En español | Walk into a U.S. post office today and you'll pay 55 cents for a first-class stamp. If the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has its way, however, your stamps will cost 58 cents — a 5.5 percent increase — starting Aug. 29.
A first-class stamp covers the price of a one-ounce letter. An additional ounce costs 20 cents, and that won't change under the new proposal. Other postal products would see a price hike as well:
- Metered letters would rise to 53 cents from 51 cents
- Domestic postcards would rise to 40 cents from 36 cents
- Outbound international letters would rise to $1.30 from $1.20
- One-ounce flats would rise to $1.16 from $1
The Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC), an independent federal agency that oversees the USPS, must approve the price increases before they go into effect.
Stock up on Forever stamps
Forever stamps currently cost 55 cents, and their price would rise to 58 cents in August as well. But the “forever” in their name means that even after an August price rise, a single Forever stamp you paid 55 cents for will still send a one-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 14 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|
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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, was reorganized as the USPS, a separate agency, in 1970, and generally receives no taxpayer money for operating expenses. According to a May 28 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 PRC to review the effects of the postage price cap, and in 2017, the PRC ruled that the price cap hurt USPS profitability. In November 2020, the PRC issued new rules that gave the USPS more flexibility when it comes to rate hikes.
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.