En español | Walk into a U.S. post office today and you'll pay 58 cents for a first-class stamp. If the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has its way, however, your stamps will cost 60 cents — a 3.4 percent increase — starting July 10.
A first-class stamp covers the price of a 1-ounce letter. An additional ounce costs 20 cents, and that would rise to 24 cents under the new proposal. Other postal products would see increases as well:
- Metered letters would rise to 57 cents from 53 cents
- Domestic postcards would rise to 44 cents from 40 cents
- Outbound international letters would rise to $1.40 from $1.30
The Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), an independent federal agency that oversees the Postal Service, must approve the price increases before they go into effect.
Stock up on Forever stamps
Forever stamps currently cost 58 cents, and their price would rise to 60 cents in July as well. But the “Forever” in their name means that even after an July price rise, a single Forever stamp you paid 58 cents for will still send a 1-ounce letter to any U.S. address. You won't have to add additional postage to make up for the price increase. You can still use an original Forever stamp purchased 15 years ago for 41 cents to mail a first-class letter today without additional postage.
Forever stamps, introduced in 2007, are always equivalent to the current price of a first-class stamp. Since 2011, virtually all first-class stamps sold are Forever stamps.
You can even use Forever stamps for outbound international letters. You'll have to add additional stamps to get to the correct amount of postage for international mail, however. For international letters, a Forever stamp has the monetary value of the price of a first-class stamp on the day it is used.
|Timeline: What did a first-class postage stamp cost?|
|Jan 7, 2001||$0.34|
|Jun 30, 2002||$0.37|
|Jan 8, 2006||$0.39|
|May 14, 2007||$0.41|
|May 12, 2008||$0.42|
|May 11, 2009||$0.44|
|Jan 22, 2012||$0.45|
|Jan 27, 2013||$0.46|
|Jan 26, 2014||$0.49|
|Apr 10, 2016||$0.47|
|Jan 22, 2017||$0.49|
|Jan 21, 2018||$0.50|
|Jan 27, 2019||$0.55|
|Aug 10, 2021||$0.58|
The Postal Service says that the overall rise in postal rates will be 6.5 percent, compared to 7.9 percent for overall inflation for the 12 months that ended in February. A 1-ounce letter cost 6 cents in 1863, according to the USPS historian, and 8 cents 50 years ago.
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Blame the internet
It's no secret that widespread use of email and the shift to online banking have taken a toll on the post office. People need fewer stamps for letters and bills these days, and businesses can reach customers more affordably and efficiently with email instead of junk mail.
The original Post Office Department, established in 1792 as part of the federal government, was reorganized in 1970 as the USPS, a separate agency, and generally receives no taxpayer money for operating expenses. According to a May 28, 2021 statement from USPS, the proposed postage price hikes are a first step in a plan to reverse a projected $160 billion in operating losses over the next decade.
A 2006 law capped postage increases at the Consumer Price Index, the government's main measure of inflation. The same law, however, allowed the Postal Regulatory Commission to review the effects of the postage price cap, and in 2017, the commission ruled that the price cap hurt USPS profitability. In November 2020, the commission issued new rules that gave the Postal Service more flexibility when it comes to rate increases.
John Waggoner covers all things financial for AARP, from budgeting and taxes to retirement planning and Social Security. Previously he was a reporter for Kiplinger's Personal Finance and USA Today and has written books on investing and the 2008 financial crisis. Waggoner's USA Today investing column ran in dozens of newspapers for 25 years.