The Guide to USPS Tracking: Get Advanced Tracking and Discounted Rates

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Intelligent Mail® Package barcode

The Intelligent Mail® Package (IM®pb) barcode is the U.S. Postal Service's (USPS®) tracking barcode which provides end-users with full visibility on parcel delivery status and access to discounted commercial rates. The discounted rates are accessible only through the creation of a 4x6 shipping label generated from online shipping software. As of January 25, 2015, the Postal Service™ urged that all metered packages must meet all IMpb requirements in order to be eligible for discounted Commercial Base® pricing.  Packages that do not meet IMpb requirements may still be mailed at retail prices but must include the USPS Tracking label (Label 400) or Extra Services Label.

IMpb applies for the most part to parcels, except USPS Extra Services, which are now required to have Intelligent Mail Package Barcodes. The Post Office™ prefers the term “parcel” to refer to anything that is not a letter, postcard or flat. While it is often considered to be a card box, a parcel does not always take the form of a box. For example, padded envelopes thicker than 3/4 inches are considered parcels. 

When are letters or flats considered parcels?

If one or more of the following are met:

Thicker than 3/4″
Rigid or inflexible
Weighs more than 13 ounces

 

If you are interested in lowering your shipping costs, while keeping track of your orders, then you may be interested in an online shipping solution such as NeoShip.

When using NeoShip, Your packages are qualified for FULL IM®pb benefits such as:

  • Full end-to-end tracking information
  • Get status from every scan point – manage shipment expectations
  • Access to the best prices for parcel shipments
  • Commercial Base Discounts
  • Free Insurance on Priority Mail™ and Priority Mail Express™
  • Items with a value up to $50 (Priority)  / $100 (Priority Mail Express)
  • Professional look with a neat / clean shipping label
  • Eliminates the need for multiple barcodes on a package

*Ensure that your Priority Mail or Priority Express™ Mail pieces receive free insurance by attaching an IMpb compliant label. You receive $50 for Priority Mail or $100 for Priority Express.

There are two ways you can ship a package via the USPS® and meet IM®pb requirements:

Option 1: Pre-printed Label 400

Use a pre-printed label that includes an IMpb barcode. With a pre-printed label, you can easily peel and stick it on your product. The sender can also write the addresses on the parcel and use in conjunction with a postage meter strip tape for parcel shipments.

With this option, the mailing characteristics are not uploaded to the USPS®. While the mailer can view tracking information, pre-printed labels (e.g. Label 400) do not qualify for benefits such as Commercial Base® pricing because the label is missing data elements that are required in an IM®pb barcode per the USPS®. No shipping services file is being uploaded to the USPS unless you have an application such as E-Services or e-Services with Electronic Return Receipt. Also, packages will only qualify for free insurance IF scanned at the Postal Service’s™ retail counter.

Easy Review:

  • Available from the USPS.
  • Free Tracking.
  • No Commercial Base® discounts (Only retail prices).
  • Free insurance, ONLY IF scanned at the post office.

Option 2– Software generated label that includes an IM®pb

An all-in-one label created with software such as NeoShip®, which formats the IM®pb as a part of the shipping label. To create the shipping label, you need to first define the characteristics of the shipment. You will enter in data such as name, delivery address, return address, class of service, Extra Services, zip + 4, which creates the barcode. The shipping label will also include a unique mailer ID. By creating an IM®pb shipping label, a package qualifies for full benefits including use of discounted Commercial Base® pricing and automatic qualification of free insurance on Priority Mail® ($50) and Priority Mail® Express Mail ($100).

Easy Review:

  • Qualifies for Commercial Base® Pricing
  • Free insurance on Priority Mail® and Priority Mail Express®.
  • Generated by online shipping software such as NeoShip.
  • Free tracking.

 

 

You are not required to meet IM®pb requirements for the following:

  • Transacting your parcel at a retail USPS® counter
  • Periodical parcels (e.g. newsletters, magazines)
  • Standard Mail® parcels (typically small marketing items like catalogs)

Parcels, packages, and Priority Mail® Express or Priority Mail® pieces of any shape, size, or price category, including flat-rate boxes and envelopes require an IM®pb barcode.

The following mail classes require an IM®pb:

  • First-Class Mail Package Service®
  • Parcel Select®
  • Parcel Select Lightweight
  • Standard Mail®
  • Library Mail
  •  Media Mail®

 

?The Label 400 is a pre-printed tracking label that is free from the USPS®. Using a Label 400 will not qualify for Commercial Base® Pricing but it does meet the USPS requirement for affixing a barcode to every parcel. However, the Post Office™ now applies full retail costs to parcels with Label 400.  

 

Commercial Base® pricing (CBP) is a set of special discounted rates that are available to shippers who use scannable postage markings and send package data to the USPS® systems electronically.

So what does that mean?

If you are using a mailing system that prints an IBI (information based indicia), you qualify for CBP since the marking that is being printed from the mailing system is scanned and that data is submitted to the USPS electronically.

With CBP there is no minimum shipping volume required to obtain the discounted rates and it applies to items with a weight up to 70 lbs. Also CBP can be applied to mail classes such as: Priority Mail®, Priority Mail Express®, First-Class Package Service® and First-Class Package International™, Media Mail®, Library Mail, etc.

Only shipping labels that include an IM®pb will qualify for Commercial Base® pricing. A pre-printed label with an IM®pb will only qualify for retail rates. Examples of pre-printed labels with an IM®pb barcode include a:

  • USPS Tracking Label (also known as the Label 400)
  • USPS Extra Services Label such as e-Signature Confirmation

Pre-printed labels (Label 400) do not qualify for benefits such as Commercial Base® Pricing because the label is missing data elements that are required in an IM®pb barcode per the USPS®.

With a pre-printed label, you are peeling and sticking the label on the package. No shipping services file is being uploaded to the USPS, unless you have an application such as E-Services or e-Services with Electronic Return Receipt. More importantly, you have not created the label based on the unique characteristics of the shipment. There is no address validation, correction, or zip + 4 upload. Therefore, the item does not meet the full IMpb requirement and will only qualify for retail rates. 

In order to qualify, your shipping labels must include an IMpb code with the following information, which must be electronically uploaded to the USPS:

Destination delivery address or Zip+4 Codes®
Unique tracking barcode
Shipping address file version 1.6 or higher (sent to the USPS® electronically)
Mail class, payment channel information, and extra service designation

An online shipping software such as NeoShip® easily generates an Intelligent Mail Package Barcode with information entered such as the address the item is being shipped to, the shipping method and any extra services added to the shipment. The Intelligent Mail Package Barcode is generated based on the information entered. As part of the software, a shipping service file is then sent to the USPS. 

Depending on the number of packages that you are shipping or the options you are looking for, Neopost offers two IM®pb compliant online shipping solutions. One is NeoShip® which is designed for low to mid volume shipments. The second is Enhanced Mailing & Shipping (EMS) designed for high volume shippers.

NeoShip is our latest online shipping solution. It works in conjunction with your IS/IM/IN series postage meters. People often ask "does the mailing system print the IM®pb shipping label?" The simple answer is no. The postage meter works in conjunction with online shipping software such as NeoShip to create IM®pb compliant labels.

 

Make Sending Simple 

Learn how Neopost can help your business  take the complexity out of the process of sending flats, packages, Priority Mail®—and whatever else you are sending. Spend more time on your business and less time guessing with small business-friendly shipping solutions like NeoShip.

 

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