What is a Prepaid Envelope?

Dee Saale
Dee Saale

A prepaid envelope is one of the best time saving, and oftentimes, money saving items available for those wishing to distribute letters, items, documents, or even small postcard mailers. The sender simply decides which envelope suits their needs, pays a set rate, and sends the filled envelope on its way. There are several different forms of prepaid envelopes. They differ in the speed of delivery, the size of the item that needs to be mailed, the company used to complete the delivery, and of course, the cost.

You can buy a prepaid envelope at the post office.
You can buy a prepaid envelope at the post office.

The United States Postal Service has several options for those wishing to deliver an item via prepaid envelope. For simple mailings, there are several envelopes that have the stamp already on them. Senders can choose what size envelope fits their needs. The sizes vary from #6 ¾, #9, #10, or even a postcard. They can be solid white or they can have a clear window so that a mailing address on a letter can be seen through it. They cost the same as a stamp, but save time because they can be purchased in bulk and they are already stamped, ready to be filled, addressed, and mailed with the regular mail service.

Prepaid envelpes are purchased with a stamp already on them to expedite mailing.
Prepaid envelpes are purchased with a stamp already on them to expedite mailing.

The United States Postal Service also gives senders the option of purchasing Priority Mail prepaid envelopes. With the Priority Mail envelopes, a flat rate is pre-applied. They, too, can be purchased in bulk. Priority Mail prepaid envelopes are great for important documents that must be received in a timely manner – two or three days. In addition, Priority Mail has several options available where the sender can receive delivery confirmation or signature confirmation of delivery – all included in a pre-paid flat rate.

As long as it is within the United States, the destination does not determine the cost of a prepaid envelope purchased through the United States Post Office. Other prepaid envelope choices available to senders include FedEx®; however, FedEx® prepaid envelopes are best used as a method to return a package or envelope to a set place due to fact that the cost varies from place to place. FedEx® is most often used by companies that ship items and attach a return envelope with their shipment. Then, that company can control how quickly and at what cost the item is returned to them.

The United States is not unique in its use of prepaid envelopes. Many other countries also give senders the time saving option of using a prepaid envelope. Simply contact the postal service for each country to determine the cost and timeliness of delivery.

Prepaid bubble envelopes are used to mail fragile items.
Prepaid bubble envelopes are used to mail fragile items.
Dee Saale
Dee Saale

Dee is a freelance writer based in Colorado. She has a B.A. in English Literature, as well as a law degree. Dee is especially interested in topics relating to medicine, legal issues, and home improvement, which are her specialty when contributing to wiseGEEK.

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Discussion Comments


Whenever I have to extend my passport or get a visa, I send in a prepaid envelope with my application and documents. This is the best and most efficient way to get your documents back.

The other great thing about it is that I have the tracking number for the envelope so I know that it is on its way back to me and I know when I'm going to receive it.

Especially if you have applied close to your travel date and if you have mailed important documents like a passport or birth certificate, make sure to include a prepaid envelope. It makes life so much easier.


I thinks that USPS prepaid envelopes should be sold at a variety of convenience stores. I think that both the convenience stores and the USPS could make a lot of money this way. There are so many people who don't want to wait in line at the post office for hours on end. It's just turned into such a chore.

Perhaps one day these businesses will come together and figure out some sort of agreement so that consumers have more options than waiting in line at the post office or waiting three to five business days to receive their envelopes...

What about gas stations? I think that would be a nice and convenient location for prepaid envelopes as well.


@anon160680: Did you know that you can purchase many different sizes of prepaid envelopes on the USPS website? That may not be as easy as purchasing them directly from the types of stores you mentioned, but it's a start. Although, I'm not sure how long it takes to receive the envelopes. On the USPS website, it says that the prepaid envelopes should arrive three to five business days after you order them online. I guess if you need one right away this really wouldn't work.


Why not sell these at easy to access places like Walgreens, CVS, WalMart and other convenient locations? Waiting in endless lines during business hours when most people are working is not at all convenient or pleasant (I have to take time off work to go wait in line at the Post Office). Guess it makes too much sense for the USPS to make things easier. Even their website is a confusing mess.

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