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Bulk Mailers: What Are They and How Do They Work?

If you’re like me, when you first hear about bulk mail, you think it’s fairly self-explanatory. You mail in bulk – you get a discounted postage rate, right? It’s a large mailing so you would expect with anything, a larger quantity should equal larger discounts, right?


While that is partially correct, other factors can impact commercial discount availability. The USPS doesn’t only necessarily care about the quantity of letters; they also care about processing time. The USPS offers Workshare Discounts based upon the mailer preparing mail in a manner that eliminates production steps for them in processing a mailing.

If you want to maximize your postage discounts with large mailings, you not only need to know what bulk mail is, but how it works as well.

What is a Bulk Mailing?

A bulk mailing is composed of any domestic mailing with 200 or more identical pieces each weighing less than one pound to qualify for “USPS Marketing Mail” rates. If the content has anything unique other than name and address or if the mail pieces have any monetary value within them, the mailer must be sent out at First Class rates. If your mailing meets these requirements, there are two options, “USPS Marketing Mail” and “USPS Marketing Mail Nonprofit”. If you can provide evidence that your organization is not for profit, you may apply for a Nonprofit permit for the largest postage discounts offered. If not, USPS Marketing Mail rates are still available and still provide a substantial discount compared to First Class rates.

A downside to Marketing Mail rates is reduced delivery standards, so you can expect delivery to take between 3-14 days depending on mailing regions. It is important to note that possessing a Nonprofit permit does not automatically allow you to mail anything at Nonprofit rates.

You must prove each individual mailing is designed for Nonprofit purposes. You risk losing your Nonprofit permit if you mail items not intended for Nonprofit purposes.

Unfortunately, qualifying as a bulk mailer isn’t all you have to do to get the discount. The more work you do, the cheaper the rates will be.

Here is a step-by-step process of what it takes for your mailer to be accepted under marketing mail rates:

PS Form 3615 must be submitted either in person or through a USPS Business Customer Gateway account. You will need to have a Mailer ID assigned by the USPS to obtain a permit. After approval, you will have to set up a prepaid “permit imprint” account that will be charged for all mailings.

  • Preferred Method – If you are printing your own addresses:
  • Your address list must be verified by the NCOALink (National Change of Address Link) Database through a USPS approved NCOA vendor. This will clean your mailing list, removing any vacant addresses, changing any recent moves within the past 2 years, and adding current zip+4.
  • Your verified and updated mailing list will then need to be presorted. A presorted mailing list will be sorted by zip code, giving each mail piece a tray number and sequence number. It will also provide you a barcode to print with the address adding additional discounts for machinability.
  • Upon printing addresses, mail pieces must be placed in their respective designated and labeled trays and packaged up to be delivered to your local Business Mail Entry Unit (BMEU). They will require paperwork or an electronic submission of the PS Form 3602. Mailing must be accompanied by USPS PS Form 3602 either in paper form or submitted electronically.
  • Alternative Method – If addresses are pre-printed on envelopes before mailing lists are presorted, the mailing will require either hand or automated sorting to prepare the mail to achieve automated workshare discounted rates.
  • Most of the time this mail is cheaper to send out First Class or enlist a presort mailing vendor to process it for you. Hand sorting is cost prohibitive due to the time required while automated sorting typically requires a third-party vendor with necessary equipment for sorting.

A lot of variables go into calculating the overall cost for bulk mailings including the type of facility your mailings are submitted/dropped off to (entry point), the sortation distribution area (5-digit zip or AADC), proper barcode, barcoded correctly (automated or non-automated), machinability, and whether your organization possesses a Nonprofit permit and if your mailing qualifies for nonprofit status through USPS.

Below is a simplified chart for machinable letters weighing less than 3.5oz each based on USPS Postal Explorer

Eligibility for Automation Work Share discount requires a USPS approved IMB (Intelligent Mail Barcode)
5-digit: all pieces are being mailed to same full 5-digit Zip Code
AADC (Automated Area Distribution Center): all pieces are being mailed to the same service area
Mixed AADC: pieces are being mailed to multiple service areas

USPS Marketing Mail

3.5 oz or less Automation Non-Automation
Entry Point 5-Digit AADC Mixed AADC AADC Mixed AADC
None 0.277 0.309 0.330 0.323 0.336
DNDC 0.256 0.288 0.309 0.302 0.315
DSCF 0.250 0.282 0.296

USPS Marketing Nonprofit

3.5 oz or less Automation Non-Automation
Entry Point 5-Digit AADC Mixed AADC AADC Mixed AADC
None 0.146 0.178 0.199 0.192 0.205
DNDC 0.125 0.157 0.178 0.171 0.184
DSCF 0.119 0.151 0.165

What About Non-Identical Mail?

For mailings that are not identical, have material with monetary value, have any personal identifiable information other than name and address, or require expedited service quicker delivery times, this mail must be sent out at First Class rates.

There is still an option for a discount if you use presort First Class. This mail A mailing contain must be 500 pieces or more and be sorted by zip code, similar to that of marketing mail. It does not need to be in sequential order though. Below is a simplified chart for machinable letters weighing less than 3.5oz each based on USPS Postal Explorer

Automation Nonautomation Machinable
5-Digit AADC Mixed AADC AADC Mixed AADC
0.426 0.461 0.485 0.461 0.494

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