What Determines the Price of Postage?

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  • Written By: Ken Black
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2019
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While each country is different, a number of factors may come into play when determining the price of postage. These include the weight of the piece, whether transport needs to be expedited, the distance traveled, the type of parcel it is and perhaps the dimensions it has. However, the price of postage is also determined by the fixed and variable expenses experienced by the postal service.

Most countries have a separate and independent body that is responsible for taking care of the mail, but yet remains under the direct supervision of the government. In the United States, this is the US Postal Service. In Great Britain, it is known as the Royal Mail. Various other countries may have different names. These responsible organizations look at expenses and projected income, as well as what would add to the cost of delivery, and come up with prices meant to reflect a sustainable business model.

There are traditional factors that also influence the price of postage. Factors like weight and size will have the most noticeable influence. Sending something overnight will cost substantially more than sending it by more traditional methods. International mail will often be much more expensive than domestic mail.


In some cases, the level of service will also help determine the price of postage. For example, first-class mail delivery, which most individuals are accustomed to using, and may only have the option of using, is one of the most expensive methods of standard postage. The second class postage price will be lower, but the service may not be as fast or it may only be for pieces of mail that meet certain qualifications.

In some cases, the price of postage is determined by the inflation rate. That is at least partially the case in the United States, where postage delivery goes as do the costs associated with its delivery. However, other factors may play a role, such as the usage of the postal service. If more pieces of mail are being delivered, the service operates more efficiently. Less mail means less income. However, this may not necessarily mean expenses are lowered. It costs nearly the same amount to move one letter from New York to San Francisco as it does two.

The history of postage prices have generally reflected an upward trend in the price of postage. However, that upward pressure has increased more so in recent years. This is due to other types of communication technology, such as telephone and email, taking the place of the traditional letter. Therefore, even as postage prices increase, many people may experience an overall decrease in the amount they spend on postage.


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Post 3

@clintflint - That might actually be why the price of postage for packages has gone up. I imagine even if it seemed cheap it was actually more expensive by weight to send a letter most of the time and the post office could make up money from letters and pass that savings onto packages.

Now that there are fewer letters those savings aren't there and packages become more expensive.

Post 2

@Mor - I've never thought about it before, but I guess you would need to put a huge amount of stamps on an envelope going overseas when your own country doesn't have a god economy because you are essentially paying the price of postage in the country you're sending it to.

I don't know how all of those post services co-ordinate themselves though so that people from one country will get their letters delivered in another country by another post service.

I do know that the price of sending packages seems to have gone through the roof lately and I'm not sure why. I would have thought it would go down overall, since packages would be a much larger percentage of mail at the moment, with people buying things over the internet and sending email instead of letters.

Post 1

I still have a letter that I got from a penpal who lived in Romania, from back in the 80's and the whole envelope is covered in stamps. It didn't occur to me as a kid, but it must have been quite expensive to send even a single letter for my friend and I guess a lot of stamps is a sign that the economy isn't doing very well.

At the moment I usually just go online and use virtual postage whenever I have to send anything, because I always forget to get real stamps. But I hope we never lose real stamps altogether.

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