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Direct Mail Marketing: What are Postal Indicia?

Indicia imprint on a white direct mail piece, shown against a blue background

The Meaning of Postal Indicia

Within the context of postal services, the term Indicia refers to distinctive "stamp like" markings that are imprinted onto mail pieces to indicate that postage has been prepaid by the sender.

Though many people use the term "Indicia" as a singular noun, Indicia is actually the plural form of the Latin word "Indicium", which translates to "a tangible mark or sign that provides evidence of something."

Four different examples of postal Indicia
There are many variations of Postal Indicia. These are examples of some common formats.

Indicia are used for Commercial Bulk Mailings

Unlike stamps, Indicia cannot be used for mailing a few pieces here and there. Indicia can only be used in conjunction with high-volume mailings, such as marketing postcards, folded mailers, newsletters, and catalogs. In most cases, the indicia are incorporated into the artwork file and printed directly onto the mail pieces.

Needless to say, printing the indicia right on the pieces is much more efficient than applying hundreds or thousands of postage stamps, or running the entire mailing through a postage meter.

As far as the placement is concerned, indicia are printed in the same location where postage stamps or metered imprints would normally be placed.

A Bulk Mailing qualifies for Discounted Postage

Direct mail is a popular marketing channel for many businesses, especially since the US Postal Service offers a postage discount for commercial mailings sent in bulk. In order to qualify for the bulk discount, all of the pieces sent out in a single mailing have to be of identical weight.

Also, the sender (or the mailing service provider hired by the sender) has to perform some of the upfront tasks the post office would normally do - such as presorting the pieces by zip code - prior to dropping the mail off to be processed.

There are also minimum quantities to abide by, such as 200 pieces (or 50 pounds) for Standard Mail (aka USPS Marketing Mail), 200 pieces (or 50 pounds) for Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM), and 500 pieces for First Class Mail.

A Permit and Annual Fee is required to use Indicia imprints, in most cases

When using indicia imprints to signify prepaid postage, most classes of pre-sorted bulk mail, including First Class and Standard Mail, require the one-time purchase of a mailing permit as well as an annual fee.

Because the use of indicia requires a permit, indicia are sometimes referred to as Permit Imprints. In fact, the permit number needs to be included on the indicia, as well as other details required by postal regulations, such as "US Postage Paid", mail class, and the city and state where the permit is held.

Four trays of bulk mail lying on a table
Most classes of pre-sorted bulk mail require a permit to use Indicia imprints

By the way, when it is time to send out the mailing, it must be brought to the same postal location that holds the permit. The mail pieces cannot be taken to just any random post office, placed in a mailbox, or given to a mail carrier. Also, once a permit is activated, you must do at least one mailing with your Indicia imprint every 24 months.

Here's a money saving tip: if you partner with a printer or mailhouse to prepare the mailing for you, you will be able to use their indicia for your mailing. This will keep you from needing to purchase your own permit or having to pay the annual fee.

Also, please note that EDDM does not require a permit or have an annual fee unless the mailing quantity exceeds 5,000 pieces per day. Though this can save money, the tradeoff is that EDDM mailings are not targeted toward specific individuals on a mailing list. Rather, EDDM is simply delivered to every address on your chosen carrier route(s).

Let Color Vision handle the Printing and Mailing

Adding Indicia imprints directly to your bulk mail pieces is a popular and convenient way to prepay for postage. However, there are many rules and regulations that govern commercial mailings and the proper use of Indicia.

Even though the US Postal Service offers helpful guidelines on its website, the volume of information presented there can quickly become overwhelming. So to help streamline your project and alleviate stress, let Color Vision take care of the printing and mailing. We'll handle the entire project, at a very affordable rate, so you can relax.

To discuss an upcoming project, just give us a call at 800-543-6299. Or, if you prefer, you can use our simple Quote Request form to send us your project specifications and we will email a quote to you.

As always, we look forward to assisting with your next printing and mailing project!

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