Frequently Asked Questions About Mailing
Mailing can be a complex process; postal regulations change, postage rates change, people move making list maintenance a chore. Service Printers has a mailing specialist on staff who will work with you to get the best rates and make sure your list meets all USPS regulations. We've compiled a list of things you should know before you mail.
- Mailing List Format
- How should my information be separated? What columns do I need?
- How can I keep my mailing list current?
- What is an NCOA and how does it affect my mailing list?
- What is an Ancillary Service Endorsement?
- Are there penalties or extra charges if too many address on my list are incorrect?
- Intelligent Mail Barcodes (IMb)
- How much will a mailing cost?
We can work with several database formats, however the preferred file formats are comma separated value (csv), tab delimited, or an Excel file (.xls). Call 800.877.4684 to find out more about the formats we can work with and how to export your lists.
In general, you should include separate columns for:
- First Name
- Middle Name (where applicable)
- Last Name
- Address 1
- Address 2
If you don't have your file separated this way, don't worry. Our mailing specialist will work with your list however it comes in.
Please Note: Your list should not have more than two address columns. Usually additional address information like building name or apartment number can be added to Address 2, rather than creating a new column.
There are several methods to check your mailing list for accuracy. NCOA, or National Change of Address, is the most common method and Service Printers is licensed to provide this service. An NCOA should be done once a year and we recommend adding an Ancillary Service Endorsement quarterly.
NCOA stands for National Change of Address. Checking your mailing list against this system will help you avoid extra costs due to undeliverable mail and will help you qualify for less expensive postage options. We recommend doing an NCOA check once a year.
When we run an NCOA all you need to do is provide us with your mailing list and fill out a PAF (a form acknowledging we have permission to run the service). We then send in your list electronically. The USPS will then send back a report detailing all address changes and will send your list back with those changes.
This is the best way to ensure your mailing list is "clean" and as up-to-date as possible.
If an NCOA has been run against your list and if a mail piece is still UAA (Undeliverable As Addressed), an Ancillary Service Endorsement advises the Post Office to take a particular action, many times at no extra charge, depending on the particular mail class. For example, The USPS website lists the following available endorsements for First-Class Mail®:
- Return Service Requested. If UAA, the mailpiece is returned with the new address or reason for nondelivery; no charge
- Temp-Return Service Requested. If UAA and a temporary change-of-address has been filed, the mailpiece is forwarded at no charge. No separate notice of a new temporary change-of-address is provided.
- Address Service Requested.
- Months 1 - 12: the mailpiece is forwarded; no charge; a separate notice of the new address is provided; an address correction fee is charged.\
- Months 13 - 18: the mailpiece is returned with the new address attached; no charge.
- After month 18 or if undeliverable: the mailpiece is returned with reason for nondelivery attached; no charge.
- Change Service Requested. Separate notice of new address or reason for nondelivery provided; in either case, address-correction fee is charged; mailpiece is not forwarded or returned but disposed of by the Postal Service. This endorsement option is available for First-Class Mail only when used in conjunction with electronic ACS™ Service.
Combining the Ancillary Service Endorsement quarterly with an annual NCOA will make sure your mailing list is up-to-date and you will not be charged penalties for undeliverable mail.
Visit the following link to the USPS website for more information on Ancillary Service Endorsements.
New Move Update requirements went into effect January 2010 and list specific penalty fees for First and Third class mailings that do not meet certain mailing standards. Find out more on our USPS Move Update page.
The standard PostNet barcode was retired in January 2013 and replaced by the Intelligent Mail Barcode (IMb). The IMb was introduced by the USPS as a way to better track mailpieces and provide a higher level of customer service. This barcode is now required to receive automated rates but has been available for mailing service providers to use for several years. Make sure your mailing service provider is using the IMb on your automated mailings so you can receive the best rates possible.
The costs for mailing vary quite a bit for each mailing. It depends on the type of mailer, it's size, the type of postage, list maintenance services like NCOA, the number of pieces in the mailing, and other variables. For an accurate quote please call us at 800.877.4684.