Pre-paid postage greeting cards save time

It’s the smallest of improvements that often make the biggest difference in my life. For example, Hallmark made mailing cards significantly easier in February with the release of their postage-paid envelopes.

My sister-in-law sent my son a card in one of these envelopes a few weeks ago and when I saw the envelope with that image printed on it, I actually cheered. (I’m weird, I know.) From Hallmark’s corporate website:

Hallmark Postage-Paid Greetings feature the U.S. Postal Service’s Intelligent Mail barcode on the front of the envelope. When the cards are processed at a Postal Service facility, the barcode automatically indicates to the Postal Service the postage is paid. The postage is treated like a Forever stamp, and its value will always be equal to the price of a standard First-Class stamp, regardless of when it’s mailed.

In the article “Birthday cards and reminder systems” from back in 2007, I wrote about how I buy all my cards for the year at a single time to be more efficient. I’ve also been buying enough Forever stamps to cover all the postage for those cards around the same time. These new pre-paid envelopes make it so I don’t have to worry about the second step in the process. Also, it saves time if I need to pick up a last-minute card at the store — I just sign the card and drop it into any mailbox without having to go to the post office (which, since I haven’t yet bought my supply of cards for the year, I’ve actually done twice in the last week). Hallmark saves me from having to run another errand, and I like not having to run errands.

These new envelopes might not be for everyone, especially if you never mail cards, but for someone like me who sends a lot of cards they’re extremely convenient.

What small improvements have made a big difference in your life recently? Share your finds in the comments.

22 Comments for “Pre-paid postage greeting cards save time”

  1. posted by f1owerprincess on

    This is very cool! I may have to go to Hallmark on the way home. :)

  2. posted by Rebecca on

    Is the US system dramatically different to the UK one? Here we have 2 flat rates for letters/cards and stamps come in books of 6/12. So its easy to keep stamps handy, and you don’t have to be charged for postage if you aren’t posting the card/are sending it outside the country.

  3. posted by EngineerMom on

    Rebecca – We have a flat rate for basic envelopes, and a (slightly lower) flat rate for postcards. The problem isn’t that postage varies (though it does increase incrementally every other year or so, and keeping track of whether your 42-cent stamp is still good or not is annoying, hence the “forever” stamps).

    The problem is just about the only place you can buy postage is a post office. Some grocery stores sell stamps, but a store like Hallmark doesn’t. So if you’re in the mall, and suddenly remember your sister’s birthday is four days away, you can easily stop by Hallmark and get a card, but if you have to mail it, you not only have to make an extra trip to a post office, you also have to check to make sure it’s open, since they’re not open on Sundays, and the weekday and Saturday hours are limited compared to banks or grocery stores.

    In short, getting postage is a pain in the butt, so most people buy stamps and keep a book in their purse or wallet, but this idea of pre-paid envelopes could be a big help for someone who happens to have run out of stamps.

  4. posted by Liz on

    My local Hallmark store has a very small USPS window in the store, but with the USPS budget troubles, I imagine that is exactly the sort of location that will be target for closure.

  5. posted by Susan on

    Well, maybe it’s just me, but I’d prefer getting birthday cards with pretty stamps as opposed to something that looks like yet another bill and says “the person who sent this made the minimum effort required”.

    It’s fun using different stamps — I sent out all my Easter greetings with bee and flower stamps, for instance.

    Here in Germany, you can order stamps online and they come (gasp) in the mail. I’d be very surprised if you couldn’t do that in the US.

  6. posted by Susan on

    … and of course you can:

    (Hope the link survives — if not, usps.com > Shop > Buy Stamps)

    The “Baltimore Checkered Butterfly” one seems a nice choice for spring mail imho.

  7. posted by lady brett on

    it is certainly uncluttered, but stamps and the variety of designs are one of the lovely things about sending and receiving real mail (to me).

  8. posted by Barbara on

    It’s a nice idea. I just hope the envelopes stay on the shelves with the cards. I usually find more cards than envelops to fit them. This is adding a “steal me” sign to them.

    My local post office has a machine where you can do most of your mailing and stamp buying. It’s in the lobby with the PO boxes so it’s available anytime there is access to the boxes even though the post office is closed. More convenient although it’s still a trip to the post office.

  9. posted by Dede on

    Barbara had the same thought I did – the envelopes could disappear so fast it’d make your head spin.

    I think I would buy more cards, it depends on how much the price of the card increases to cover the postage cost. But I definitely like the idea. I could mail a card on the way to work without having to wait to go home for a stamp.

    As far as ordering online from usps – isn’t there a S/H fee?

  10. posted by Lindsay on

    Theoretically, Hallmark is folding the price of the stamp into the card, but I’d bet dollars to donuts card prices go up more than the actual amount of the postage. Plus, what does that do to someone who sends a card in a box with a gift? Now they’ve just paid for postage they aren’t using.

    Unless they start selling the envelopes separately? That might make sense, if the barcode on the front was also scannable by the vendor, but it doesn’t look like it would be.

