Your Guide To Shipping With USPS

It may seem that shipping a package means standing in long lines at your local post office and buying postage from them. However, there are many shipping options and tools available to you online that will save you a ton of money and time. So whether you’re starting a side hustle, a small business from home, or are simply interested in getting the cheapest shipping rates, here is your guide to shipping with USPS.

Shipping With USPS: Basics To Know

When it comes to the basics of shipping is that the shipping price will be determined by the following:

  1. Package weight
  2. Package dimensions – This is the length, width, and height.
  3. Distance – This is the distance that the package will be traveling to.
  4. Shipping speed – How fast you need the package to be delivered.

USPS provides FREE Priority Mail shipping supplies. You can find them at your local USPS counter or at for more options and they will mail them to you for free. Check this blog for more details. However, you will need to ship Priority Mail if you use the Priority Mail envelopes or boxes, you cannot use them to ship First Class or Media Mail.

you will need a shipping scale and a measuring tape to get the weight and dimensions of your package. You will want to make sure that you’re entering the correct weight, rounding up to the closest ounce. For example, you will want to round 1 lb 3.4 ounces to 1 lb 4 ounces. You will also need the outer dimensions of your package.

There are a few exceptions to this rule such as shipping with a flat rate or with a cubic rate. We will go over this in the next section. But let’s get some common questions out of the way.

Can I use my own packaging to ship with USPS?

The answer is yes, you can use your own boxes or envelopes to ship with USPS.

Can I use my own box to ship Priority Mail?

Yes, you can use your own boxes or envelopes to ship them as Priority Mail as you would any class, except the Flat Rate price.

Can I use my own packaging to ship Priority Flat Rate?

You cannot use the Flat Rate rates using your own packaging. You must use USPS Flat rate envelopes and boxes to ship the flat rate price.

Can I Use Priority Flat Rate Envelopes or Boxes for International Shipping?

Yes, you can. However, you must ship at the Flat Rate price.

USPS Shipping Services

When it comes to shipping with USPS, you will see shipping options such as Media Mail, First Class Mail, along with the various Priority Mail shipping options. If you’re shipping letters, documents, or books, you will want to use USPS’s more affordable options such as USPS Media Mail, First Class Mail, or stamps. Let’s look at the shipping classes and what to know about them.

Media Mail

Books and printed educational material can be heavy and therefore expensive to ship using other shipping services. However, it can be quite affordable if you use Media mail. Media mail also includes video and sound recordings. While Media mail is cost-effective, it is important to note the restrictions and make sure your package is eligible. Check here for content standards.

First Class Mail

If you’re shipping a package below 1 pound, USPS First Class will be the cheapest rate. It is a slightly slower service than Priority Mail but it is a no-brainer for many small clothing items that are normally under a pound. Keep in mind that it will not have built-in insurance like Priority Mail packages. We will go over shipping insurance later.

Priority Mail And Priority Mail Express

Priority mail is USPS’s bestselling service. It is a great option for packages that do not qualify for Media Mail or First Class mail. Priority Flat Rate envelopes and boxes are especially great to take advantage of for heavier items. You can ship up to 70 pounds, as long as you’re able to fit them inside the envelope or box without modifying them. Priority Mail Regional Rate boxes are also great for shipping short distances. We go over them here.

Priority Mail Express as the name implies is for faster service than Priority Mail. If you live in bigger cities, the service is as fast as overnight. They do have a 2-Day guarantee so you will get a full refund if they’re not on time. The shipping insurance is up to $100.

Priority Cubic Rate

Detailed information on common USPS services such as Media Mail, First Class, and Priority Mail are easily found at However, a lesser-known shipping service you need to know that is not advertised on the USPS website is Priority Cubic rate.

Priority Cubic rate uses the outer dimensions of your package to determine the cost, instead of weight. It is a cheaper alternative to Priority Flat Rate envelopes and boxes for small but heavy items traveling short distances. Here is the link to determine your cubic dimensions and the cost for how much it will cost to ship. The same table is below.

