Skip to main content

Greeting Card Postage Guide (Usa)

Professional scrapbook artist, paper crafter, and author, I have taught people how to make family memories into legacies for 20 years.


The Joy Of Receiving A Card

There is nothing better than going to the mailbox and finding a card written to you by hand instead of just the bills and junk mail. It is still magical and joyful to get a card in

the mail that someone tool the time to send to you. And if it is a hand made card, then that is a real treasure.

Making the card is only half of the task. Making sure that the card gets there on time is the other half of the equation. Because cards can be unusual sizes and weights, it is important to put the right postage on the envelope. It sure is disappointing to get a card back because it did not have sufficient postage.

Here are some tips, ideas and tricks to make sure that your homemade cards arrive on time !

Postal Scale-Make less trips to the post office

Current Postage Guidelines

The current postage guideline per stamp is $.50 stamp which is anything under i ounce

What Is Considered A Rigid Greeting Card?

Greeting cards can be classified as “rigid” if it cannot bend and is less than:

  • 11-1/2" x 6-1/8" x 1/4" thick
  • 3.5 ounces

If they meet these conditions, they will be charged the standard postage rate, plus a non-machinable surcharge.

If they exceed these dimensions, they will be priced as a "large envelope/flat". rate

Is It A Letter Or Not?

The US Postal Service has specific guidelines for what a letter is. Knowing what that criteria is can be important when you are mailing a greeting card. Knowing that there is a $0.21 (as of 2017) surcharge for anything that does not meet their guidelines is important when you purchase or make a greeting card. There is nothing worse than to send a special greeting card and have it returned for insufficient postage. Especially if that card included a gift card,

If you stay in the guideline show above, height minimum 3½ and max at 6-1/8, length 5″ minimum and max 11½ keep it at 1 oz or less and not thicker then ¼” then you should be safe for one first class stamp

Here are the guidelines from the US Postal Service on what is considered a letter:

  • The aspect ratio (length divided by height) must be at least 1.3 but not more than 2.5.
  • The letter must not be polybagged, polywrapped, or enclosed in any plastic material.
  • The letter must not have clasps, strings, buttons, or similar closure devices.
  • The letter must not contain items such as pens or loose keys that cause the thickness to be uneven.
  • The letter must bend easily.
  • For pieces more than 4-1/4" high or 6" long, the piece must be at least 0.009" thick.
  • The delivery address must be parallel to the long side of the mailpiece.
  • For booklet-type pieces, the bound edge must not be at the top, and must be along the longer dimension.
  • If the letter is a self-mailer (such as a bifold or trifold flier), the mailer should be securely closed at all openings (sides and front) with wafer seals or cellophane tape.

What Is Considered A Letter

Scroll to Continue

What Is A Letter

To be sent at a letter rate, the item must be rectangular, At least 3-1/2 inches high x 5 inches long x 0.007 inch thick. No more than 6-1/8 inches high x 11-1/2 inches long x 1/4 inch thick.

DimensionMinimum SizeMaximum Size


3 1/2 inches

6 1/8 inches


5 inches

11 1/2 inches



1/4 inch

What is A Non Machinable Card And Postage?

A nonmachinable mailpiece is a mailpiece that must be sorted outside of the standard, automated mail process. ... The nonmachinable surcharge is added to First-Class Mail® with any of the following criteria: For pieces more than 4-1/4 inches high or 6 inches long, the thickness is less than 0.009 inch.

If you send a card in a clear envelope that would be an example of a nonmachinable card. If you use a clear envelope make sure to place the stamp and return sticker on the outside of the card.

You can also slide a piece of copy paper with the address and return address. Seal and place the non machinable stamp on the out side

How To Decorate Your Envelopes

Other Size Greeting Cards

So, if your greeting card does not meet the size or weight criteria for a letter, you could be charged a surcharge because the card could not go through their letter sorting machine

These are referred by the Post Office as a large envelope. (anything that exceeds their letter requirements)

Here is where I personally ran into problems. I mailed a thin square 4 x 4 inch thank you card. Since it was thin, I just put a single Forever Stamp on it and sent it on its way. What I did not understand is that anything that does not fit into the letter requirements needs what is called a 21 cent(as of 2917) non machinable surcharge. So 2 weeks later, it was returned with an stamped not enough postage mark.

Stamp The Envelope To Make It Pretty


Musical Greeting Cards

The very popular musical greeting card have their own requirements. Who knew?

Because many of these cards go above the 1 ounce requirement for a letter, and the card appears square, is is subject to the $0.17 additional surcharge over and above the amount of postage that would be required for its weight.

Some because of their size are actually classified as large envelopes (flats). That means that it could be classified as a package and subject to first class package rates.

Just something to consider if you are thinking about sending one

Mailing Cards To Military Addresses

If you are mailing a greeting card to a military address the same rates and rules apply as if you were mailing it in the US.

APO stands for Army/Air Force Post Office for bases overseas.

FPO stands for Fleet Post Office and is for the Navy/USMC bases and ships abroad.

DPO stands for Diplomatic Post Office. This would be used if you have someone in the State Department or a Marine stationed at an embassy.

First class Mail -Transit time for your cards is about 2-3 weeks. So allow that amount of time and maybe a little more at holiday time.

Priority Mail- 2-3 weeks in transit time

Express Mail-Up to 1 week. May not be available to all destinations

Parcel Post-Up to 6 weeks

Tips For Mailing Gift Cards

Lots of folks have gone to using gift cards instead of gifts because of the price of postage. There are a few things to consider when sending them out, especially if you include them in a card or gift card holder.

  • Add a piece of cardboard so that the gift card will remain stable
  • Consider using a padded envelopes to mail your gift card.
  • Add an extra copy of the return address or the address where the card is going, with the gift card so that if the envelope gets damaged, hopefully the card will be returned or sent where you intended.
  • The post office does have flat rate gift envelopes specifically for gift cards which you can get for free.

More Gift Card Mailing Ideas

Christmas Delivery Dates

For post office delivery for the December holidays, especially Christmas, here are the last days that you can get your cards and gifts out for them to arrive at Christmas:

December 15-Parcel Post

December 20th-First Class Mail

December 21st-Priority Mail

December 22- Express Mail

Naturally, the longer you wait, the more expensive it will be !

Getting Birthday Cards Out On Time

I really make it a priority to try to get birthday cards out on time. I make a lot of birthday cards on hand. since these are generally the most used cards. But, sometimes I forget to check the calendar and the card and what may be in it arrive later than I would like.

So here is a simple remedy to that, I have decided to use.

At the beginning of the month, I select the birthday (or anniversary) cards that need to go out) I stick the return label on them and calculate the postage I will need depending on the type and size of the card. I then take a pencil and in the right hand corner, I write the day that they need to go out (depending on where in the country they are going) as well as the postage that I will need. Remember to use the date that they need to go out rather than the birth date so they arrive on time. I keep that months cards in a basket where I can see it.

For birthdays in the first week of the next month, I keep those in the current month so they get out on time.

Then I check the basket every week, to make sure to get any cards that need to go out. Seems to work better for me.

Of course remember to add postage !

The 2021 Postal Rates

The postage rate for 2021 will change

First Class Mail Letter (1oz) remain at $0.55

Each additional ounce will be $0.20 cents per ouncr

Large envelopes remain at $1.00

Each additional ounce will be at $0.20 per ounce

More Information on 2021 Postal Rates

© 2020 Linda F Correa

Related Articles