Qualifying for automated postage rates can save non-profits a lot of money, up to $0.21 (or more) per letter!  So, understanding what qualifies for automated rates is important.


Guidelines for Automation


As they say, the devil is in the details. But let’s start with an oversimplified definition. Automation requires: 

  • a readable barcode
  • machinability (it can run through the machine)

Here is how barcodes, machinability, and automation fit together:

Automated vs. Machinable Mail


What makes a piece of mail “machinable?”


Three conditions determine if a piece of mail is machinable:

  1. Aspect Ratio- length divided by height is equal to less than 1.3 or more than 2.5.
  2. Uniform thickness-There is less than ¼” difference in overall thickness, excluding the outside 1” border.
  3. Flexibility- bends at least 1” and does not contain a rigid insert

Examples of mail pieces that are non-machinable include:

  • Square envelopes (fails aspect ratio)
  • Cards or envelopes with clasps, buttons or closure devices (fails uniform thickness)
  • Contains items like pens, pencils, loose keys or coins (fails uniform thickness and flexibility)
  • Made of a rigid material (fails flexibility)

If your piece is non-machinable, it will mail at the non-automated, non-machinable rates.


Isn’t non-machinable, non-automated saying the same thing?


No. A piece of mail can be machinable (as described above), but not have a readable barcode. In that case, your piece would qualify for non-automated, machinable rates. On the flip side, there is no such thing as an automated, non-machinable piece of mail, because a mail piece HAS to be machinable to be automated.

Want to know more about the USPS and automated postage rates? Go to Automation Letters and Cards or Nonprofit Mailing.


For more specific information about mailings, download our mailing guides:

Self-folded Mailers

Delivery and Postage Breakout


Tabs and Mail Classifications


Have more questions about your next mailing? Let us know! Our mail experts are always happy to help and enjoy a good challenge.


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