Anyone sending mail regularly is bound to have started looking into USPS’s Media Mail and wondered whether they can send mail using this service. It’s attractive for a few reasons, but what does it cost and who can use it?
Media Mail is a shipping service offered by USPS for sending very specific items. It is one of the cheapest mailing services, starting at only $3.19, and many people benefit from using it when they are shipping media across the country. However, you can only send certain items using this service; most are prohibited.
What Is Media Mail?
Media Mail is one of USPS’s popular low cost services that is used for shipping physical media across the United States.
It is only intended for the shipping of physical media, and only certain items from a list are permitted to be sent using this service. You cannot slip other items in alongside them, even if the main items in the package come under the criteria stipulated for Media Mail.
This is partly because the service costs so little; it requires strict regulation so that people don’t misuse it.
Who Can Use Media Mail?
Anyone using the USPS service to send physical media can use Media Mail; it is not restricted to businesses, students, or any other class of user. It’s open to anyone who can benefit from it.
What Are The Media Mail Rates?
The Media Mail rates are charged according to the package’s weight, and a package under 1 lb will cost $3.19 to send. At 10 lb, it will cost you $8.86, and at 20 lb, it will cost $15.16.
30 lb packages cost $21.46, 40 lb packages cost $27.76, 50 lb packages cost $34.06, 60 lb packages cost $40.36, and 70 lb packages cost $46.66.
Note that you need to be slightly under, not slightly over, the weight band.
These rates are very low, especially when compared with some of USPS’s other offerings. For example, to send a 70 lb package with the Priority Mail service, you will pay a minimum of $50.45, even if you are sending the package locally. To send it further, you could be paying as much as $364.85.
The Priority Mail service does deliver more quickly, but this difference in price makes Media Mail enormously attractive to many people, and if you are sending eligible items, using it could save you large amounts of money.
It is even cheaper than the First Class Package service, which costs $4.50 to send a 1 lb package to zones 1 and 2. Unsurprisingly, therefore, many people want to send items using Media Mail, but you must make sure that you are following USPS’s guidance and only sending items that are eligible.
It’s important to note that Media Mail is also charged at a flat rate, regardless of where it is going in the US. That makes it considerably cheaper if you are sending mail over long distances, and many people use this when shipping books for college, as a means of avoiding high fees or having to carry a lot of textbooks.
What Can You Send Using Media Mail?
There is a small list of items that can be sent using Media Mail, and nothing else may travel by this service. The list includes:
- 16 millimeter films (or narrower width)
- Medical loose leaf pages
- Printed music
- Printed test materials
- Books (minimum of 8 pages)
- Manuscripts and playscripts
- Recordings of video and sound
- Computer-readable media
- Educational reference charts
There are some specific exclusions for this; you cannot send video games (even educational ones) or digital drives using Media Mail.
You also cannot send any mail with other items included; all the contents of the package must fall within these categories. For example, if you are sending several books, you cannot also include some candy or clothes. The items must all be suitable for sending with Media Mail.
Something that frequently catches people out is that this even includes cards or notes. Putting a birthday card in your package could be enough to cause issues.
There are exceptions; a note can be included if it is strictly related to the Media Mail items. For example, a company may include a bill or invoice, or may write a note that offers instructions or introduces the media’s purpose. Notes offering corrections on the printed material can also be included without an issue.
Personal notes, however, are prohibited.
If in doubt about anything you are mailing, you should check with a USPS employee to make sure that it is eligible for sending with Media Mail. You can also get a full list of the allowed items from USPS’s website.
What Happens If You Send Other Items With Media Mail?
If you send a package with Media Mail, you are required to consent to your package being searched by USPS at any time during its journey. They are free to inspect the contents to ensure that they adhere to the Media Mail rules.
If your package is found to contain items that are not permitted, there is a chance that you could be charged with mail fraud. This comes with a fine and even the risk of imprisonment. However, it is more likely that USPS will simply backcharge the package at Priority Mail rates. As shown above, these could be very high for heavy packages.
Your recipient will then be required to pay the difference before they can receive the package, and USPS will hold it until the money is settled. It is important to avoid this happening, so make sure the items you are mailing can be sent using this service.
Remember that you cannot include items that don’t fit the criteria just because some items in the package do. Even including a pair of socks or a candy bar will disqualify the whole package from being sent as Media Mail and could result in you getting charged additional money.
