If your company sends out mails frequently and monthly postage amounts near $50, you should consider purchasing a postage meter. A postage meter is convenient as it spares you frequent trips to the post office to procure adhesive stamps, and get consignments weighed and stamped. With a postage meter, consignments are stamped with the appropriate postage amount, dated postmark or cancellation right at your office. Exact postage amount and postage amount tracking result in 20% cost savings for your business.
How do postage meters work?
Development, usage, postage rates, and support of postage meters are regulated by the country's postal service. The main component - the meter - can only be leased while other parts can be leased or purchased from independent vendors. A meter holds a fixed postage amount (usually $1000) that can be topped up through pre-paid cards, phone, online postal account or the internet. A keyboard allows manual entry of postage when necessary.
The mails or packages are run through a feeder automatically or manually. The dimensions of the feeder vary. Sealers moisten and close the flap of envelopes. The mail is franked and the amount is deducted from the balance in the meter. Three seals on the postage meter display the balance amount, total postage amount dispersed on consignments, and the number of metered consignments respectively. The franked mail is exited onto the stacker or collection tray of the postage meter.
Features of postage meters
All postage meters can send packages and mails - Domestic First-Class, Priority, Express, Parcel Post, International, Extra services and First-Class Mail discounted services. Apart from the regular functions of a postage meter, advanced models offer:
- password security
- bar codes for authentication of sender and receiver
- automatic postage rate adjustment
- automatic data advance
- preset programs
- built-in scales
Parts of postage meters
A postage meter has the following parts:
- Base: The base is the seat on which a mail is transported through the postage meter.
- Postage scale: The postage meter comes with a scale that weighs consignments and tells you the required postage amount. Interfaced models apply the amount automatically through the meter. Digital scales enter accurate postage automatically.
- Feeder: A feeder can be manual, semi-automatic or fully automatic. It guides the mail through the meter and stamps the indicia (postal mark). Manual feeders can be inconvenient if large stacks of mails have to be stamped. Feeders come in different speeds ranging from 15 to 270 letters per minute.
- Sealer: Sealers are the most maintenance-intensive parts of meters as they use glue and water to moisten envelope flaps and seal them close.
- Stacker: Low-end stackers can hold a few pieces of metered mails in a tray. High speed postage meters use power stackers that move stamped mails onto a tray via a conveyor system.
- Tape dispenser: Tapes or postage strips are fed into the meter to fix on irregular shaped packages. A base with tape dispenser ensures correct placement and sticking of the postage tape on a package. Postage meters use pre-cut or rolled tape dispensers.
Postage meter pricing
Leasing a postage meter can cost you anywhere from $20 to $500 per month depending on its sophistication. Some pointers:
- Manual feeders are the cheapest, while semi-automatic feeders can cost around $700. Fully automatic feeders are priced at $1200 or more.
- High speed stackers can cost $1000 to $2000.
- Bases that use roll of tapes cost more than pre-cut dispenser bases, but lead to lower operational costs.
- Simple bases cost a few hundred dollars but advanced options can raise the price to thousands.
- Spring scales cost around $30 while digital scales can cost hundreds of dollars.
Postage meter vendors may try to tie you up in long-term contracts but one-year contracts are also available and ideal to start with. Some vendors charge a fixed fee that is incremented annually while others base the fee on usage. Deals can also include attractive options such as regular maintenance, automatic rate updation, free rental months, pre-paid and credit postage amounts.
Assess your business needs, postage volume and budget before leasing a postage meter. Though advanced options are costly, they lead to lower operational costs and greater convenience.