effective Mailings

Accurate address data is the foundation of successful mailings. Learn about the benefits of address cleansing and how it can enhance the efficiency of your mailing campaigns. Discover the impact of diligent address management on mail sorting, postage costs, campaign ROI, and the overall effectiveness of your marketing efforts.

What is Address Cleansing?

Address cleansing is a process that helps audit and improves the quality of the address data collected by your company. The results include better efficiency when mailing, enhanced data for mail sorting, reduction in postage costs, and better return on campaign and marketing investments.

The Importance of Data Accuracy

In the realm of direct mail, data accuracy plays a crucial role in the success of marketing efforts. Inaccurate information results in messages failing to reach the intended recipients, leading to wasted resources and a strain on the postal system. There are various reasons why address data may become incorrect or outdated, including customers moving, input errors, or incompatible address formats.

Benefits of Address Cleansing for Businesses?

Implementing address cleansing solutions, either through manual or automated processes or by utilizing address cleansing services, yields tangible benefits for businesses. By ensuring data accuracy, businesses can save time and money while avoiding undeliverable mail and unnecessary postage fees. Moreover, accurate address data is particularly crucial for companies that handle sensitive documents such as bills, invoices, and notices, ensuring their secure and timely delivery.

Why is Data Accuracy Important?

Data accuracy is critical, especially in the case of mailers, where inaccurate information means that your message will fail to reach the right person and cost you to do so. There are many reasons you may have incorrect or outdated addresses in your database. Your intended customers might have moved, made a mistake in providing their address initially, or been given a format unrecognizable by your system. These simple inaccuracies lead to undeliverable mail and postage fees that could have been avoided with an address cleanse.

Even more critical than wasted marketing efforts are the implications for companies that deal with bills, invoices, letters and notices. These types of mailed content are often confidential and of high priority; making sure that they are not going to be returned or undeliverable is of the utmost importance with these sensitive and vital documents. Whether you do a manual or automatic audit of your database, in-house or with address cleansing services, the results will provide a measurable improvement for your business.

Keep Your Customer Address Database Updated and Reduce Returned Mail

Whether you choose a service or manual approach, there is nothing but tangible benefits available to those who choose to utilize address cleansing. Not only will you save time and money, but you will also keep your communications moving as planned to reap the benefits of recaptured business opportunities and an improved customer experience.


piece of mail with a undeliverable nixie label.

Return Mail Solutions: Managing Undeliverable Mail

Undeliverable mail poses a significant challenge for businesses. Discover effective solutions for managing returned mail and reducing costs associated with undeliverable-as-addressed mail. Explore FSSI’s electronic return mail solution, which streamlines the process of handling returned mail, decreases undeliverable mail instances, and ensures up-to-date address data for your business.

What is Returned Mail?

Returned mail consists of mailpieces that are undeliverable as addressed. The mail is usually returned because of outdated, inaccurate, or insufficient address data.

Returned mail refers to mail items that are sent back to the sender instead of reaching their intended recipients. There are several reasons why mail may be returned:

  1. Insufficient or incorrect address: If the address on the mail item is incomplete, inaccurate, or outdated, the postal service may be unable to deliver it to the intended recipient. In such cases, the mail is returned to the sender.
  2. Addressee not found: If the recipient is no longer at the address provided or if the recipient’s name is not recognized by the postal service, the mail may be returned to the sender.
  3. Non-deliverable or undeliverable mail: Certain mail items may be deemed non-deliverable due to various reasons, such as the recipient refusing to accept the mail, the address being vacant or closed, or the mail being damaged or unprocessable.
  4. Failure to pay postage or insufficient postage: If the sender fails to pay the required postage or if the postage affixed to the mail item is insufficient, the postal service may return the mail to the sender.
  5. Return service requested: In some cases, the sender may request return service, which means that if the mail cannot be delivered, it is automatically returned to the sender instead of being discarded or held by the postal service.

When mail is returned, it provides valuable feedback to the sender about the accuracy of the address, the deliverability of the mail, or potential issues that may need to be addressed. It is important for businesses and individuals to update their address databases regularly to minimize the occurrence of returned mail and ensure successful delivery.

FSSI’s Electronic Return Mail Solution

At FSSI, we’ve prioritized staying updated and informed on all avenues related to data validation and address hygiene. We offer a solution to help reduce your undeliverable mail, inform you about your address data and reduce postage costs. Our solution is eReturn Mail.

eReturn is an electronic solution that provides a digital file of all “Change of Address” (COA) and “Undeliverable as Addressed” (UAA) information for physically-returned mailpieces, covering all scenarios of returned mail and decreasing occurrences of nixies in the process.

