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If your company sends out mails frequently and monthly postage amounts near $50 or more, you should consider investing in a postage meter. Postage meters also called postage machines or postage meter machines are convenient as they spare you frequent trips to the post office to procure adhesive stamps, and get consignments weighed and stamped. With postage meters, consignments are stamped with the appropriate postage amounts, dated postmark or cancellation right at your office. Exact postage amount and postage amount tracking result in 20% cost savings for your business. But it is important to pick the right postage meter machine for your business no matter which vendor you choose out of Pitney Bowes, Neopost, Hasler or FP mailing solutions, the four largest postage meter machine vendors in the world.
How do postage meters work?
Development, usage, postage rates, and support of postage meters are regulated by the country's postal service. The main component – the postage meter machine – can only be leased while other parts can be leased or purchased from independent vendors. Postage meters hold a fixed postage amount (usually $1000) that can be refilled through pre-paid cards, phone, online postal account or the internet.
The packages are run through a feeder automatically or manually. The dimensions of the feeder vary. Sealers moisten and close the flap of envelopes. The mail is post marked and the amount is deducted from the remaining balance in the postage meter. Three seals on the postage meter display the balance amount, total postage amount dispersed on consignments, and the number of metered consignments respectively. The post marked mail is exited onto the stacker or collection tray of the postage meter.
Advanced Postage Meters:
All postage meters can send packages, parcels and mails including Domestic First-Class, Priority, Express, Parcel Post, International and discounted services. Postage machines come in analog and digital styles. Digital postage meters are much more secure because they print a two-dimensional image that identifies the sender and the destination site. Analog postage meter machines can be changed to digital postage meters with the purchase of an additional computer chip. Apart from the standard mail station functions of postage machines, advanced postage meter models offer:
- Bar codes for authentication of sender and receiver
- Automatic postage rate adjustment
- Automatic date advance
- preset programs
- built-in scales
Postage meters have the following components:
- Base: The base of the postage meter machines are the seat on which a mail is transported through the postage meter.
- Built-in scale: The postage meters come with a built-in scale that weighs consignments and tells you the exact postage amount required for packages, parcels, post cards etc. Analog models apply the amount automatically through the meter. Digital scales enter accurate postage automatically.
- Feeder: A feeder can be manual, semi-automatic or fully automatic. It guides the mail through the meter and stamps the indicia (postal mark). Manual feeders can be inconvenient if large stacks of mails have to be stamped. Feeders come in different speeds ranging from 15 to 270 letters per minute.
- Sealer: Sealers are the most maintenance-intensive parts of meters as they use glue and water to moisten envelope flaps and seal them close.
- Stacker: Low-end stackers can hold a few pieces of metered mails in a tray. High speed postage meters use power stackers that move stamped mails onto a tray via a conveyor system.
- Tape dispenser: A base with tape dispenser ensures correct placement of the postage meter tape on a package. Postage meters use pre-cut or rolled tape dispensers.
How much do Postage Meters cost?
The cost to rent postage meters can range from $20 to $500 per month depending on the postage machines configuration and its advanced options. Some key things to keep in mind:
- Manual feeders are less expensive, while semi-automatic feeders can cost around $700. Fully automatic feeders are priced at $1200 or more.
- High speed stackers can cost $1000 to $2000.
- Bases that use rolls of postage meter tape cost more than pre-cut dispenser bases, but lead to lower operational costs.
- Simple bases cost a few hundred dollars but advanced options can make the price jump to thousands of dollars.
- Spring scales cost around $30 while digital postage meter scales can cost hundreds of dollars.
Postage meters companies can offer you long-term contracts but one-year contracts are ideal for digital postage meters for small business. Some postage meters vendors charge a fixed fee that is incremented annually while others base the fee on usage. Deals can also include attractive options such as free postage meter supplies, 1 year free maintenance, free 60 days trial etc.
Assess your business needs, postage volume and budget before you choose a postage meter. Though advanced options can be expensive, they can result in human and financial cost savings.