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Media Mail USPS- Packaging Rules, Rates, Items you Can/Cannot Send

Media Mail is the most preferred shipping service offered by US Postal Service (USPS). This post will discuss what is Media Mail USPS, Packaging Rules, Rates, Items you can/cannot send via this service and why they are so cheap.

What is Media Mail USPS

If you are looking to send any media content like educational materials comprising books, sound recordings, printed music, etc. then Media Mail USPS (US Postal Service) is the most cost-effective way of doing that.

Introduction to Media Mail

Fig. 1 – Introduction to Media Mail USPS

One of the least expensive ways of shipping, Media Mail USPS has a few rules and restrictions where the term “media” is qualified to refer to certain specific types of materials. This special service is provided by USPS (United States Postal Service) and is a practical and inexpensive shipping method. But what qualifies as educational materials can be tricky.

History of Media Mails

The history of USPS’s commitment to enabling shipping of media at lower rates goes a long way. It was originally called “Book Rate” back in 1938 and it aimed to promote the flow of educational materials via mails. You can gauge how old this system is from the fact that old-timey piano rolls are one of the qualifying items in media mails.

With the evolution of technology and major changes in the manner we share information, the list of items that qualify as Media content has also changed. Newer mediums like CDs, DVDs, and cassettes became part of the Media Mail USPS content along the way.

These rock bottom shipping rates also made some shippers circumvent the rules a little. For this reason, USPS has put some strict rules around Media Mails as we will see below.

Media Mail by USPS

Fig. 2 – Media Mail by USPS

Rules and Restrictions on Media Mail USPS Content

The economy shipping solution for Media content has certain rules as well as it is open to postal inspection. So, if you decide to send your material as Media Mail USPS then you are giving your consent for your package to be opened for inspection. If during inspection it is found that the items, you are sending do not fall under the approved list then you are liable to get charged for mail fraud.

What Can/ Cannot be Sent via Media Mails

If you want to refrain from sending items that your customers receive with a stamp saying “Postage Due ” then look carefully at the do’s and don’ts before you ship your items as media mail USPS.

Items you “Can Send” as Media Mail

These items include:

  • Books having a minimum of 8 pages
  • Films having a width of 16 mm or less.
  • Sound and video recordings for instance CDs, DVDs, etc.
  • Printed music.
  • Manuscript and play scripts for music, periodicals, and books.
  • Computer-readable media that has pre-recorded guides and information or scripts pertaining solely to the use of such media.
  • Printed educational reference charts.
  • Loose-leaf pages along with their binders that have medical information for distribution to hospitals, doctors, medical students, and schools.
  • Printed objective test materials along with their accessories.

Package Tracking Service

Fig. 3 – Package Tracking Service 

Items you “Cannot Send” as Media Mail USPS

The things which are not included in this service are:

  • Comic books do not fall under Media Mail USPS category.
  • You cannot send puzzles through USPS media mails as puzzles or books of puzzles are considered as entertainment and not education.
  • Video games or traditional board games are not approved as permissible media mail USPS  content.
  • Vintage magazines containing ads are not allowed.
  • You can send flashcards but cannot include other school supplies like empty binders and pencils.
  • You can send cassette tapes as long as they are not blank. The same rules apply to CDs and DVDs.
  • You cannot include any kind of marketing or advertising material in the Media Mail USPS  content.
  • You cannot combine approved items along with non-qualifying items such as personal cards or notes. However, you can add an extra enclosure only if it is related to the items, you are shipping such as, Invoices and bills, instructions on how to use the media, Corrections if needed for the information printed in the media.

Items you Can/Cannot Send as Media Mail

Fig. 4 – Items you Can/Cannot Send as Media Mail 

Packaging Rules for Media Mails USPS and Rates

You can send packages that have a maximum weight of 70 pounds as Media Mails. The package must measure a maximum of 108 inches in combined distance and length around the thicket section. One thing to note here is that if your package is less than 8 pounds then you are better off sending it in first-class since the rates are cheaper for packages this light.

  1. As per standards set by Section 170 of Mailing Standards of the United States Postal Service, Domestic Mail Manual (DMM), it is mandatory for Media Mail USPS packages to have a delivery address and the sender’s return address.
  2. The pricing of media mails starts at USD 2.72 at Post offices. Certain items might bear a surcharge like a printed material that weighs over 25 pounds.
  3. The shipping price goes up by 0.5 USD per pound with a maximum of 37.22 USD for a 70 pounds package.
  4. There are presorted rates available for bulk quantities (minimum of 300 pieces).
  5. Address the media mail USPS properly, like any other USPS mail with the return address at the upper left corner and the recipient address in the center including postage stamp.
  6. You can use the USPS online tool to calculate the correct postage amount.
  7. The next step for you is to go to your nearest post office with your package. The worker at the post office would determine the rate for Media Mail USPS. If you send the package as Media Mail then the cashier would stick a label on your package.
  8. You have an option of adding additional services like insurance, mailing certification, etc. Certified mailing denotes you get evidence of what you mailed and when you mailed. The insurance cost of mails depends on the item being shipped. The maximum insurance value is up to 5000 USD.
  9. USPS tracking is included with this service so that you have an idea about the estimated delivery date and time.

Sample Packaging

Fig. 5 – Sample Media Mail USPS Packaging

Why is USPS Media Mails so Cheap

If your mail qualifies as Media Mail USPS, then you gain huge financial advantages as these mails are almost 50% cheaper than priority mails. The low rates come from the following factors:

  • Pricing is not based on zone but weight and size – Usually other USPS rates for mails include an additional upcharge for every zone that the mail has to cross.
  • Shipping is slow – Speed is another reason why this service is cheaper. They move at a much slower pace than priority or first-class mail. Most packages that are shipped are transported via ground and not air. These mails do not get any special or priority treatment. Mails could be delivered within a week or could take almost one whole month. If you need to ship something quickly then do not go for Media Mails USPS.
  • Does not include Insurance in the price – Many of the shipping options by USPS include free insurance against any loss or damage of your package during the transit. But in this service, it does not include the insurance.
  • No free pickup available for Media Mails USPS – With other USPS mails you can schedule a free pick up a day in advance and the mail carrier will come to your place and pick up your package for free. Media Mails are not eligible for USPS free pick-up service.
  • No delivery or signature confirmation – There are a few other USPS mail perks that do not apply to Media Mails USPS such as delivery or signature confirmation. So, if you are sending something really important then you must choose another mail option.
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Chakrasthitha is a B.E (Medical Electronics) and has work experience in MatLab and Lab View Software as Design Engineer at BCS innovations and Manipal hospital as Biomedical Engineer. She is an author, editor and partner at Electricalfundablog.


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