The Ultimate Guide to Postage Meters
So you are thinking about getting a postage meter for your company, but not sure where to start? Welcome to the ultimate guide to postage meters! We’ll cover what they are, key features, and the benefits they offer.
What is a Postage Meter?
Let’s start with a brief history and overview to get us started. In the 1880s, a postage stamp affixing machine was first introduced. However, the first postage meter wasn’t approved by postal authorities until 1923. The earliest versions of postage meters featured manual cranks, printing die and counters so that the postage applied could be recorded. Jump ahead several decades to the present where the technology has drastically advanced and the product offerings fit a range of companies, from small start-ups to large enterprise level mailrooms.
Postage Meters can be called a variety of names including: mailing machines, franking machines, postage machines, stamp machines, postage printers, mailing systems, mail meters, and the list goes on. No matter what you call them, they all do basically the same job: calculate postage rates and print postage.
The creation and distribution of Postage Meters are regulated by the United States Postal Service, which means that you can’t outright buy a postage meter. Because of this, you have to rent or lease a machine from a postage meter manufacturer or authorized dealer (for more information see The Top 5 Qualities you should look for in your Postage Meter Provider). For a leased machine, you will normally sign a contract for 1-5 years, with longer terms usually resulting in lower payments, and pay a monthly fee. There are lots of variations in sizing, pricing, and capabilities for the postage meters, which makes it easier to find one that fits your business’ needs.
Why does my business need one?
If you regularly send more than a few envelopes, you can save time and money by automating your mailroom processes with a postage meter. So how exactly can they help you out?
Faster than sticking stamps, a meter automatically calculates rates and prints postage. Many meters can seal your envelopes as well.
Postage Meters give users access to postage discounts that save users money over using stamps. Also, with integrated scales, never apply more postage than necessary.
With a postage meter you can download postage 24/7. No need to go to the post oﬃce to buy stamps.
Put a professional business image on your envelopes with the metered imprint. Add your logo or a special message.
For more information about how a postage meter can be beneficial to your business, regardless of its size, see The Impact a Postage Meter Can Have on Your Business.
Anatomy of a Postage Meter
Below we highlight some of the most common features of a postage meter. The features will change depending on the size and volume of the postage meter. The meter featured in the image is a PostBase Vision Semi-Automatic.
Features of a Postage Meter
Envelope Feeding Type
There are three methods of feeding envelopes into a postage meter.
Insert envelope, print, remove envelope by hand.
Best for low volume
Insert envelope by hand, machine grabs and prints one-at-a-time.
Best for low-to-medium volume
Load a stack of envelopes in the feeder, machine grabs and prints in batches.
Best for medium-to-high volume mailing
Moistening and Sealing
Nobody likes licking envelopes. Wouldn’t you rather have the machine seal your envelopes for you? That makes processing mail faster and more enjoyable (and more hygienic). Some postage meters have the ability to moisten and seal envelopes automatically. The more mail you run, especially if you run large batches, the more useful this feature will be.
Postage Meter manufacturers state processing speed in Letters Per Minute (LPM). Entry-level meters start at about 17 LPM. But there are many other factors that determine how fast you can get the job done – your meter productivity.
Postage Meter Productivity Factors
- Ease of Use / Controls (e.g. touchscreen vs. buttons)
- Type of Envelope Feeder (manual, semi, auto)
- Weighing Options (e.g. differential, dynamic weighing)
- Simple/fast mail class selection
- Input and Output tray capacities
- Jam-free operation
- Processing Speed (LPM)
Scales weigh envelopes and packages, allowing the machine to automatically calculate postage based on mail class, destination, and weight.
Integrated (built-in) scales range from 2-15 pounds maximum weight. However, some postage meters also have external scales, up to 70 lbs. It is advised that you get a scale that accommodates the weight of the largest package you regularly ship.
Differential weighing helps you to quickly process a stack of varied-weight envelopes. Place a stack on your scale. Each time you move an envelope from the scale to the postage printer, the scale determines the envelope’s weight by calculating the difference after removing the envelope. Only certain meters offer Differential Weighing.
A dynamic scale will recognize the size and shape of each envelope and process mail, speed of processing will vary depending on the machine. Place a stack of envelopes at the Feeder entrance. The postage meter system automatically assesses the weight and size of each item and applies the appropriate postage as the pieces are fed through the mail path of the machine.
Postage Meters allow you to assign single mail pieces or batches to specific accounts. These accounts can be departments, clients, or any other organization division. Your monthly reports will group postage transactions by account.
Although all postage meters can output rudimentary postage transaction reports, you may need more comprehensive reporting to satisfy your accounting folks. If this is important, be sure to ask your sales rep about reports, including optional software that connects to the meter.
Most models of postage meters come in the standard blacks, grays, and whites. However, some postage meters are available in a wide array of different colors. If colors are important (or just fun) to you, don’t forget to ask about options. It’s a fun way to inject some color into the office space. Furthermore, some postage meters come in special editions that can support charities, like Breast Cancer Awareness.
As well as being able to customize the color of your meter, you can also customize your envelopes too. Include a PostBase Advertisement of your company’s logo, holiday greeting, or a simple message to add a personal touch for your customers. There is also an assortment of available stock images/messages that can be downloaded to your device. Learn more about PostBase Advertisments.
I hope you have found this information useful. Postage meters come in a bewildering variety of sizes, speeds, and functions. Fortunately, postage meter sales reps can help you determine which meter is the best fit for your company. If you have any further questions, you can request more information here.