How To Stamp Out The Rising Cost of Postage And Mailings

Saving money is a top priority for any credit union. With the high volume of regular mailings that credit unions send out each month, it's not a surprise that effectively managing postage can be a significant source of cost-savings for a majority of organizations.

The good news is that there are automation discounts available from the United States Postal Service (USPS) through the use of the Intelligent Mail barcode (IMb), but it's important to note-time is running out for credit unions to make the move to IMb.

As of Jan. 28, 2013, you can still use the current POSTNET barcodes. However, they will no longer qualify your credit union for the discounted automation rates on First Class statements and invoices, or on periodicals and standard mail. If your CU hasn't yet implemented the IMb system, you stand to lose the benefits of automation rates-the lowest available for business mailers.

In general terms, IMb service will be available in both Basic and Full-Service versions, with Full-Service gaining a savings of $3 for every 1,000 First Class letters, cards and flats that meet IMb standards, and a $1 discount per every 1,000 periodicals, bound printed matter and similar items.

The USPS has been developing IMb for several years and offers detailed technical information about exactly how to design and define these barcodes for your CU, as well as how to apply them in preparing mailings.


Three Simple Steps

The booklet "USPS Guide to Creating the Intelligent Mail Barcode," available as a PDF from the USPS website identifies three simple steps for setting it up in your own mailroom:

1. Download and install the encoder and font, an application that converts your numeric code into IMb's 65-character string.

2. Apply for a mailer identifier from the USPS. This "Mailer ID" or "MID" code is assigned to volume mailers by the USPS based upon its own criteria. If your mailing operation is already established with the USPS, you may already have a MID.

3. Populate the barcode fields. The IMb fields include both the USPS-assigned codes and those you determine to identify each mailing and/or mail piece.

While you may already have the USPS-assigned identifying codes for your credit union's mailing operation and are using them for POSTNET barcodes, the IMb barcode contains much more information and has a much different appearance than a POSTNET barcode. An IMb code is a 31-character data string that converts to 65 bars of different heights. It occupies approximately the same area of the mail piece as the POSTNET barcode but requires a bit more space to accommodate its greater height.


Five Fields

The IMb barcode includes the following five fields:

* Barcode Identifier is a two-digit code available from the USPS website.

* Service Type Identifier code is 3-digits, also available from the USPS website. This identifier specifies the Intelligent Mail option (Full-Service, Basic or non-auto), the class of mail (First-Class, Standard, etc.) and additional services requested (such as full-service address correction).

* Mailer Identifier is a 6- to 9-digit Mailer Identifier and assigned by the Postal Service based upon the mailer's verified volume.

* Serial Number is a 6- to 9-digit number determined by the mailer or its mailing service. For Full-Service IMb mailings, the serial number must be different for each mailing piece. For Basic Service, the Serial Number can be the same.

* Routing Code is ZIP+4.


Managing Change

Without doubt, automation has made mailing procedures quicker and more efficient, but it has added another degree of complexity for CUs seeking to achieve the best possible rates. The IMb system not only helps the USPS to streamline its own operations, but also delivers significant benefits to your CU. However, the IMb barcodes do demand a little more forethought and planning for optimal utilization.

IMb barcodes very soon will be required to qualify for the best postage rates, and they offer tools that can make your mailings more cost-effective, secure and productive.



Harry Stephens is president/CEO and founder of DATAMATX, a provider of providers of printed and electronic billing solutions. Mr. Stephens can be reached at hstephens@datamatx.com.