Using a proprietary program, FSSI matches USPS® data with its database so there is no manual processing needed

  • Through FSSI’s Unique Piece Tracking (UPT), we provide you with data on all mail that was returned in a convenient easy-to-read electronic file, removing piles of physical mail to sort through
  • Data is formatted so you can quickly and easily manage customer addresses and make real-time updates
  • When database updates are not feasible without consent, you can quickly identify and contact customers to get updated information
  • Satisfy Move Update compliance by streamlining the review process and address cleansing practices to keep your customer data up to date
  • Secure Destruction enables you to instruct USPS to destroy all “Undeliverable as Addressed” mail and forward all “Change of Address” mail to your customers

Move Update Compliance Graphic.

USPS Guide: Move Update Ensuring Compliance

What is Move Update Compliance?

Move Update compliance is essential for businesses that rely on high-volume mailings. The USPS introduced Move Update to verify address quality and reduce the need for mail forwarding. Compliance with Move Update standards is crucial for avoiding additional fees and maintaining existing presort mail discounts.

The Move Update standard is met when an address used on a mailpiece in a mailing for any class of mail is updated with an approved method and the same address is used in a commercial First-Class Mail and USPS Marketing Mail, mailing within 95 days after the address has been updated. 

Understanding Move Update Compliance

To meet Move Update compliance, businesses must update addresses used on mailpieces with an approved method and utilize the updated addresses within 95 days in commercial First-Class Mail and USPS Marketing Mail mailings. By keeping their databases up-to-date and accurate, businesses can enjoy the benefits of presort mail discounts while demonstrating address quality and visibility metrics.


usps guide what is the USPS mailer scorecard infographic.

USPS Mailer Scorecard

What is the USPS Mailer Scorecard?

The Mailer Scorecard is the Postal Service’s effort to assess mail preparation and whether the mailer earned the workshare discounts that offset the costs for the Postal Service to handle it. The Mailer Scorecard provides a dashboard view of the results of the letter and flat mailing activity with the Postal Service over a calendar month. The USPS Mailer Scorecard consists of five sections:

  • Mailer Profile – This tab provides a summary of volume by mail class, eDocument types and total revenue in a month.
  • Electronic Verification – This tab provides results from Full-Service preparation requirements, Move Update compliance and presort preparation requirements.
  • eInduction – This tab provides an overview of the number of containers on eInduction and the number or eInduction validation errors.
  • Seamless Acceptance – For mailers participating in Seamless Acceptance or Seamless Parallel, this tab provides an overview of the verification results including undocumented nesting/sortation, delivery point validation, etc.
  • Service Performance Measurement (SPM) – For Full-Service mailers, this tab provides an overview of the number of mailpieces that were excluded from measurement due to one or more issues.

How Do Mailer Scorecard Scores and Updates Work?

The Mailer Scorecard is updated monthly using color codes to address areas of concern or in need of improvement and are color coded: Green, Red and Yellow.

  • Green – Percent metric value has improved by more than 5% from the previous month
  • RedPercent metric value has declined by more than 5% from the previous month
  • Yellow – Percent metric value exceeds the threshold established by the USPS

Unlock the Full Potential of USPS with Expert Assistance

For businesses aiming to leverage the USPS tools and services discussed in this guide, partnering with a mail outsourcing provider is the ultimate solution. These providers possess in-depth knowledge of the latest postal promotions, regulations, and updates. Moreover, they can help your company maximize postage savings, increase audience engagement, and ensure workflow transparency through access to presort and commingling discounts, state-of-the-art mailing equipment, and comprehensive tracking and reporting capabilities.

Navigating the complexities of USPS services and optimizing postage requires a comprehensive understanding of tools such as Certified Mail, Postage Optimization, Return Mail Solutions, Address Cleansing, and Move Update compliance. By implementing effective strategies and partnering with USPS experts, businesses can streamline their mailing processes, reduce costs, and improve overall efficiency.

Contact FSSI at 714.436.3300 for a consultation to ensure that you are getting the most out of your mail services and how you can benefit from FSSI’s workflow transparency and secure data practices.

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Sources:

Pitney Bowes whitepaper – “Stemming the tide: Control the quantity and cost of returned mail.” https://pe.usps.com/text/dmm100/intro.htm
https://pe.usps.com/text/qsg300/q507.htm