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Compare Postage Meters vs Online Postage Costs

Postage Meters

Postage meters are machines that allow you to weigh your mailings and print out the exact amount of postage needed. They’ve been around for a long time - about 100 years - and remain a popular solution for small and large businesses alike.

Postage meters are available in many different models with an array of features. Some require letters to be fed manually; others completely automate feeding. The latest models are completely multi-functional, capable of weighing, printing, folding, stapling, inserting, stacking, sorting and sealing your mail. Many also have an online interface that allows you to track spending on postage.

All postage meters are leased or rented, not purchased, because federal law prohibits the private sale. The machines are tightly regulated because the government considers postage a form of U.S. currency. The number of vendors is very limited, too.

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How Much Does a Postage Meter Cost?

Small businesses with basic mailing needs should plan on spending about $20 to $50 per month to lease a postage meter. Large businesses that handle a significant volume of mail can expect to pay about $100 to $200, although the fanciest postage meters available can cost up to $500 per month.

The prices do not include the cost of postage. Supplies such as replacement ink also run extra, although some manufacturers will send the first batch of supplies free of charge. Most manufacturers offer a discounted rate for the first year.

Postage Meter Pros

  • Accuracy - Postage meters tend to be more accurate than scales that plug into your computer. With plug-in scales, you have to estimate the cost of shipping using a chart or table. Postage meters give you an exact dollar amount, which helps prevent overpayment.
  • Advanced features - Many modern postage meters also handle tasks such as folding, sorting and sealing. They’re more than just postage meters; they’re complete mail centers. With most online services, you’ll have to handle those tasks manually.
  • No Internet required - Your postage meter will work even when the Internet is down, but an online service won’t.
Online Postage

Postage Meter Cons

  • More expensive - Leasing a postage meter is significantly more expensive than subscribing to an online postage service.
  • Equipment hassles - Equipment breaks down from time to time, and postage meters are no exception. If the machine requires repairs, you’ll have to handle mail the old fashioned way - going to the post office - while it is being fixed.
  • Software updates - You’ll have to pay for a software update every time the price of postage increases, which is relatively often these days. And software updates can be expensive.

Online Postage

Online postage services allow you to print postage right from your computer onto envelopes, labels or plain paper. Most services also provide software that you can use to manage mailing lists, track how much you’re spending on postage, track and confirm shipments and send shipping notifications to customers.

In most cases, you’ll want to purchase a separate digital scale that plugs into your computer with a USB cord. Without a scale, it can be difficult to figure out the correct amount of postage to use.

How Much Does Online Postage Cost?

Most online postage services charge $15 to $20 per month. That does not include the cost of postage or printing supplies.

Online Postage Pros

  • Less expensive - Signing up for an online postage service usually costs considerably less than leasing a postage meter.
  • No equipment or software - With online postage, you don’t have to deal with having equipment or software installed. And you won’t have to pay for expensive software updates every time there’s an increase in postage prices.
  • Remote access - Online postage services allow you to purchase and print postage when you’re away from the office or on the road. Print postage from anywhere where there’s Internet access and a printer.

Online Postage Cons

  • Not as accurate - Your postage won’t be as accurate with an online postages service and a plug-in scale. You’ll have to estimate the cost of shipping using a chart or table, rather than getting an exact amount from a meter. You’ll probably end up overpaying for some of your postage.
  • Handles fewer tasks - When you have an online postage service, you’ll have to handle tasks such as folding, sorting and sealing manually. Or, you can purchase a separate machine that handles those tasks.
  • Requires Internet - If the Internet is down, you won’t be able to access your online postage service.

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