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Post office rate increases to take effect later this month

This panel of four state fair-themed stamps is one of many new first-class "Forever" designs that will be released this year. The price to mail a letter will increase to 55 cents as of Jan. 27. USPS image
This panel of four state fair-themed stamps is one of many new first-class “Forever” designs that will be released this year. The price to mail a letter will increase to 55 cents as of Jan. 27. USPS image
By Kelly Terpstra,

The rates, they are a changin’.

Starting later this month, it will take two quarters and a nickel to mail a letter to your favorite cousin in Florida.

The United States Postal Service announced rate changes in October 2018 to take effect on Jan. 27, 2019. The changes will increase the price of stamps and services that the USPS offers.

The price hikes are related to a record $4 billion in operating losses the Postal Service saw in 2018.

This is the third year in a row that the first-class mail “Forever” stamp price has increased. Currently 50 cents, the price of that stamp will increase 10 percent to 55 cents starting later this month.

The 5-cent hike is the largest increase for a first-class stamp since 1991, when the cost jumped from 25 to 29 cents.

Forever stamps first went on sale in April 2007 with the image of the Liberty Bell. Forever stamps can be used to mail one-ounce first-class letters regardless of when the stamp was purchased or used and no matter how prices may change in the future.

“If you’d come in today and buy them for 50 cents, they’re still going to be good for — let’s say in 15 years the stamps are 75 cents — they’re still good no matter what you paid for them today,” said Sherry Krumwiede, a supervisor at the Charles City Post Office.

Price increases are nothing new for the Postal Service, which is a branch of the federal government, but receives zero tax dollars for operating expenses.

The USPS relies on the sale of postage, products and services to generate revenue. That comes in the form of selling cards, envelopes, P.O. box rentals, passport processing and photos, money orders and wire transfers to name a few, according to Kristy L. Anderson. She’s the strategic communications strategist and community liaison for the Northland and Hawkeye districts in the greater St. Paul-Minneapolis area.

First-Class Stamp Increases/Decreases:

Date — Price in Cents

May 11, 2009 — 44

January 22, 2012 — 45

January 27, 2013 — 46

January 26, 2014 — 49

April 10, 2016 — 47

January 22, 2017 — 49

January 21, 2018 — 50

January 27, 2019 — 55

Other adjusted costs for shipping and mailing letters are part of the biggest price increase in total cents in the post office’s history.

Priority mail retail flat range changes will increase across the board.

And first-class package service, a lightweight expedited offering used primarily by businesses, will change to zone-based pricing.

The first class package rate had always been one price no matter where it was going, Krumweide said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s going to Floyd, Iowa, or to Alaska.”

As of the price change, the cost to send a first-class package will depend on its destination.

“Zone-based is to the ZIP code it’s going to. Right now that’s how priority and parcel select go — they go by weight and distance,” said Krumwiede.

Anderson said more and more people are purchasing their stamps and USPS products or services online.

In 2017, 857.1 million retail customers visited a post office, compared to 1.9 billion visits to the post office’s website –, she said.

In 2017 alone, $436 million in stamps and stamp product orders were received by USPS.

Anderson said the largest impact for the USPS has been a decline in first class mail such as letters and cards — things like mailing bills, statements, payments, etc.

She said new stamp releases, the holidays and special occasions like weddings all increase stamp sales.