How Fast Is Media Mail?
Media Mail is not the fastest service, although it can be quite quick. It will generally arrive within 2 to 8 business days. However, this is not a guaranteed service so you will not be able to request a refund for your shipping costs if it takes longer than this. The further your package is traveling, the longer it is likely to take to arrive.
Media Mail is a tracked service, so you can determine how soon your package is likely to arrive by checking how far it has traveled and how much of its journey is left.
To track your package, go to USPS’s website and navigate to the tracking page, and then enter the tracking number you were given at the time of mailing. You must keep this number safe, because without it, you will not be able to locate your package.
Tracking does not cost anything extra for Media Mail anymore; this was updated in 2015. Prior to this point, it cost $1.05 to add tracking, but now it is free. Ask for it to be added at the USPS counter to ensure that you get this service.
Can You Send International Items Using Media Mail?
No, unfortunately Media Mail is a domestic service only, and you cannot send items via Media Mail if you want to ship them internationally. This service is only available in the 50 US states, and if you wish to send something abroad, you will need to choose another option.
Many people find this frustrating, because Media Mail is such a cheap and convenient way of mailing items, but this service isn’t offered abroad, and is unlikely to be so in the future because it is so cheap.
As soon as an item needs to leave the country, it must be flown or put onto a ship, and this makes it prohibitively expensive for USPS to offer Media Mail shipping internationally.
Is Media Mail The Same As Library Mail?
Media Mail was originally referred to as Library Mail, and the service was started in the 1930s by President Roosevelt. It was intended to keep the cost of shipping books low so that educational materials could be spread throughout the country with ease.
The service has been continued since then, and has been updated and expanded to reflect the emergence of other kinds of educational media, such as computer media. You may still see Media Mail referred to as Library Mail from time to time, but the official term is Media Mail and this is the service that you should ask for if you wish to ship something.
What Are The Size And Weight Limits For Media Mail?
The maximum weight for shipping items with Media Mail is 70 lb. You cannot send items that are above this weight, even if you are prepared to pay additional money. Instead, you will have to break your package up into two or more, and pay separate mailing costs for each of them. You may have to pay a surcharge if your package weighs over 25 lb.
Packages can measure up to 108 inches in their combined length and distance. Make sure that your package falls within these parameters, or you will find that you are not able to ship it.
Can You Send Advertising Materials With Media Mail?
No, you cannot send advertising materials of any sort with Media Mail; this has been specifically stated so that companies do not take advantage of the cheap mailing service to distribute commercial materials. Any advertising materials included in a package could result in it being reclassified as Priority Mail and charged accordingly.
Similarly, magazines, photographs, and newspapers are all banned and should not be placed in the package. Note too that although you can send loose-leaf binders with materials in them, you cannot send them empty, because they aren’t considered of educational value.
The service may seem to have some arbitrary distinctions, but the idea behind it is to ensure that only materials of educational value can be sent at the low rate, and all other materials are excluded.
What Alternative Services Are There?
If you cannot send an item using Media Mail because it doesn’t meet the criteria above, you may wish to look into either the First Class Package service or the Priority Mail Service. These will both cost more, but they are the closest alternatives for sending non-media items.
They are both faster services too; both First Class Packages and Priority Mail usually arrive within 1 to 3 business days. However, they are charged according to zone as well as weight, and may prove a lot more expensive.
Should I Add Other Items To Media Mail?
Some people attempt to defraud USPS’s Media Mail service by hiding unsuitable items inside media-related items. For example, people put collectible cards inside books or DVD cases.
However, you should not do this. It could lead to a big fine and potential imprisonment if you are caught, although it is rare for this to happen. Using the service incorrectly is also unethical and is not a good idea for anyone sending mail, whether as a business or as an individual.
You should choose the correct mailing service for the item that you are sending, and only use Media Mail if the items are within the categories listed above.
If you receive a lot of mail, you might want to consider taking out a Virtual Mailbox with US Global Mail. This great service provides you with a permanent US address that can receive packages and mail at any time, and will store them securely for you. The exterior of incoming mail is scanned, and pictures are sent to your email so you can see what mail has arrived.
You can also request for mail to be opened and scanned so you can view the contents, or ask for it to be shredded. Packages can be forwarded to your address, and this is a great way to keep your mail secure, especially if you move regularly or you are rarely at home to accept items.