    Come to think of it, it’s a bit strange that envelopes have historically come free with the cards, don’t you think? Why hasn’t someone monetized the sale of envelopes separately?

  11. posted by Andrea on

    There’s a fee of $1 and it’s a slow system since they come from a central location NOT the post office closest to you, takes 3-5 days which is very inefficient.

  12. posted by Dawn on

    I have always thought it was stupid that postcards weren’t sold with postage printed on them. It is really annoying to buy a postcard at a destination and not have a stamp to mail it.

  13. posted by Kelly on

    I like this idea. And agree it would be perfect for postcards. I live in New Zealand while my family are all in the UK. I use moonpig.co.uk to choose, write and post cards from within the UK meaning it arrives the next day. I almost never remember to get the card in the post with enough time to get it there from NZ.

  14. posted by katrina on

    It’s a good idea, although I do agree with Barbara that they’ll be tempting to thieves.

    Here in Australia we are quite spoilt by our post offices. Australia Post moved from being just postage a few years ago. Our post offices are now places you can buy stamps, send parcels, buy gifts & cards & wrapping paper, pay most of your services bills (electricity, water, rates, tax, etc), order a passport including having your photo taken, and probably some more things I’ve forgotten.

    It makes it almost a hassle to go to a card shop that isn’t a Post Office

  15. posted by kim on

    I agree with Susan, I like pretty stamps. And I think that handmade cards are much more thoughtful than Hallmark. Now that we have a 3 year old, we have her paint or draw on a blank card (bought a big package of blank cards and envelopes at Michael’s) and then we write an actual personal message inside. Granted, this is more work than just grabbing a stack of Hallmark cards each year, BUT is more thoughtful and is much cheaper! Plus, she loves to paint or draw anyway, so we do a batch at a time.

  16. posted by Sue on

    I have often wondered why card stores DON’T sell postage. It’s not like I’m asking for it free, but would it kill the shop to sell what is needed to complete the purchase?

  17. posted by April on

    Hallmark.com has been doing this for years. It’s wonderful.

    I live overseas, but I don’t have to worry about overseas pricing because I can go to the Web site and pick a card I like, customize it, enter my addresses, and they stuff and mail all of them for me! (They ship to US only last I checked, but most of my friends/relatives are there anyway.) It’s especially great at Christmas when I have a lot I want to send out, but it’s handy at birthdays and such, too.

    And if I don’t like any of their designs, I can always pick a blank one and upload a design I’ve made in Photoshop instead of uploading a picture. Easy peasy.

  18. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @April — That is awesome! Thank you for sharing this. I’ll be passing it along to some of my family members outside the US.

  19. posted by Barbi Walker on

    Hi Ellen,

    Thanks for sharing! I’ve been using these two amazing companies, Jack Cards.com & Sendout Cards.com. Both have calendar systems with built in reminders so you can send your cards on time. Or you can “pre-write” them and schedule for delivery at a chosen date. You pay when you chose your cards. It it doesn’t get any easier or more ‘uncluttered’ than that!

    I love the cards from JackCards.com and they offer two options, fillout online & send, or chose to have a stamped & addressed card sent to you so you can write a personal message and drop in the mail yourself. Postage included.

    Sendout Cards is great because it offers gift cards you can include, like Starbucks or the Gap, or you can select a gift of chocolate or the like. You can also make your own photo or video cards.

    You started me on my uncluttering life & these two card co’s have kept me up to date on birthdays & holidays without cluttering up my office, desk, car, closet… with mis-matched, cards, envelopes and abberant stamps. Now I have one more uncluttering tool – thanks Ellen!

  20. posted by Peg_Bracken_Fan on

    I signed up with Birthdayalarm.com and they send me automatic (free) reminders about birthdays and other holidays. The website asks for permission to access your email account’s contacts–invasive and a risk–but if you look, there is another option to enter birthdays manually.

    We buy most of our cards at garage sales. Very cheap, and we almost always have the right card on hand for the right occasion. If that fails, I have Birthdayalarm set for 10 days ahead of the birthday, which gives me time to make a card. It also gives me time to buy/send a present!

  21. posted by JustGail on

    Some small town stores sell stamps, as the post offices are open hours like 8am-4pm. When many who have jobs are at work and can’t get there :( . This is a nice move by Hallmark, I can see others making the same move if it’s successful. If I’m not mistaken, non-post office stamp sellers are allowed to add a handling fee to the price of stamps, so it’s very possible that the cards cost increase is more than the cost of the stamp.

    Has anyone used the print-at-home stamps? I was at an office supply store, and they had sheets of stamp blanks and scales (some of which could be connected to a computer) for printing your own postage. I’ve also been noticing some ads in magazines about doing so, can’t remember if it was a USPS ad, label company ad, or a printer ad now.

  22. posted by Tracey on

    It is great to have pre-paid postage..great idea. I also have a system where I don’t have to have any cards or stamps in my house at all and yet I can send a card for just over a buck including postage. Talk about uncluttering!

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