Picture this: imagine you’re about to buy a brand new leather jacket that costs $200. Would you rather pay the full $200, or get it on sale for $50? If you didn’t answer $50, you’re nuts! On a serious note, paying for postage is no different. You can find deep USPS discounts out there if you look hard enough, and taking advantage of those discounts can make or break your small business. Big online stores all get deep commercial discounts on postage, so why shouldn’t you? Accessing those same discounts is the only shot your E-commerce business has at competing with the big guys. In reality, it’s the only way you’ll maintain a successful business. Shipping School wants you to succeed, so we’re here to help you discover the cheapest ways to ship with USPS!
As we covered in the article USPS Discounts: The Different Postage Pricing Tiers, there are two different pricing tiers of USPS Postage. In case you missed that, we’ve listed those tiers below, along with a short description for each one:
- The Post Office Retail Rate: what you’ll pay if you walk into the Post Office or at USPS.com
- Commercial Pricing: the most deeply discounted shipping rates available
If you’re a small E-commerce business owner, you simply CAN’T afford to pay full retail price for postage. Therefore, you’ll always want to buy postage at the Commercial Pricing rate.
Pro Tip: Don’t confuse the different postage pricing tiers with the different USPS mail classes! Mail classes describe the different services USPS offers, such as Priority Mail Express and First-Class Mail for example. Every single USPS mail class is priced within the two different tiers listed above. Makes sense, right?
How Do I Access Commercial Pricing?
That’s a fantastic question! You can easily access Commercial Pricing rates when you buy postage through a third-party postage provider. Accessing that level of discounts is hands down one of the cheapest ways to ship with USPS, no matter which mail class you ship in. The truth is, postage is often an E-commerce business owner’s biggest expense, and shipping at those discounts can make or break your small business! Fortunately, most third-party postage providers have created online shipping software solutions for you to easily purchase discounted postage online. So, there’s no excuse NOT to!
Some Rules of Thumb
Here are some quick guidelines to follow to help you save the most money when shipping with USPS:
- If your package is 15.9 ounces or less, then using your own packaging with the First Class Package service will always be cheapest.
- If your package is over 1 pound but it fits into any Flat Rate Envelope or the Small Flat Rate Box, those are the cheapest ways to go.
- Medium or Large Flat Rate Boxes are never a good deal, unless your package weighs more than 20 pounds
- Never use Regional Rate boxes! Take our word for it when we tell you that shipping Priority Mail Regional Rate is NEVER a good deal.
- If your package is over 1 pound and doesn’t fit into those, then it’s cheapest to use as small of a box as possible to qualify for Priority Mail Cubic.
Hold Up—What’s Priority Mail Cubic?
We’re thrilled you asked! Priority Mail Cubic (or “Cubic” for short) is a “secret” mail class you won’t find at the Post Office, but it’s the cheapest and fastest way to ship small packages. Priority Mail Cubic isn’t priced based on weight like the other mail classes. Instead, the outer dimensions of your package determine the price. Like all other Priority Mail services, delivery occurs between 1-3 business days, it comes with free package tracking, and even includes $100 in insurance at no extra cost.
If you’re thinking that shipping Priority Mail Cubic sounds like a no-brainer, you’re right! However, it does have some restrictions, which we’ve outlined below:
- No one dimension on your package can exceed 18 inches
- Total weight of your package cannot exceed 20 pounds
- Total volume of your package must not exceed 0.5 cubic feet
If your package meets the above requirements, then you’re good to go!
The Benefits of Priority Mail Cubic
The biggest benefit of Priority Mail Cubic is the cost (or lack thereof). Since the postage price is based on the outer dimensions of your package and not its weight, it’s BY FAR the cheapest way to send small boxes under 20 pounds. Priority Mail Cubic has its own specific pricing tiers. The tier your package falls in is determined by its total volume in cubic feet.
Pro Tip: There’s a special equation you need to use to calculate the total cubic volume of your package. However, if you’re not in the mood to do the math, head over to Pirate Ship and use their Priority Mail Cubic Calculator. Just type in your dimensions, and the calculator will tell you which pricing tier your package falls into. It will also even help you better optimize your package dimensions so you get the most bang for your buck!
Did Someone Say “Free?”
Another benefit of Priority Mail Cubic is that you can use your own packaging to save even more money. But wait, there’s more! You can use free USPS boxes to ship Priority Mail Cubic! Seriously. This isn’t a drill.
How Can I Start Shipping Priority Mail Cubic?
Here’s the thing: you can’t just waltz into the Post Office and ask to ship a package Priority Mail Cubic. The only way to ship Priority Mail Cubic in the past was to enter into a direct contract with USPS. Like any contract, those came with their fair share of requirements. One such requirement was shipping over 50,000 packages per year. That’s a tough target for lots of small businesses to hit.
The good news is, there are a lot of different shipping software options out there that let you ship Priority Mail Cubic. We suggest doing your research to find out which one is right for you! A great place to start is our Reviews page.
Looking for the right shipping software for you?
To get the deepest discounts on all USPS shipping labels, check out our guide: