Difference Between Metered & Stamped Mail

Envelopes with U.S. stamps.
Envelopes with U.S. stamps. (Image: Roel Smart/iStock/Getty Images)

The postage stamp is a British invention that’s been around for a long time – since 1840 to be exact. Stamps are actually receipts showing that the delivery charge for a piece of mail has been paid. In the United States, businesses often use metered mail instead of stamps, but the function is the same: The imprint on metered mail also shows the delivery fee has been paid.

Postage Meters Versus Stamps

The most obvious difference between metered and stamped mail is that a stamp is an adhesive-backed piece of paper attached to a letter or package, but a postage meter prints directly on the piece of mail. Stamps are typically used when the number of items to be mailed is relatively small. Businesses can get a United States Postal Service permit for precanceled stamps to eliminate the cancellation step. A postage meter is normally used for bulk mailings, although you can meter an individual first-class letter and most other types of mail if you wish. Payment for metering is usually done through an electronic funds transfer system offered by the USPS, called Postage Now.

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