But you can only access this Priority Cubic rate through shipping software. We will go over that next.

Where Can You Find The Cheapest Shipping Rates?

USPS shipping rates will be different depending on where you buy your postage from. You will be paying the most at your local USPS retail counter. You can get a small discount from, using USPS Click-N-Ship. But the cheapest place to buy your USPS postage will be from shipping software like Pirate Ship or Shippo. Buying postage from shipping software allows you access to commercial pricing.

Normally, a commercial rate requires tens of thousands of shipments a year to qualify. Think of postage rates like you’re looking for a restaurant on google. There are normally dollar signs next to the restaurant to indicate how expensive the items on the menu are. The more dollar signs there are, the more expensive your meal at the restaurant will be. So here is an easy table to understand what you can expect to pay for postage depending on where you’re buying your postage from.

Where You Buy Postage Cost
USPS counter$$$
USPS Click-N-Ship$$
Pirate Ship, Shippo$

Shipping software also gives you access to Priority Cubic Rate that we mentioned earlier. Pirate Ship and Shippo are the two shipping software that we use. They are completely free to join and buy USPS commercial rates from. Check this post for a step-by-step of how to use Pirate Ship. Pirate Ship only offers USPS while Shippo offers UPS, FedEx, DHL Express, and integration with other regional and international shipping carriers. Check this post for more information.

Once you bought your postage, you can simply print your shipping label and tape it to your package. If you ship packages regularly, consider investing in a thermal printer. They are well worth the money when it comes to improving your workflow for shipping. Check this page for recommendations to the best options out there.

Dropping Off Your USPS Packages

When you buy your postage online, you do not have to stand in line at the post office. You can drop them off in the pull-down bins by the self-serve kiosk. You can scan your packages first before placing them in the bin.

If the bin is full and the pull-down is jammed, you can skip the lines and look for a counter for drop-offs. Many post offices have a counter space where you can place your packages. You can also schedule for USPS to pick up your packages from your residence. Or you can hand your package to a postal worker. We have never been turned down by any of them.

Another option is to look for UPS or a local shipping service in your area that offers multi-carrier drop-offs. Neither UPS nor a shipping service will be able to offer a drop-off receipt. However, they are very reliable and often scan faster than dropping our packages with our local post office.

Shipping Insurance

If you’re shipping a package using Priority Mail service with USPS, there is built-in insurance that comes with it. Priority mail service includes the regular Priority bags, boxes, Flat Rate envelopes and boxes, Regional boxes, and Priority Mail Express. Built-in insurance covers your package for a certain amount in case of lost or damaged mail.

WherePriority MailPriority Mail Express
USPS counter & onlineUp to $50Up to $100
Pirate ShipUp to $100Up to $100
ShippoUp to $50Up to $100

There is no extra cost for you to have this. It is built-in with the price of your postage. How much the USPS built-in insurance is will depend on where you’re buying your postage from. You can buy added insurance to other classes of mail such as Media Mail or First Class mail. However, they do not come with built-in insurance like Priority Mail or Priority Mail Express. We have a step-by-step on how to file your USPS insurance claim here.

Last Tips To Know About Shipping With USPS

There are many options available to you to get the best shipping rates with USPS. Which service to use will depend on the item that you’re planning to ship. Below is a general guide for which service to use based on what you’re planning to ship. If you’re looking for how to ship specific items, check our related articles at the end of the page.

Service TypeGood ForShipping Speed
Media MailMedia & educational material2 – 8 days
First class PackagePackages under 1 lb1 – 3 days
Priority MailLarger, light packages1 – 3 days
Priority Flat RateSmall, heavy packages under 70 lbs1 – 3 days
Priority Regional RateSmall, heavy packages traveling short distances1 – 3 days
Priority Cubic RateSmall, heavy package1 – 3 days
Priority ExpressPackages needing fast shipping speedNext-day to 2-day guarantee by 6 PM

We also have many shipping tips to save you time and money. Check out our Shipping page for more information.

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