First-Class Stamps to Cost 49 Cents Starting Jan. 26

Postal Rates
David Goldman/AP

WASHINGTON -- Mailing a letter is about to get a little more expensive.

Regulators on Tuesday approved a temporary price hike of 3 cents for a first-class stamp, bringing the charge to 49 cents a letter in an effort to help the Postal Service recover from severe mail decreases brought on by the 2008 economic downturn.

Many consumers won't feel the price increase immediately. Forever stamps, good for first-class postage whatever the future rate, can be purchased at the lower price until the new rate is effective Jan. 26.

The higher rate will last no more than two years, allowing the Postal Service to recoup $2.8 billion in losses. By a 2-1 vote, the independent Postal Regulatory Commission rejected a request to make the price hike permanent, though inflation over the next 24 months may make it so.

The surcharge "will last just long enough to recover the loss," Commission Chairman Ruth Y. Goldway said.

Bulk mail, periodicals and package service rates will rise 6 percent, a decision that drew immediate consternation from the mail industry.
Its groups have opposed any price increase beyond the current 1.7 percent rate of inflation, saying charities using mass mailings and bookstores competing with online retailer Amazon would be among those who suffer. Greeting card companies also have criticized the plans.

"This is a counterproductive decision," said Mary G. Berner, president of the Association of Magazine Media. "It will drive more customers away from using the Postal Service and will have ripple effects through our economy -- hurting consumers, forcing layoffs and impacting businesses."

Berner said her organization will consider appealing the decision before the U.S. Court of Appeals.

For consumers who have cut back on their use of mail for correspondence, the rate increase may have little impact on their pocketbooks.

"I don't know a whole lot of people who truly, with the exception of packages, really use snail mail anymore," said Kristin Johnson, a Green Bay, Wis., resident who was shopping in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, while visiting relatives and friends. "It's just so rare that I actually mail anything at this point."

The Postal Service is an independent agency that does not depend on tax money for its operations but is subject to congressional control. Under federal law, it can't raise prices more than the rate of inflation without approval from the commission.

The service says it lost $5 billion in the last fiscal year and has been trying to get Congress to pass legislation to help with its financial woes, including an end to Saturday mail delivery and reduced payments on retiree health benefits.

The figures through Sept. 30 were actually an improvement for the agency from a $15.9 billion loss in 2012.

The post office has struggled for years with declining mail volume as a result of growing Internet use and a 2006 congressional requirement that it make annual $5.6 billion payments to cover expected health care costs for future retirees. It has defaulted on three of those payments.

The regulators Tuesday stopped short of making the price increases permanent, saying the Postal Service had conflated losses it suffered as a result of Internet competition with business lost because of the Great Recession. They ordered the agency to develop a plan to phase out the higher rates once the lost revenue is recouped.

It's unclear where that would take rates for first-class postage in 2016. The regular, inflation-adjusted price would have been 47 cents next year. If inflation rates average 2 percent over the next two years, regulators could deem 49 cents an acceptable price going forward.

The Postal Service has only twice lowered the price of a stamp: in the mid-19th century from 3 cents to 2 cents, and again after the end of World War I. In neither case was the higher price the result of a temporary authorization.

The new price of a postcard stamp, raised by a penny to 34 cents in November, also is effective next month.

The last price increase for stamps was in January, when the cost of sending a letter rose by a penny to 46 cents. A postcard also increased by one cent to 33 cents.

-Associated Press reporter Mark Thiessen in Anchorage, Alaska, contributed to this report.

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Trixi Lians

Stock up on some "Forever Stamps". I just bought 40 online (and they charge a fee for delivery- LOL), but better than going to the post office. I never wanted to pay bills online, but couldn't keep up with the randomly increasing stamp rates. Now I'm bummed if I can't pay a bill online.

December 26 2013 at 2:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

All the more reason to use online billing.

December 26 2013 at 2:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Yeah, its temporary - until it gets raised again

December 26 2013 at 3:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It's a NON-Permanent Stamp Rate Hike?

AND I'm the Easter Bunny.

December 26 2013 at 2:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The problem is the pensions and the benefits and pay they receive for work that is mostly smi skilled. I fact all government workers need to be put on 401 ks instead of this pension guarantee program that is bankrupting this country. This includes city, county, state and federal workers and we need to deal now with these outrageous pay and benefit packages that the politicians have given themselves. Up here boeing wants to get rid of the current pension and go to 401 ks , because it would be a lot cheaper and just as good for the employees, the employees said no so the politicians jump on the union, but the city county state and federal employees themselves will not change to 401ks even if it would save every level of government a fortune, we really live in a time od do what we say not what we do, Throw them all out of office now.

December 26 2013 at 12:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to TINKDAY's comment

Funny thing is, the USPS is on a 401k type pension. Called Thrift Savings, and USPS stopped matching funds ages ago.

There is no guaranteed pension there anymore. Don\'t know where you got your info.
There hasn\'t been a civil service pension since 1984

December 26 2013 at 4:19 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Pay your bills on-line...who needs the post office? Don't send letters to friends, use your cell phone. Let the post office rot.

December 25 2013 at 11:50 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

The one thing that I need everyday but must go out for is fresh bread. I'd pay the post office to deliver a loaf of frest bread to my large mail box every day if it could. Our post office must get into the bread baking business.

December 25 2013 at 10:07 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

paid to have letter sent 2 day express mail on dec 13th. Arrived on thursday Dec. 19th. Need i say more about the USPS.I keep using them and they keep screwing up.

December 25 2013 at 9:54 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to yotzeeee's comment

Go into the Post office right at closing time on Friday the 13th and you're wondering why your letter wasn't delivered on Sunday? OF COURSE it wasn't going to be delivered in two days under any set of circumstances. Actually you need to say less

December 26 2013 at 3:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Gotta pay for all the overtime they have been giving away for the last 3-4 months. Some of my coworkers made a six figure income this year.

December 25 2013 at 8:26 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to bbomb187's comment

its impossible to make a six figure income in the post office.
unless you\'re in management.
oh wait...maybe you and your coworkers dont work for USPS

December 26 2013 at 4:21 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

The postal service is the most poorly run business with its over the top poor management. If it was a privately owned business it would have closed the doors long ago.

December 25 2013 at 7:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply