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How to ship priority mail

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Priority mail is easy and the boxes are free
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Know how to ship priority mail for reliable and economical USPS package delivery

There was a time when all boxes that arrived at my house were brown, sometimes wrapped in brown paper, often with previous labels blacked out with marker and usually covered with a variety of stamps.

Before you use that information to try and figure out how old I am, let's talk about Priority Mail, the service from the United States Postal Service responsible for all those red, white and blue boxes I receive today.

Fierce competition from the commercial delivery services forced the USPS to create this quick and economical shipping option. If you know how to ship priority mail, you can save time and money and be relatively sure your package will arrive safely and on time.

Priority mail means delivery to any address in the U.S. within 2 to 3 business days, with 2 being the norm. This applies to both boxes and envelopes that are affixed with a priority label or in a free box or label supplied by the post office.





Rates

There are two easy options to determine the rate you pay for shipping by priority mail. 'Flat rate' requires using flat rate boxes or envelopes provided by the post office and rates are determined by the size of the package, not the location where it's going to. These can be ordered online and start at $4.90 for the envelopes and range from $4.95 for a small box to $14.50 for a large box. There's a 70 pound limit on the large box and standard restrictions on hazardous contents apply.

'Zone rate' means the rate is based on the weight of the package and the postal zone it is being shipped to. This is often less expensive than flat rate shipping, especially for lighter packages.

Packing

Free boxes and envelopes with priority labeling can be obtained online or at the post office. If you use your own cardboard box, you must tell the postal clerk so priority mail labeling can be applied. In all cases, envelopes under 13 ounces can be dropped off at the post office or in a box - all other envelopes and all packages must be handed to a postal clerk.

For priority mailing, always use the free boxes from the post office to avoid any problems at the counter. Preparation is easy – just fill it up, secure the contents with foam packing peanuts, bubble wrap or crunched newspapers, seal with clear tape and apply a label or write the address in the designated area, making sure the address is correct, legible and contains the postal zone.

Better yet, print a label using the USPS “Click and Ship” service online. Weigh the package on a postal-type scale, pay with a credit or debit card, print the label and tape it securely to the package. You be offered the option of having the package picked up at no extra charge or you can drop it off at the post office – remember, you have to hand it to a clerk even if it’s prepaid.

When you know how to ship priority mail, you’re assured your package will arrive at its destination in 2 to 3 days. For additional fees, you can have the package tracked and be notified when it arrives and you can also obtain insurance. Those require filling out forms at the post office. In any case, priority mail is a quick and easy service provided by a great service - the U.S. Postal Service.

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