It may be free to order USPS boxes online, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use them nonchalantly. When using USPS branded boxes to ship out items, it’s critical to pay for the corresponding service labeled on the box….or else you’ll pay for it later.
Why You Need to Pay for the Service Labeled on USPS Branded Boxes
A common mistake amongst shippers—both seasoned and inexperienced—is paying for a different service than the one labeled on a USPS branded box. For example, a shipper might use a Priority Mail Medium Flat Rate Box, but they pay for Priority Mail postage. As a result, the shipper underpays (or sometimes even overpays) for postage.
Here’s the general rule of thumb. Whatever service your USPS branded box has marked on it is the service you need to pay for. This doesn’t just apply to boxes, but also to shipping mailing tubes and USPS branded envelopes. If you don’t, USPS will still deliver your parcel to its final destination, but they will charge you for the correct postage required for whatever box you use. Since 2017, this is all done through the Postal Service’s Automatic Package Verification System (or APV).
What is the APV System?
Here’s the basic premise behind the Postal Service’s Automatic Package Verification System (aka APV). Let’s say you measure your box’s dimensions as 14x7x5, and you mark the total weight as 8 lbs. USPS will check the package in their facilities to make sure these measurements are all correct. If they are incorrect, USPS will charge you for any extra amount of postage required. They will also double-check that you paid for the proper service labeled on any USPS branded boxes. Every USPS facility has new equipment that automatically checks each package for:
- Mail Class
- Origin and Destination Zip Codes
- Amount of postage paid
The APV system only applies to domestic packages with a built-in tracking barcode, such as parcels sent Priority Mail, Priority Mail Cubic, or First Class Package.
Avoid This Altogether By Using Your Own Custom Branded Boxes
Here’s a little cheat code: you can sidestep getting charged by the Postal Service’s APV system by using custom packaging for your boxes. When you use your own boxes, you can pay for any USPS postage your packages qualify for! In fact, even though custom packaging costs money, it will often end up being cheaper than using USPS’ branded boxes. This is because you can take advantage of discounted shipping services such as Priority Mail Cubic with your own custom boxes. Plus, you’ll be building the value of your brand at the same time!
Need some recommendations for custom packaging companies? Check out our Reviews page.